What if I fall?

A few weeks ago, I had a dream that I was battling a shadow creature in a setting much like Moria where Gandalf fought the Balrog. And as the creature was coming toward me, I was fighting defensively, getting backed closer and closer to the edge of a precipice. Then I heard the voice of a child from the future who was watching this scene unfold ask a wiser, older figure, “Why is she so afraid?” And the wiser, older character said, “Oh, because this was before she knew she could fly.” 

And then once I heard that, I remembered I could fly. I was no longer afraid. I dove off the precipice and flew away. 

What was that moment of realization in my dream, when I remembered I could fly? It was remembering that I am part of so much more that exists outside of myself, time, life, or death.

When we get bogged down in the smallness of our own, individual life, we feel the finiteness of our individuality. Our fear of our own mortality keeps us from flying. Our fear of failure keeps us from boldly acting with certainty.

To act boldly and with certainty, we must remember that we are all part of something bigger that goes on long after the finitude of our own, small life diminishes. When we change form and go back into everything, we become part of all things again. This is true on a material level, hence the Thich Nhat Hanh wisdom of “the garbage becomes the rose.” One can find a whole spiritual path from composting. Death becomes life which becomes death which becomes life… 

When one truly comprehends this, it is possible to transcend the possibilities of one, small lifetime; it becomes possible to reach toward the infinite when we tap into the reality that we are already part of it.

This was the revelation that I got when I got covid in August of 2022. I struggled with feeling absolute agony for days without much respite because I could barely sleep due to the pain in my lungs, my muscles, and my head. Eventually, by day 3, I surrendered to the virus and asked it if there was something it wanted to teach me. As I did this, I made my peace with the pain, with death, and with the fact that I can’t control life and death. The equanimity of all things became real to me in that moment as did the reality that we are all individuated forms but made of the same creatively powerful stuff as each other, the plants, the animals, the water, the stars. 

Regardless of specific origin stories and explanations for how everything came to be, the revelation of interconnectedness still applies. Whether you believe in the Big Bang or another creation story, the deep, universal truth points to a reality where everything came from something. And right now the universe is still expanding (individuating) but someday everything will become a singularity again. 

Whether you put this in scientific terms or poetic, metaphorical terms an underpinning that one can take away from this revelation is that—while your one wild and precious life is special in its own expression—it’s also not the source of life itself. Life Itself is what endures, and we are but a brief and unique expression of that life. Transcending our own, individual perspective allows us to realize the interconnectedness of all beings and to trust in the process of Life Itself. 

When we take heart and confidence that we are part of something much bigger than just our one, fleeting mortal lifespan, we can fly (metaphorically, please don’t jump off any precipices upon reading).

I think sometimes there is a tendency for those of us who were steeped in the literal truth of a religious worldview to think that there’s one, right or best path. If we miss that path, if we deviate from it, then we are doomed to ruin. There is a great distrust of one’s self baked into fundamentalism and a sense that the only goodness is something that is other than you but very specifically not you. There is a deep chasm in fundamentalism between nature and humans. 

I disagree.

I believe that humans are part of nature. Furthermore, I think that, based on the natural world and my observations of it, nature has a deep intelligence. Somehow acorns have all the programming within them to become an oak tree. Somehow baby chicks who have never encountered a predator know to run for cover when they hear a shriek of a hawk in the sky. There is a deep, innate wisdom within all of nature, and this extends to the human soul or consciousness as well. 

Many spiritual paths subscribe to this innate wisdom for humanity—an inner light, an inner Buddha, being created in a Divine likeness, etc. The distinction I’m making here is that I comprehend this inner wisdom to be part of our natural birthright. We are born into the sacred experience of having innate wisdom by virtue of being alive. We are part of the universe’s great wisdom because we are here; this is distinct from believing that humans are separate from nature, that we have to earn this wisdom through faith or actions, or that it comes from outside of nature. 

Furthermore, when we believe that we have this sacred birthright, we also can see that the current of Life isn’t just toward destruction and ruin. Decay and decomposition can be frightening if you don’t stay with it long enough to see what happens next. But what happens next, if you wait long enough to observe it, is new life. It’s a cycle, a circle, and we are all part of it. When we get caught up in the literal, the very individual level of a particular existence—then yes, it can be disheartening. And of course, so much of our life experience and our consciousness can feel so individual—especially when we don’t take the time and make the energy to connect with the bigger, transcendent whole of Life, of all that is. 

How does this mindset affect our lives here and now? If we stop trying to preserve the literal, individual level of life—the here and now—and allow the bigger processes of life and death to happen, we will live in more harmony with the rest of the natural world. Humans developed plastic (and all the horrors that come with it) because we can’t accept the impermanence of all things. When we let go of our need to self-preserve we allow death, decomposition, and new life to occur. 

Another take away from this mindset—the interconnectedness of all beings—is that we will care for other non-human forms of life with more reverence. When we view ourselves as part of the natural world, rather than above it, we relate with mutual care and respect to all beings. When we hold nature as our sacred source of Life, we don’t frack, litter, deplete, or exploit. We love, we nurture, we relate, we thank. 

In sum, when we let go of our ego and realize the interconnectedness of all things, we transcend our need to self preserve. We can live freely and more fully as our individual selves, and we will also love and protect the Sacred. 

There is freedom waiting for you
On the breezes of the sky
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling, What if you fly?

–Erin Hanson

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4 Responses to What if I fall?

  1. joan dinatale says:

    Such a deep beautiful thinker. I am glad you flew rather than fell in your dream. ❤️❤️

  2. George Hizny says:

    Your words have touched my Soul at a time when I needed it most.

    • Lindsay Palkovitz says:

      Thank you for letting me know that, Geo. It’s the whole reason that I write. I’m glad these words touched your soul.

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