Thursday, 14 November 2013

Why be an injured fox, when you could be an eagle?

There was once a young man who felt an emptiness and then a desire and then a great pull. It was as if a great rope had been tied around his heart, dragging him from his home, from comfort and security and his Mother's warmth, to search the deep forests and high mountains.

At times he thought he was searching for truth and at others he thought he was searching for meaning. One day he thought he was chasing a happily ever after and the next that he was searching for the words that would heal a dying King. One bright morning, he glimpsed the burning tail of the firebird and one dark night he shared a cup of wine with the wandering moon.

And still the rope around his heart pulled and tugged and dragged him onwards.

He met a man with the universe in his pocket and danced with a woman who was the midwife of the fairies.
He heard of a girl with a spinning top that kept the world turning and a boy who hugged a selfish giant.

But still the rope around his heart pulled and tugged and dragged him onwards.

He walked through forest and fen, through brush and scrub and over great rocky mountains.
He walked through snow and rain, through sunlight and moonlight following the pull of his heart.

One day, in the quiet darkness of a pine wood, he gazed into a dark pool (where it was said the Princess of the dream kingdom had once lost her golden heart) and realised that old father time had begun to turn his hair grey.

He moved away and continued walking, but slower now - mortality weighing him own as he went. Gradually, the pull of the rope around his heart slackened and fell away.

As he came to a clearing, he spied an injured fox lying beneath an old oak tree. Her breathing was shallow and her leg was injured. At that very moment he heard the rush of wings and feathers - from up above a great, golden eagle flew down with fresh meat in its claws. It  landed by the fox and placed the meat carefully by the fox's muzzle. The fox ate it hungrily and the eagle flew away.

The man was awestruck. This was more than chance - this was the universe speaking to him.

"The universe will provide me with what I need. The search has led me nowhere. I must let the universe provide me with what I need."

Ceremoniously and with great care, the  man walked to a great cathedral of beech trees - their trunks twisting up from Mother Earth as their branches reached up to Father Sky - and sat cross legged in the centre.

"The universe will provide me with what I need."

He sat. He sat waiting for the universe to provide.
Days passed.
The sun burned his skin and the rain soaked his clothes, but still he sat.
Nights chilled him to the very core and winds whipped his greying hair around his face.

"The universe will provide me with what I need."

Gradually, his strength ebbed and his body began to buckle and weaken.

"The universe will provide me with what I need."

As he began to slip out of consciousness and into a deep, black sleep, he heard  voice:

"Why would you be an injured fox when  you could be an eagle?
Why did you become an injured fox when you could have been an eagle."

Copyright Abigail Palache 2013

The tension of A-B and B-A
There's an exercise we teach on some storytelling courses where we explore the idea of moving with purpose (A-B) - identifying a task, completing it, deciding a new task, completing it etc - compared to letting things come to you (B-A) - waiting to see what catches your attention, walking over, seeing what needs doing when you get there, seeing where that takes your attention next. 

B-A is something I really struggle with. I'm the doer, the driver, the director - if I am without a task for a moment, the immediate compulsion is to identify a new one and KEEP BUSY! And that serves me well in many ways - I get things done! It also suits the world we live in and the way we live in it - as a secondary school teacher I felt I had to keep on task, powering through to-do lists and not let myself take a softer view of the world, a 'wait and see what comes' attitude, unless everything was complete and of course it never was. This forceful A-B attitude left me listless, exhausted and ill. 

If we are to take this attitude out of the education system and into the larger world of business, media and industry, there is a greater danger than to the individual. When we are only stuck on completing the task we have set (or been set), we become focussed and blinkered - the rest of the world fades away and the bigger picture or narrative is ignored. We become cogs in a machine, unaware of the machines purpose, just moving in our fixed orbits on our particular task. So is it any wonder that thousands of species are wiped out, people are left starving despite us producing more food globally than ever before, that credit crunches? No-one is looking at the big picture because we are just so busy and focussed on B. 

When I first heard this story, I felt like it was an affirmation of action, of doing and of moving. And it is - the inaction of waiting for the universe to give you what you need is acting like an injured fox whilst the doing, the giving, the acting is being the eagle. We see a misreading of the universe and an irritation with the man for being given the great gift of this magical vision and then acting like the victim! So, I thought, I'm doing it right! I am being eagle-like and making change and keeping moving. 

In August this year I made a pledge to act on what I knew to be true. Since making that pledge, the acting has not being a problem, but I have struggled with knowing what is 'true' - what is the right thing to do? Then I saw this story from another angle - the Eagle's angle. The eagle was not focussed on her A-B task when she went to help the fox. She was flying over the forest with a soft gaze, waiting to see what needed to be done and in doing so she saves the fox. 

Animals are not gifted with the ability (for argument's sake) to make a choice over their actions - this is the eagle of the human spirit. We can choose to continue and focus on A-B with a kind of impossible, unstoppable determination. We can choose to leave A-B behind and sit and wait for the universe to give us everything we need. Or we can choose a middle path (the hardest path some may say) of having that soft gaze to see what needs to be done, to allow B to find us and then have the courage, determination and focus to act upon what we find there. 

What I want should not be mistaken for complete inaction
Life is what it is about,
I'll have no truck with death

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,and for once could do nothing,perhaps a huge silencemight interrupt this sadnessof never understanding ourselvesand of threatening ourselves with death.Perhaps the earth can teach usas when everything seems deadand later proves to be alive.

Excerpt from Pablo Neruda's Keeping Quiet

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