When I wrote A Cadence of Despair (CentreSpoke 2020), I wrote of ashes. I didn’t use that language then. I used the language of descent. And through sharing highly personal material, I mapped some of the relationship that I knew with despair — pain, grief, shame, and loss that, with some luck, some friendship, and some process, could find it’s way to hints, insights, and intimacy with self and others. However, the mapping of despair isn’t linear. For some of us, it loops back and regresses. In my life this included relationship with suicide and desires to let go. I’m grateful that in the mapping I know, this journey evolved again to the inherently simple, to birth, and to new life.
I’m reading lately from Robert Bly’s Iron John. I’m appreciating his orientation to “ashes,” to descent. To the need to break gravitational pull of patterned superficial. “The word ashes contains in it a dark feeling for death; ashes when put on the face whiten it as death does….for us, how can we get a look at the cinders side of things when the society is determined to create a world of shopping malls and entertainment complexes in which we are made to believe that there is no death, disfigurement, illness, insanity, poverty, lethargy, or misery.”
The other day, a friend asked me of despair. Asking for a bit of guidance. I was glad to offer what I could, which in short was, encouragement to not forever avoid the descent, nor the ashes. The timing of entry can vary. I suppose the depth too. But the descent and the ashes have medicine to offer. We can seek “perfect” lives. But perfect lives don’t initiate us to grown and matured wise humans. Hmm….
All of that, I suppose to say, I’m intrigued by the sense-making that people do in the ashes and in the descent. I’m also intrigued by the sense-making that people do in the sun shining and in the ascent. I’m interested in the metabolizing of life lived. I’m interested in the life-styles that remain open to such potent individual and shared experiences. Hmm….
2 Replies to “Ashes, Descent, Rich Life”
Interesting timing of your post. One of the things I am learning these days is about staying in the moment of the emotion … fear, shame, self-doubt … without side-stepping or skirting the realness of that moment. But stepping back from the story behind the emotion to just notice that it exists, that I am no longer “in” that story, and I am okay. I am neither bad nor good, neither in despair nor in hope. I am with whatever parts of me are showing up, and I am compassionate toward all of who I am.
I carried the ashes, the descent, with me for a long time as a penance for who I was not. I suppose the medicine for me now is that I persisted in the pursuit of who I am now and who I am becoming. There is not a story for me in which the ashes no longer exist. But the story of me-today is able to carry the ashes with tenderness and compassion for the spirit of me-then. And to trust the wholeness of me-becoming.
“…compassionate…” for those parts of long ago, and for now, and for that matter, those parts yet to come. Thank you Saoirse. Sounds like good practices for kind living.