The other night I was meditating to make sense of my life. I'm always trying to make sense of my life (sometimes I feel like that's all I ever do with it) but this time I went at it a little differently. I decided that since I'm always asking myself the same questions, over and over, it must mean two things: Firstly, I must have the answer, somewhere; otherwise why would I be bothering myself with these questions? Secondly, I must really suck at listening to myself.
So with that in mind, I shut up and started listening to what I had to say on the matter of life, the universe, and everything; well at least as far as I had anything to do with it. Blah blah blah, anybody who's ever read a page from any book in the self-improvement/spirituality section knows where this is heading so I'll cut it short.
After a whole lot of silence I was galloping in first-person, on horseback at good pace. Not a full-out sprint, but fast enough to where I had to keep my eyes trained a good distance in the future and most of my concentration was concerned with keeping clear of trees etc.. and staying on the horse. For some reason, this made a lot of sense to me and I knew it was an allegory for my life, but before I really started picking it apart another image appeared.
A yellow road sign, diamond shaped like the ones that caution drivers of bumps or turns or crossings, but on it, perfectly profiled and silhouetted in the universal style of caution-sign language, was a child swinging forward on a swing. The child figure was near the top of the arc in the swing and the top of the swing was not shown, just the seat with the rope slanting backward and off the top of the sign.
The vision of riding the horse was affirming. It gave the scattered, hectic nature of my life a kind of romantic air. Sure, I'm disorganized and often feel rootless, unsettled, and unable to maintain a grasp on anything I'd consider 'solid', but I'm living at a faster pace than the rest of the world, and a natural consequence of squeezing my given time with so much life is that I miss (and miss out on) certain things. Both the big picture and the small stuff suffer the cruel whip of my ambition which continually drives me on. But it's a sacrifice that I can reconcile because there's a great big world out there, and I'll never get to see it all if I start letting myself get caught up in particular moments or I start worrying about who's going to be with me at the end..
And I felt like there was some insight to be gleaned from the fact that I was riding a horse and not driving a car or a bike or some other machine. Something about being bound to a force that wasn't really completely under my control, something that required more of a relationship than a steering wheel, something with a rhythm that was more felt than mechanically timed. Less predictable, but more trustworthy. Something that would allow me to close my eyes at times and I could trust it to make basic decisions for me, but perhaps required more care and oversight at other times. It made me feel like I don't need to completely understand the underlying physics of everything so much as I need know which way to lean and when to shift my weight. I'm not working with gears and shafts or chains and pistons, I'm in a symbiotic relationship with a living being and what I lose in absolute control I gain in a second soul to watch out for me.
However the caution sign was unsettling. The first thing I felt when I saw it was that I wish I could draw/paint so that I might re-create it. It was so vivid and struck me as being hauntingly poignant for traffic sign (or just because it was a traffic sign?), but the meaning was cryptic and certainly twofold. Firstly, it was a caution sign, and it reminded me that one of trade-offs to the pace of my life is that its fucking dangerous. If you stumble while taking a stroll you might skin a knee, but lose your balance at full gallop and you could break your neck.
But within that uncomfortable reminder was a child on a swing. On the one hand it summoned the likeness of one of those stupid "Children at Play" warnings that feature two children on a teeter-totter: who the fuck is putting playground equipment in the street!? But this is something different, or something more. For one thing, there is only a single child, and this being my vision, it has to be me. And the swing definitely embodies the cyclical nature of life, its like a great pendulum of existence. And its trying to warn me of something. But what?
There's something hypnotizing about swings. Successfully operating one requires a person to completely submit to a natural, inescapable rhythm. It's 'back', and then its 'forth'; and proportionally so. A little bit of 'back' isn't going to give you a lot of 'forth' You can't change direction arbitrarily. You can either perpetuate the motion, or resist it. Or you can dismount. But this child was not dismounting, this child was swinging. Momentum is everything, alternation inevitable. The higher you go in one direction the farther you'll fly in the other. There is nothing truer or more predictable than the motion of a swing. Swinging is like listening to the heartbeat of the universe. That's why pendulums are trusted with noting the sacred passage of time.
But you never actually get anywhere on a swing. It's like a kind of trap. It gives you that sensation in your stomach like your flying (or falling) but no distance is covered nor any notable event taken place. Its an isolated experience with no significance outside of itself. It's lovely, but its pointless and time-consuming.
I still cannot decide if I am being warned against swinging, or against not swinging enough. It's a emblem of pure rhythm, and racing at my speed I need an excellent sense of rhythm to survive, but its also absorbingly distracting, which can be very dangerous.
Maybe its both. Maybe the doubt and indecision that arise when I consider this warning and situations like it are actually what I'm being warned against. Maybe when I encounter an ambiguous caution sign its actually trying to let me know that I'm already over my head. The time for consideration and thinking has passed and now is the time to act. If I don't have a decision made, at least I have a partner to whom I can yield the reigns, and maybe that's the lesson I'm supposed to take out of all of this. Maybe that's the answer to all my musing:
Dude, just trust the fucking horse.
I don't know, it sounds a bit derivative and underdeveloped, but its 2am and the horse needs some rest.