I had resolved, subliminally, not to write this weekend. Not only because it’s so darned hard to get the words onto the screen (I was startled earlier this week to find myself physically breathless by the full stop of a single Broadmouse sentence) but because the effort required to write seems to sap imagination and will. But….. I came upon the sharpest piece of advice earlier today:
Take possession of the land and settle in it,
for I have given you the land to possess.
It comes from Moses; divinely inspired words for the Israelites poised to enter the Promised Land. Read literally, this is a brutal chapter in the old, old story; one that I find increasingly difficult to countenance from a modern standpoint. Allegorically, however, it’s superb!
This artwork from my Little One’s brush illustrates this perfectly:
In point of fact, “Turtle” does not illustrate my allegory well at all – fatherly pride just compelled me to show you her work of art! But there is a connection: life is a lot like colouring in. The first law of colouring is almost a paraphrase of this morning’s piece of sharp advice: “Within the lines shalt thou colour, neither shalt thou trespass beyond the line, nor shalt thou behind the line fall’. The boundaries of life are largely given to us. Despite our cultural fascination with choice, life within its confines is a gift. So often the things in which we take the greatest pride, things such as our appearance, our intelligence, even our nationality, are simply a matter of birth.
These lines, the black-line boundaries of life; I need to think a little more about them. Some would say emphatically that there are no lines at all. Life, they claim, (often enough before a captive audience), is without limits; all that is needed is more courage, or a new paradigm, or more faith, or the how-to book – including a free DVD – on sale at the door. I don’t believe it for a minute, even though I’m sure I’ve spruiked the self same pitch at times. The great surprise of life is to discover that true freedom is found in obedience and trust; not in the expression of individuality. But what are these lines? There are many and varied boundaries within which we live. A finicky debate might be held concerning the thickness of the line, or the possible existence of grey areas; but essentially the lines are those innumerable things in life that are beyond our control. Some are benign, such as the colour of our eyes. Most are more consequential, and many are defining. Most obvious in my case is the existence of Bugger; with the regrettable phrase, “confined to a wheelchair”, proving the point. At times the black lines tower ominously above me; an insurmountable, silent wall of isolation. I feel cut off from the living, quarantined from those I love, expelled from ordinary joys. At times the boundaries roar with the deafening, paralysing din of a vast cascade, ravenously consuming hope and strength and providence itself, until everything becomes nothing. My instinct is to flee the suffocating, gut-socking precipitous edge. Run and hide!
While it is natural to react, even to panic, it doesn’t help much. To reword Moses, just a touch: “Choose a colour from the box, chose carefully and set to work. Begin again, over and over, colour on colour, until the lines are filled. There is no need to rush, be patient, this is a lifetime’s work. Colour minutely, colour with flair, and with intent. Rest, but do not stop; reach out to the farthest corners, right to the very edge. In every direction, wherever you can, colour your life to the fullest degree”.