Monday, December 9, 2013
I love the show "The Walking Dead". Yes, it is a zombie apocalypse show, but it is also a show about the strength of the human spirit when confronted by the most dangerous, scary, death filled conditions. It is a show about human relationships, community, conflict, loyalty, betrayal. It depicts through its various characters, the best of human nature and the worst as well. It confronts the essence of love meeting violence and hatred, courage in the midst of terror and the overwhelming will to survive, to carry on. Life and death are front and center.
I was watching an episode the other day and was struck to my very core. Hershel, who is the archetypal sage medicine man, a doctor and the wise elder in the show, complete with long white beard, gives a short but heart touching, very powerful speech about risk and purpose in life. (To watch the scene click this link)
Hershel says, " You step outside, you risk your life. You take a drink of water, you risk your life. And nowadays you breathe and you risk your life. Every moment now, you don't have a choice. The only thing you can choose is what you're risking it for."
My heart, my whole body, every part of me felt the power of this statement. It touched me so deeply, because I understood it so well. I wanted to jump out of my seat, give a standing ovation, and say, "YES!!!" I understood its simple truth, and it jolted me awake, reminded me to be here, to live while the living is good. His words are words I have heard, seen and read before in varying forms, but in this moment, for Hershel's expression of it, I was ready and I got it. Message received.
Here is what I got from it.
Life is risky. Any one of us, on any given day, may or may not be confronted with the reality of life's impermanence. Sure, we are not in the zombie apocalypse, but life is unpredictable and we are not guaranteed tomorrow. Safety is an illusion. To live is to risk in its essence. As Hershel says, "Every moment now, you don't have a choice. The only thing you can choose is what you're risking it for."
A life well lived is one where we have lived with intention and purpose. This is the question we each must ask every day to live a life of purpose. "What am I risking it for?" The answer to that question might be different from one day to the next, or it may shift and change over time. The important thing is that we ask it.
When we ask the question, then we must feel the answer. The answer won't come from our thinking or stories, it will come from the depths of our hearts and souls, it will come through our blood and bones. It will most likely be the thing we fear, but feel a compulsion to do. It is that thing we feel pulled toward, but hesitate to step into. Success or failure is not the measure, the value is the risk and what we have risked this day, this moment, this precious life for.
Mary Oliver in her poem "The Summer Day" asks, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"
This risking does not mean to be reckless, to the contrary it means to be awake and mindful. This risk includes a deep honoring and gratitude for the life we have been given and to have the same honor and respect for all other lives. This risk is about being bold of heart, courageous and giving in love and compassion, authentic and true to one's self and the soul calling of this lifetime. This risk is about truth and vulnerability, taking a chance to be fully expressed, to be all of who we are called to be.
Hershel wants to be free to live his purpose, and to give of himself to fill that purpose, even if it means he might die. To stay small and safe in this life is a prison, and a life lived in the confines of that safety is another kind of death, a worse kind of death. We must step through fear over and over again to grow into ourselves fully. We must look fear square in the eyes and step forward. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, "You must do the thing you think you cannot do."
We are all here in this life together, in the risk. We must help each other, hold each other, open doors for each other, show each other the way. We must risk to love, most of all, we must risk to love. To love even in the face of hurt, to forgive and risk loving once again. A life well lived is a life of love.
"With life as short as a half-taken breath, don't plant anything but love." ~ Rumi