Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Instrument that is You

The Instrument that is You - Mark Nepo

We discover metaphors by surrendering our attention, by staying in honest conversation, and by listening to the quiet movements of life as they appear before us. Let me share a recent example.

I was visiting Pine Manor in Lake Elsinore, CA, where I teach every year. My good friend Gail Warner founded and directs Pine Manor. She is an old, wise soul. I like to come a day early so that Gail and I can re-enter our lifelong conversation about the mystery of being here.

This time, while driving through the mountains, Gail began to tell me of Hades, the Greek Lord of Death, who surprises us all by pulling a loved one from our midst, dragging them into the Underworld. She shared that when her father died when she was young, her mother was dragged there as well, though she was still walking around and caring for her. Gail wondered now about the presence of Hades in her life and asked, “How was I abducted by grief along the way?”

This is a profound question, because everyone is affected by death. As we were driving, I began to imagine Hades in the valley beside the road waiting underground for the next person he could snatch. I imagined him pulling someone from us into the Underworld, the way he might fist a set of roots and pull the tangle of roots deeper into the earth. And that’s when the metaphor appeared. For every time Hades takes someone from us, he pulls the roots of the living further underground, and the network of relationships connected to that person is pulled as well.

This metaphor helps us understand the impact of grief on the living. For we’re all connected and so we can’t help but be pulled toward all that lives under the surface when someone dies. This is why we follow those who die, leaning toward their disappearance. For when Hades takes someone we love, we go under too. When someone we love is touched by grief and they go under, they are not separate from us, but part of the tangle of roots that binds us all. We are all pulled in varying degrees when someone dies. Everyone is affected. Now, the question becomes, “How has the pull of your tangle affected you and everyone around you?”

The sun came out to sweep the mountains as we drove on and Hades seemed to turn away from the light, for now. But by sharing what matters along the way, Gail and I stumbled onto this metaphor that revealed a truth about a passage that no one can escape.

A Question to Walk With: Describe how the pull of your tangle of relationships has affected you. Who are you most tied to and how has their journey pulled and drawn on you?

This excerpt is from my book, Drinking from the River of Light (Sounds True).


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