One of the great blessings of reading is knowing where to find those writers who speak to our condition. And within the work of a favourite writer one or two lines which say more in few words than we could say in an entire volume. Mary Oliver is a good companion just now. And the poem below speaks of many things, but particularly the risk and cost of love; the temptation to play safe; the fear of commitment; and then the reckless rushing towards joy that may only come once in your life.
And the command, for that's what it is, to row towards the waterfall, is one of the most telling metaphors I know for the precarious risks of life's ultimate commitments. Risk aversion is the way to loneliness and diminishment in human relationships; even risk assessment betrays a caution that avoids the white water rapids in favour of drifting with the safer currents. When it comes to following Jesus, I could well hear him say, when you hear the roar and rumble and taste the mist, "Row, row for your life towards it!"
West Wind #2
You are young. So you know everything. You leap
into the boat and begin rowing. But listen to me.
Without fanfare, without embarrassment, without
any doubt, I talk directly to your soul. Listen to me.
Lift the oars from the water, let your arms rest, and
your heart, and heart’s little intelligence, and listen to
me. There is life without love. It is not worth a bent
penny, or a scuffed shoe. It is not worth the body of a
dead dog nine days unburied. When you hear, a mile
away and still out of sight, the churn of the water
as it begins to swirl and roil, fretting around the
sharp rocks – when you hear that unmistakable
pounding – when you feel the mist on your mouth
and sense ahead the embattlement, the long falls
plunging and steaming – then row, row for your life
~ Mary Oliver ~