FEBRUARY SENIOR MOMENT WITH LIZ DAVID: NARROW BRIDGE

NARROW BRIDGE

by Liz David

In 1988, I wrote a thesis entitled “A Narrow Bridge” in partial fulfillment of the requirements for my Masters Degree in Expressive Therapies from Lesley College. The major purpose of the thesis was to explore fears and how they get in the way of healing and then to conceptualize ways to deal with fear.

“Life is but a narrow bridge with no beginning and no end, and the main thing, the main thing, is not to be afraid,”  said Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav.

The following is a piece I discovered as I was researching the thesis. I offer it as an inspiration and a challenge.

                                                TRANSFORMATION

The old woman who was wicked in her honesty asked questions of her mirror.  When she was small she asked, “Why am I afraid of the dark? Why do I feel I will be devoured?” And her mirror answered, “Because you have reason to fear. You are small, and you might be devoured.  Because you are nothing but a shadow, a wisp, a seed, and you might be lost in the dark.”

And so she became large. Too large for devouring.  From that tiny seed of a self, a mighty form grew, and now it was she who cast shadows. But after a while, she came to the mirror again and asked, “Why am I afraid of my bigness?” And the mirror answered, “Because you are big.  There is no disputing who you are.  And it is not easy for you to hide.”

And so she began to stop hiding. She announced her presence.  She even took joy in it. But still, when she looked in her mirror she saw herself and was frightened, and she asked the mirror why.  “Because,” the mirror said, “no one else sees what you see, no one else can tell you if what you see is true.”  So, after that, she decided to believe her own eyes.

Once, when she felt herself growing older, she said to the mirror, “Why am I afraid of birthdays?”  “Because,” the mirror said, “there is something you have always wanted to do, and you know time is running out.”  And she ran from the mirror as quickly as she could because she knew, in that moment, that she was not afraid, and she wanted to seize the time.

Over time, she and her mirror became friends, and the mirror would weep for her in compassion when her fears were real.  Finally, her reflection asked her, “ What do you still fear?” And the old woman answered, “I still fear death.  I still fear change.”  And her mirror agreed.  “Yes, they are frightening. Death is a closed door,” the mirror flourished, “and change is a door hanging open.”

“Yes, but fear is a key,” laughed the wicked old woman, “and we still have our fears, “ she smiled.

*

So, “life is but a narrow bridge with no beginning and no end and the main thing, the main thing is not to be afraid.”

If we can teach ourselves to approach life as a bridge with no beginning and no end, as if life were an endless bridge onto which we are placed on a section labeled “present,” then we have the potential for healing our wounds rather than remaining stuck in our pining for past desires or future hopes, both of which are fantasies that do not serve us because they remove us from the present.

There are no magic formulas for overcoming fear but developing the skills it takes “not to be afraid” is possible.

It takes courage!

  1. Develop understanding and knowledge of our fears
  2. Develop awareness and sensitivity to the times when we are afraid, in the moments of fear itself.
  3. You may think it is not possible, but try making a decision not to be afraid, or, at least, to put fear on the back burner.
  4. Imagine making a choice whether or not to be fearful, scared, or worried about the future.
  5. Imagine making a choice not to be afraid of change, loss, death
  6. Imagine, as the old woman in the piece above did, choosing to make fear the key to moving beyond fear into living a fearless life!
  7. It takes courage!

Courage may not be the absence of fear but, rather, courage enables us to move ahead in spite of fear.

Rollo May once said that “To live into the future means to leap into the unknown, and this requires a degree of courage for which there is no immediate precedent and which few people realize.”

Courage seems to be connected with knowing that there are choices and the ability to make them in the face of fear. Returning to the metaphor of life as a bridge, imagine this life-bridge as filled with choices. We do not choose to be born.  Most of us do not choose to die. We choose on the life-bridge between.  Rabbi Nachman’s life-bridge is the dwelling place of the things we have the most control over–our choices.

May also said that  “A man or woman becomes fully human only by his or her choices and his or her commitment to them. People attain worth and dignity by the multitude of decisions they make from day to day.  These decisions require courage.”

Courage gives us the ability to make choices knowing that mistakes are possible and making them anyway.  Our  choices further our quest to live life without being afraid. This requires knowledge of the self,  being self-centered  in a way that has nothing to do with being selfish but has a lot to do with authenticity.

