I wrote this some time ago but felt the need to revisit it again today. Thought I'd post it so I could get access to it more often and in different places. It would be great if anyone had anything else to add. (And do check out the title link. I love her.)
‘He who bends to himself a joy
Doth the winged life destroy
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise’
To enjoy something beautiful we must let it be beautiful. To ‘bend it to oneself’ will alter our vision, as if seeing a beautiful painting and, wanting to possess it, pressing our faces up against the canvas; we are in one sense closer to it but ironically, we have lost it because we cannot see it as it was meant to be. To take a step back and let it be becomes a risk of enormous proportion. Other people can see it. Perhaps someone else will steal it. Perhaps we will see that it exists pretty well without us.
To capture the bird deprives it of its meaning. It is born to fly, and doing so it may escape us. It might happen that we experience its wonder only once before it moves on.
But what gives the painting and the bird their brilliance is the sense that they are fulfilling their purpose. That is the joy. That they are. Completely. So the risk is the joy. And pain which may come will be both its shadow and its meaning.
And the truth is we can live without the risk but we cannot avoid pain. With our faces up against the canvas it is true, no one else can see the picture and no one else can steal it. But it is also true that we cannot see it either. And we cannot see anything else while it is there. And we are burdened by the constant effort to carry around something that can never be us.
With the bird in the cage it is true, it will not escape us. But it is also true that we will never see it fly. And we too are captured by the weight of concern that accompanies possessiveness. We must keep watching the cage in case the lock breaks, in case someone else lets the bird escape. Our security in the knowledge that we have captured the bird is no security at all because in our souls we know that life cannot really be contained. The bird could (and will someday) die and we are powerless to prevent it. It is this soul knowledge which keeps us glued to the cage. The knowledge of our frailty then makes us more and more frail. What is the point, we might ask, of life when it is merely a struggle to avoid death, unavoidable death?
We have missed the point until we open the cage door:
The bird flies and for a moment we realise our fears- it may escape us forevermore. But at the same time we realise the point- the fear is accompanied by freedom. And this is the point. That beauty exists. We have been part of it. And the experience is known as joy. It may only be short lived, that is true. And when it finishes the pain will equal the joy in its enormity and its intensity. But the freedom will remain in the soul knowledge that we birthed the joy. Something else will have led to its demise. But it was our willingness to watch and experience and love without interfering with the other’s freedom that has let them be free. They live because we chose life for them and for ourselves. The pain may be greater this way. But anything else will kill our spirit and the spirit of others.