Carpet, Red Riding Hood, and the Dark Unknown
It was April Fool’s Day. No matter what I was listening to, reading, or looking at, it was in some way referring to foolishness. I was kind of annoyed and felt just a little bit smarter than all of the silliness going on around me; I was about to go listen to Elizabeth Lesser, founder of the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York—and she was no fool. So, off I went, into the big room with so many seats. It was very different from being in the earthy haven that Rhinebeck, nestled in the Hudson Valley of upstate New York, typically offers; this was structured, orchestrated, and heavily, heavily carpeted, maybe even on the walls, I'm not quite sure. It was slightly suffocating. I wasn't sure what this experience would bring; it was already so different from the Omega campus, which oozed nature and life force.
Totally feeling like I was at a Michael Jackson concert—or like the nerd I was in college—I went (ran) up front, sat down with my pen and paper, and put my glasses on so I could actually read what I was writing. I was intent on absorbing as much as I possibly could from what Elizabeth was about to say.
She came to the stage and started to tell the story of Little Red Riding Hood. A photo of a red-cloaked girl, brilliant against the lush green of a partially lit forest, appeared on the screen in front of us. I looked up at it, and Elizabeth's voice carried the thoughts that accompanied my eyes down the path of the light to where the forest grew dark. The cloak was stopped in the middle, stuck, seemingly paralyzed. Would it move forward, or stay in the sun, where all was known and all was familiar?
As the story of Red Riding Hood rose into metaphor and insight, the energy in the room expanded, the air became light, and the carpet seemed to disappear from under my feet.
The insight became clear: we are all on a path, all finding our way between the darkness and the light. What are we carrying? How close to or how far from the path do we veer? In the darkness, it is hard to see if there is light on the other side. For all of us, this is how each journey begins. Are we fools to wander out of the light, off the path, into the darkness, into the unknown? Or are we fools not to?
Elizabeth said, "We must learn to embrace the unknowable." That reminded me of Rilke: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves.”
Embrace the question. Embrace the unknown. Every day there will be an unknown; every day is unknown, and can't be known until it is lived. Attempting to control and know what hasn't come is a fool’s journey. At the same time, only a fool will walk into the unknown to embrace it, to live it, and to learn.
There is not one of us who is not a fool in some way. We move through life, or we watch it go by. Do we embrace the darkness to find a greater light, or do we stay in the light we know, afraid of the unknown, destined to wear grooves in a path already walked?
I have never wanted to think of myself as a fool—and I have never looked at another as a fool. In this place on this 1 April, the room was filled with beautiful fools, all of us there because the edge of the darkness was not far enough for our journey. Into the picture, onto the path, out of the light, into the unknown we go.