The Unlived Life is not Worth Examining

That past is unwavering, it’s done. Regardless of who tells the story, the past is settled and stilled much like the seasons of leaves that have now become the very soil, our natal bedding, below our feet. And while offering recognition to the people and events that brought us to where we are now becomes a tradition of respect, those traditions, year after year, seem to loose their lucidity, vividness, and meaning to its celebrants. Still, those traditions are still valuable if not for their stability. And yet, those traditions aren’t nearly as moving to people as the moments of life that give people hope or something to hope for. Why is it that a baby is more precious than a grown adult? Why do the prospects of hope perpetuate and enliven our motivated selves more than the lessons from history?

“The unlived life is not worth examining,” says Sheldon Kopp, psychoanalyst, as if to say, there is no future in your past. While I’m a bit of skeptic towards psychologists, here I am, sitting pensively by the edge of a deep hole that I’ve been excavating for years. I couldn’t tell at first how tight my shoulders became from doubting what work I’ve been doing as an act of self-care. At climax of my falling out, I thought that digging to the root of my problems would provide the answers I needed to resolve my hang ups, my walls, and my hurt and traumas. While in that time to myself I’ve been able to surface helpful insights, I’ve mostly been influenced by the people who pass by me, carrying perplexed faces, sharing, “just let it go, just don’t think about it.” The hunch on my back is nearing a 90 degree angle now and I think I stay seated for just a moment longer.

“Why do people believe they can go back and change what’s happened? Like thinking that you can remove a traumatic experience from your existence?” My last therapist’s voice is running through my head asking all the right questions. I leaned over to peer into the cavern that I’ve been carving out slowly with tool and toil. The question recirculates, “why do people believe they can go back?” Empty eyes now still fixed on the depths of the earth that I’ve dug. What great lengths I’ve gone to try to go backwards in life. I start to wonder that even if I only replaced the broken pieces in the foundation with sound parts, I wouldn’t be who I am. Well, no, of course not, even a twelve-year-old knows that. But, thinking about it, the tree that I am, the root that holds me here, would all topple over even with sound structures—why? Because this tree, as in myself, has learned to grow with the cracks, the winds, the lack of water, this tree is not flawed but rather has managed to survive.

I walk. I walk knowing that I’ll come back later to fill in the hole. I’m not done doing my research, my digging, but I am rationalizing that whatever lessons I’ll need to learn will come in time, so as long as I keep my heart open to it. On the path I took, behind my grandfather’s house, tall stands of pine and oak that have mat the floor with their leaves and needles for generations. Nothing but the moss on the rock grows under these trees. To my right as I walk along the path is a wide creek. For seventeen miles it takes, carries, and speaks everything I need to here. Being its student, I listen.

Needing no use for my eyes, I sit and bury my face in my arms. Sitting quietly at first, the creek only sounds of rushing water. Deploring tirelessly onto the father rock that gives it a bed to stretch out in. Moving from my ear to my heart, the sound becomes more than just the water, but the wind too, and the roaring through the autumn oak leaves. Everything is rushing now, not in the way humans hurry, but only in the way water takes, carries, and speaks. Peering up from the cradle my arms made for me, I see a tree limb appear wavering in the wind of the gorge, above the water. Kneeling, a tree reaches out from the side of the cliff, holding itself with such bold existence. Despite seeming such a feeble, burdened outcast, all the trees of the forest have come to know this tree. And while I may think of this tree as if it is living a suffered life or a life deserving, as if to say eternal or redemptive punishment, this tree is just living. The tree is not being punished, nor is it hero or a demigod. For the tree, I wonder, does it think to wonder how difficult the life is that it persists in? Surely no. It’s not a difficult life, it is just the life it has and thus it lives simply from it. After all, this tree did not choose to be seeded here, no tree gets to choose where it grows from, none of us do; yet here this tree maintains concentration and perseveres to reach the same sun we are all born under. It trusts it root, despite what it has gone through, and has taken every moment in life to assure support for its sturdy, yet flexible, body.

Stretching my own legs, hearing them crack out of their stiff position, I start back walking. Carrying with me now the gifts of forgiveness and opportunity that have taught me to begin again to stretch towards a sun.

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