May talks about courage as well.  “Courage is not a personal virtue or value among other personal values like love or fidelity,” he says.  “It is the foundation that underlies and gives reality to all other virtues and personal values.  He  also points out that courage comes from the same stem as the French word Coeur, meaning heart.

LET ME INTRODUCE MYSELF

My name is Courage

I live in the place of the heart

My door is always open to friends

And strangers alike—welcoming all

I can be very helpful when danger or fear develop

But like it most when I can just hang out

My favorite color is white, which allows me to be quite visible

But not alarming

What is puzzling is that people seem to forget about me living in their hearts

They behave as if they don’t know I exist

Or, worse yet, they know I am there and are afraid to make friends with me

Sometimes I feel crowded in my residence

Because the owner of the heart sublets to fear

And fear thinks it owns the owner

But I am honest, confident and valiant

And the main thing, the main thing is…

I am not afraid

*

“Senior Moment” writers Eleanor Jaffe (left) and Liz David (right)

My passion is to help others to gain deeper understanding of themselves and the changes, losses, gains, and glories of aging. So, “grow old along with me–the best is yet to be.”

 

 

 

MINING MARILYN’S MYSTERIES: APPRECIATING POE

“Our Ms. Brooks,” mystery novel afficionado and SGL, writes a weekly blog focusing on titles and authors both new and “seasoned.”  As I explored her “Masters and Mistresses” collection, I happened on this tribute to Poe and thought you might enjoy it.  Thank you, Marilyn!

(Clicking on Marilyn’s title below will take you to her website and a deep well of material!)

EDGAR ALLAN POE: An Appreciation

Well, a bit of an apology is in order.

Last December 28th I wrote an appreciation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  In it I said that “To me, he is the father of the modern mystery story (apologies to Edgar Allan Poe, but that’s my opinion).”

One of my readers wrote last month to suggest that I write an appreciation of Poe.  He said that writing a post wouldn’t necessarily mean that I liked Poe, only that Poe shouldn’t be excluded.  And Mr. W. R. B., you are right; Poe certainly is a worthy Master.

Of course I had read many of Poe’s stories, as I imagine most people have, either in high school or in college.  In my mind Poe was quite old-fashioned, and his stories were not up to the caliber of Doyle’s.

I have just re-read two of Poe’s stories, “The Murder in the Rue Morgue” and “The Purloined Letter.”  While I still think that Poe’s stories are harder for the modern reader to find engrossing than Doyle’s, I was struck by something unexpected.  I had not realized how much Sherlock Holmes owed to Chevalier C. Auguste Dupin.  The similarities are too numerous to be coincidental; I believe that Doyle read Poe’s works (Doyle was fifty years younger than Poe and was born ten years after Poe’s death) and took several of his devices and plots and made them his own.

First there is the obvious pairing of a brilliant, eccentric detective with a not-as-astute narrator (Auguste Dupin/the unnamed narrator vs. Sherlock Holmes/Dr. Watson).  Of course, this device came to be used by many other authors, including Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot/Captain Arthur Hastings) and Rex Stout (Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin).  In fact, avid mystery readers are familiar with the fact that the vowels in Sherlock Holmes are repeated in their exact order in Nero Wolfe.  A very clever homage, in my opinion.

Second is the way each author shows the brilliant reasoning power of his detective.  In “Rue Morgue,” Dupin and the narrator are taking a stroll.  There has been no conversation between them when Dupin says, “He is a very little fellow, that’s true, and would do better for the Theatre des Varietes.”  After a moment, the narrator realizes that Dupin has exactly followed his thought process since, in fact, he had been thinking that the particular actor was better suited to comedy than tragedy because of his extremely small stature.  The narrator insists that the detective explain, which Dupin does, showing how seven steps have enabled him to follow his friend’s thoughts perfectly.

In “The Adventure of the Dancing Men,” Holmes and Watson have been seated in silence for several hours when Holmes remarks, “So, Watson, you do not propose to invest in South African securities?”  Admitting his total astonishment at Holmes’ statement, Watson asks how Holmes came to that conclusion.  The detective tells him, showing how in six steps he went from seeing chalk between Watson’s fingers to deducing that Watson had decided against the investment.

