Sometimes I forget devotion doesn’t have to be a ceaseless uphill battle. Dedication isn’t solely proven in the offering of blood, sweat, and tears, nor can love even grow in such salt-sown soil. The gods don’t require us to suffer to earn their love; they offer it freely and value only that which is given freely in return. In my quest to better myself, to uphold Ma’at and minimize the isfet I put out into the world, I forget devotion can be as simple as spending a quiet moment with the gods over a cup of tea. I don’t need to lash myself bloody in penitence or spend every moment analyzing the darkest parts of my psyche to make spiritual progress. In fact, my entire framework for the concept of spiritual progress is probably questionable – why do I imagine it as a path leading in one direction, instead of a vast land in which I could go any direction or even stop for a time? If there’s no end goal in mind, no specific destination, why do I feel so pressured to hurry forward? I can rest. I can sit in the shade and enjoy the moment without worrying if it’s helping me become a better person. I feel my connection to the divine like an unbreakable tether from my heart to theirs. Our hearts are one; I am right where I am meant to be.
Measuring the growth of the sapling, I miss the aging of the forest. Tracking the path of the moon, I miss the dancing of the stars. Analyzing the placement of one little jewel, I miss the twisting of the kaleidoscope. Seeking the smallest crumb of knowledge, I miss the grandness of wisdom.
I wish I thought a dam was all that held my words back. Dams are impermanent; dams can be destroyed. With a little dynamite, or maybe a particularly bad storm, all you need is to work at one flaw until the whole thing collapses. I wish I thought my problem could be solved so decisively, I really do. What I fear, though, is that the river of words has dried up completely, right at the source, leaving me a devastated land slowly turning to desert. I fear rain will never come again, or in coming only briefly will just serve as a reminder of what bounty was lost. If you are dying of dehydration in a desert should you be grateful for the two drops of rain that fall into your parched mouth? Or would it be better to have no water at all than to have so little? I don’t know. Maybe there is a dam somewhere way up that riverbed that I just need to find and destroy to set my words free. Maybe. Hope doesn’t grow easily in a desert, though.
There is a place for you in my heart if you wish. There is a room with a bed where you may rest in peace and quiet, away from the ills of the world. Paint the walls, move the furniture, do whatever you need to make this space your own. I do not keep a room here for you so that you must confine yourself to its defaults; I want to see what you make of my love, what you use it to create or achieve. You are welcome here exactly as you are, no pretenses, no expectations. Be yourself! That is all I want from you in return for my hospitality.
There is a place for you in my heart, if you wish, but understand there is a lock on the door of my heart as well. Those who are not welcome can never pass through, and those who were once welcome yet brought only pain will find the door barred when they seek to return. I have learned my lesson the hard way and will not make the same mistake again. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. You need little to make you worthy of this place – kindness, honesty, generosity, only things I would ask of myself as well – and that door does not close easily. Once it has, though, it cannot be opened again.
I will tell you a secret: sometimes it is good to fall. You do not always need wings to keep you aloft or a rope at your ankle to stop your descent. Sometimes what you need is to leap freely from the cliff’s edge and feel the way you become weightless, a creature of air and light. The wind whips past you, the sky lays far beyond your feet, and you fall for a breathless eternity through a stream of colors. Then you pierce the water’s calm surface and you continue to fall, plunging into cold, clear liquid that embraces your every curve. Deep in those indigo depths you finally surrender your momentum, gravity releases its hold for just a moment, and the water buoys you back up to the surface. That is how it feels to leap in faith and fall into the embrace of the divine. Be fearless. Be weightless.
I am the many times great grandchild of cursed, damned Pandora. All my life I have witnessed the consequences of her thoughtless decision and yet all my life I have repeated her mistake as if it runs so strongly through my veins that it moves my body of its own accord. There is a sweet music that plays when the lid of my own box is opened, you see, and sometimes I am sorely tempted to pull back the lid so others can hear it as well. The problem is that I’ve stuffed so much into my box with the intention of locking it all away that when I do crack open the lid, even the tiniest bit, anything might come spilling out. Anger, fear, depression, anxiety, cruelty, grudges, sorrow, grief, mania, jealousy, apathy, shame, any of them could break free if I’m not careful. The music my box plays is beautiful but is it worth the worry that what escapes might hurt someone I love? Is it worth the chance that someone might see all of me and not just the parts I’ve tamed and made presentable? Every time I start to open my box just a crack I think of poor Pandora and I slam shut the lid again. She had no idea what she might unleash, opening that box, but I do.
I spent such a long time in that well. I spent so long in the well that I forgot what it’s like up on the surface where the wind blows and the sun shines and there are green growing things. I spent so long in the well that I forgot who or what put me there. Was it someone I loved? Or was it me? I spent so long in the well that it became my universe; I was afraid to leave and yet also afraid to stay. I have finally clawed my way up, though, torturous inch by torturous inch, and stand once more in the warm sunlight. I am filthy and bloody, but I am free. Gazing down into that pit which was for so long my prison, I realize just how lost in the darkness I truly was. How lonely. How resigned. I will never let myself be thrown back down there.