The problem with breadcrumbs, of course, is birds. The things we meant to guide our way can’t stand up to them, they simply will not last. And when we do wake up, do realize our lostness, there isn’t going to be any path, only empty space. Nothingness.
That is what is frightening. The nothingness, the insecurity, the vastness of empty space. I feel inadequate to it. I mean this literally. Here is my space: prairie. So much sky. So much earth. The project of becoming whole, of finding a life worth living, of learning to love and trust. Again, literally: bodies, real bodies, come to me looking for health or release or healing and I wonder if I am strong enough, gentle enough, wise enough for the tenderness of skin. Who am I to teach such an intimate practice as yoga? I, set apart by a temperament I’ve never learned to use as it could be used, set off by a word, a glance, a rainy day, or that chronic one drink too many. Temperament, character: of too many needs, fears, hopes, torment of the unresolved and the undone.
The only thing to do, in such an emptiness, is to begin with the temperament. It is the only thing that will serve. The breadcrumbs didn’t work; temperament is the only thing at hand. No matter how inadequate or daunting it may feel, the only thing to do when one is lost is to force oneself to grow up.
Innocence and violence are terrible things. The rituals imposed on adolescents in practically every culture insist on two basic things: grow up and calm down. Maturity is the necessary suppression of unwieldy temperament. We must master the hell in our lives. It is time to grow up. Mankind has discovered it necessary to suppress outbursts of strong emotion – rage, joy, grief – that may, in their irrationality, disturb the general peace. Greeks feared those who threw themselves – like Achilles’s rage – against the will of the gods. Every chorus sought to warn, caution, seek to make reasonable the man or woman in the throes of overweening passion; the gods are sure to punish such pride.
Yet it is also true that innocence of heart and violence of feeling are necessary to any kind of superior achievement. The passions are real, and insist we do not settle. The qualities are dangerous: innocence and violence will destroy not only us but society, and family, and world.
The work, the true work, is to find loyalty to the qualities without succumbing to their danger. Solitude is a powerful, virtuous thing; soured and misused, it becomes loneliness. Reverence is moving; misused it becomes drivel and empty. Love is a catalyst; left to it’s own selfish ends, it manipulates and hurts. Temperment left wild makes us tyrants, and drunks. Cultivated, guided by principal, forged well and tended, we become better selves, with better lives.
Tyrants are ruled by their patterns, and try to enforce that rule on everything. Magicians, though, are ruled by practice; they are shapeshifters, alchemists, lovers, and saints.