And third is the “coincidence” of plot.  In “The Purloined Letter,” Dupin visits a man suspected of having an incriminating letter he plans to use for blackmail hidden in his apartment.  When a shot is heard outside, the shot having been arranged by Dupin as a diversion, the man rushes to the window and Dupin is able to substitute an identical-looking letter and leave with the original.

In the plot of “A Scandal in Bohemia,” Holmes tricks his way into Irene Adler’s home to find out where she keeps the photograph of herself and her former lover, the photograph the lover has hired Holmes to find.  The detective has arranged for a fake call of “fire” from outside to force Irene to reveal where she has hidden the picture, her most valuable possession.

Even granting that some of Doyle’s writing owes a great deal to Poe, I believe that Doyle comes out ahead.  His style is much more natural, his characters more realistic.  So, although both men were gifted writers, my vote still goes to Doyle.  In my opinion, it’s a case of the student surpassing the teacher.

Our MYSTERY MAVEN Marilyn Brooks

I’ve always been a reader and, starting with Nancy Drew (my favorite, of course), I became a mystery fan.  I think I find mysteries so satisfying because there’s a definite plot to follow, a storyline that has to make sense to be successful.  And, of course, there’s always the fun of trying to guess the ending!

My blog, published every Saturday, can be found at:   www.marilynsmysteryreads.com.

 

 

 

FROM SUE’S “SMALL SCREEN”-ING ROOM: SOME GOOD SOAP…

SOME GOOD SOAP

by Sue Wurster

It’s that time of year again–when many of us retreat into our cocoons and pull out the remote.  And for me, when that time comes round, there is nothing more satisfying than a good, solid dose of Masterpiece Theatre style soap.   Ever since the debut of Upstairs, Downstairs  in this country,  I’ve been hooked on British television.

Last year, my binge of choice was Doc Martin followed by Call the Midwife.   I recently discovered Land Girls, which helped to ease my pain over the cancellation of Home Fires after only two seasons that ended on quite the cliffhanger…I guess we’ll never know why the show was cancelled or who ended up falling over the cliff’s edge…

Land Girls was commissioned by the BBC to commemorate the 70th year since the outbreak of World War II.  The three-season series  (15 episodes in all) follows four volunteer members of the Women’s Land Army who are working in the fields at the Hoxley family estate during the war.

Another gem set in a small rural community in England during the war is Home Fires.  The focus, in this case, is on the women who comprise the local Women’s Institute who devote their energies to various and sundry home front causes during the war.   The cast is led by the marvelous Francesca Annis and Samantha Bond, and the only disappointment in the two series is that there has not been a third…

*

At the moment, I am completely addicted to the acclaimed Australian series,  A Place to Call Home.   Often referred to as “Downton Down Under,” the series is set in post WWII Australia and focuses on the central character of Sarah Adams who, after twenty years absence, has recently returned to the country to start a new life.  The wonderfully enigmatic Marta Dusseldorp fully embodies the role of the mysterious Sarah in this highly satisfying soap.

Interestingly, A Place to Call Home was originally slated to run for two seasons, and the last episode of the second wraps up the various plot lines quite nicely.  But when given the unexpected go-ahead for an additional season, that ending was revamped.  There’s something quite engaging about being able to see both.  Luckily, it went on to enjoy not only a third but fourth and fifth seasons as well (and they all consist of 10 or more episodes), so, as I’m currently in the middle of season three,  I’m in good shape for a while.

*

Of course, I’ve often wondered just why it is that I so prefer British television to American, and I’ve decided that it has to do with focus.  To me, BBC storytelling seems to be driven by character rather than by situation–and for me, that seems to provide more “heart” to the mix.

These items are available on DVD.  Land Girls is available on Netflix, and Home Fires is on Amazon Prime Video.   A Place to Call Home is streaming on Acorn TV and Britbox.  (If you’re a BBC junkie like me, the latter two are well worth the price.)

BOLL Matters co-editor Sue Wurster

So, if you’ve got suggestions for me and my fellow BBC addicts, please share in the box below!

A blog devoted to the interests of BOLLI members and potential members

Protected by Akismet
Blog with WordPress

Welcome Guest | Login (Brandeis Members Only)