Saturday, October 23, 2010
By the Light of the Silvery Moon
I stepped outside for awhile last evening and stood in the back yard. The light from the full moon was casting a cool, almost blue glow over the road that leads to the cabin and I started thinking about indigenous people and how they found meaning to their lives, there among the stars, the moon and its companions. I was thinking particularly of Polynesian navigators. They found their way, often across thousands of miles of ocean, using only the motion of the stars, the ocean currents and wave patterns, the flight of birds, the wind and the waves to guide them. That, and their finely honed intuition.
When you live intimately with nature, one can learn to navigate through life using the universe itself as guidance, often arriving at that place where conscious reasoning, and even knowledge passed down from generation to generation, gives way to that finer form of guidance. It's a form of guidance that has always been available to us, but, instead of sharpening our senses, we have allowed ourselves to fall into a sort of cultural stupor.
What if we didn't allow culture - magazines and books and all things flat-screened - to inform us, to tell us how we're supposed to feel, what we're supposed to think, even what direction our lives should take, literally and figuratively? What would that feel like? Look like? It's an insidious thing, this thing called culture, and we fall prey to it without even being consciously aware that it's happened. I'm not outside the boundaries of this phenomenon myself, obviously, but I am trying to understand it and step back often enough and long enough to imagine life without these contraptions, and they are contraptions. I'm sitting here, writing this on my computer, deeply appreciating the fact that I can communicate instantaneously with friends on the other side of the globe. So, am I giving this up any time soon? Not likely. Can I give up television? Perhaps. But, I would miss Sheldon and the boys. I wonder what they would think of my desire to develop my inner Polynesian navigator? I can hear Sheldon saying again, "I'm a physicist, not a hippie!"
The first time I recall hearing of Polynesian navigators was about a dozen or so years ago. I was participating in a group that discussed metaphysical and spiritual topics. There was a couple, probably in their eighties, that came to these meetings, and I was taken with how fully engaged they were with life, all the phenomena and possibilities they still wanted to explore. He mentioned one evening that he'd had a very vivid dream in which he was in a boat, moving through the night by the light of the moon and the stars, very aware that he was with, or was himself, one of these navigators. I found the topic intriguing, both from the standpoint of what our dreams can tell us about ourselves and with the notion of navigating in this way. It has stayed with me, and I look at it occasionally as a personal checkpoint: where am I in the process of learning to be a better listener, a better reader of the world around me?
What if we all learned to move through life like Polynesian navigators? Finding our way by watching the patterns in nature, listening to our inner selves, guidance that is always present. To let the world, the natural world, settle in around us, inform and enlighten us, keep us apprised of all that truly matters. To learn the lessons life offers inside a leaf, the stars, the water, the moon. To stand outside in the dark long enough to let go of any fear and learn to listen, to feel at a deeper level, to trust our instincts. To allow ourselves to be guided by the primordial intelligence of the universe, to trust it, knowing that it will always bring us to a place of peace and deep contentment.
As I write this, the moon just went down in the western sky. I hope I'm making even some small measure of progress.
The image is an early illustration by Edward Hopper, "Boy and Moon."