Things Lost and Discarded

Instructions For Bad Hearts and Sick Souls

If you feel ill or hurt, it may be because the world is burning. It may be the heat of the flames that boils your insides. It may be the smoke that chokes off your voice. It may be that what is wrong is not what is inside of you. It can kill you all the same.

Even if the pain is excruciating, resist the urge to cure it. The hurt and the sickness, the burns and the cough, are all true warnings of real danger. Do not try to cover them up. Your pain has come to tell you that the fire is here, and you need to get out.

If, on the other hand, the world looks bright and beautiful, then I am happy for you. Well done. I praise your good fortune. Perhaps these instructions are not for you. In good conscience, though, I must warn that flames can make a brilliant light, and shine in many dazzling colors. Still, they burn hot. And, if dark clouds one day settle, they are most probably smoke, here to tell you that the flames are coming soon.

If you feel ill or hurt, notice. Pay attention to that feeling. It is telling you something important, and much more powerful than what can be put into words. I add only these modest instructions, as a friend. When the time arrives, it helps to have a plan.

Leave It.

Whatever it is that held you here, it is over. The flames have got it. It is gone. Your pain warns you that they will take you next. Maybe it was a place that held you. Maybe it was a person. Maybe it was an idea, one that spun into worlds, star systems, heavens, hells, shelters and secrets. Maybe the thing that held you here was nothing more solid than your own name, or the face in the mirror.

I must tell you bluntly, as a friend: The day comes beneath every roof when rain leaks in and no one comes to patch the hole. The cold comes to every warm heart that makes it go still in its cage. The age comes when gods and angels forget their given names, and no longer come when called. The future gazes back with the reflection of today, but it is full of strange faces.

Your pain speaks truth. What you leave behind now was leaving anyway.

Open Yourself.

Turn to your pain. The way out is wide. Things lie open, and the truth shines all around. If you have really left your burning house, your stopped hearts, your dying gods, your forgotten face, then it should be easy to just walk out.

A warning, though: You will go out into truth. Truth is not always welcoming. Truth is not an easy thing to love. Truth will test you. Truth will invite you to look away.

If you would escape with your life, you must be patient with truth that is unkind. You must be compassionate to truth that is ugly. You must be brave in the face of truth that is terrible.

The world is burning, yes, but the things of the world stand no less ready to show you the way to safety. However, they demand something in return: That you be kind to them, that you be fearless, that you be wise. Take heart that these things are in you, as surely as your own will to live. Bring that life forward.

Sun and Rain.

Such an escape into cold demands may not appeal. It is easy to think that, perhaps, the fire is not so bad. It is warm as long as it does not come too close. Perhaps the burning is tolerable, as long as it does not blister. Perhaps the smoke is manageable, if only you do not breathe too deeply, or speak too much. In a burning house, one becomes skilled at hurting all the time, and any skill can become a point of pride.

There is very little that anyone can promise, but I promise this: Smoke clears. Flames extinguish. What they devoured goes to ash. This fire burns out. The question is whether you escape it with your life.

Some things will not escape. Whatever held you in the burning house, whatever you left behind, will also go to ash. Weep for it until you have had enough weeping. When you are done, wipe your eyes, and look: What goes to dust and ash springs up again, a galaxy of weedy lives among the soot. What was lost and discarded finds a new life, just as surely as you have saved your own.

Be kind. Be fearless. Be patient. Reach beyond the veil of ash. The sky is bright and wide.