Going with the flow

A Taoist story tells of an old man who accidentally fell into the river rapids leading to a high and dangerous waterfall. Onlookers feared for his life. Miraculously, he came out alive and unharmed downstream at the bottom of the falls. People asked him how he managed to survive. “I accommodated myself to the water, not the water to me. Without thinking, I allowed myself to be shaped by it. Plunging into the swirl, I came out with the swirl. This is how I survived.”

I love this story as I’ve been working on “surrendering” while trying to find an agent for my book, “Inside the River.”  The discipline and courage needed to write this book felt like a turbulent rapid at times.  But this part of the process is even more out of my control, and so asks for more of my surrender to the flow.

There are daily situations where our first reaction to an unappealing situation is to fight it as a way of controlling our environment.  The old man fell into the water, and the water was choppy and brutal.  How often do our days feel like those rapids? What happens when we fight this flow and try to make sure our current is noticed/heard/validated? What would happen, if like the old man, we plunged into the swirl (the chaos) and went with that flow, until we came out of it, amazingly unharmed?  I think our ego, the part of us who always wants to win and be noticed, would scowl at the old man and ask him why he didn’t try to get out of the water somehow, even if the effort caused him bodily harm.  Our ego wants us to flair about and show our strength and power over everything.  But if we want ease in the discomfort, peace beyond the chaos, and calm inside the storm, then the old man taught us well–inside the swirl, be the swirl, and come out with it.

We need storytelling-otherwise life just goes on and on, like the number Pi. (Ang Lee)

Why do we, the published and unpublished writers sit alone, spinning a tale, over and over, combating frustration, doubt, and fear? What is it about the idea of story that compels us beyond reality and into the realm of fiction, where anything can happen? Are we driven because of some need to rewrite our lives in a way? To control the uncontrollable? Is it ego, hubris, or a touch of madness that keeps us going, draft after draft, rejection after rejection?

And what is it for the reader, the audience, the other participant in the dance?  Do we sink into the story, in all its many forms and expressions, to escape our reality? Do we admire, feel inspired, and learn beyond the boundaries through storytelling? How else would we enrich and enliven our lives that, too often, sink into the metronome of routine?

Storytelling-the myths, legends, fables, epic adventures, and magical tales are what binds us together and keeps our humanity safe.  Think back at the movie that blew your mind (Yes, Ang Lee, it was Life of Pi), or the book that touched your heart and changed you in profound ways, or the painting that expressed everything that is beyond words….

What choice do we have, but to delve deep, hone our skills, and attempt to create the story? What choice does the reader have but to go for the ride?