Ruminations: Stream

There’s a Sufi parable about a stream that wants to cross the desert. You can read or listen to one version of it here: 

A similar story might be told about an acorn afraid of falling from the familiar branch that comprises the only reality it’s ever known, with the terrifying promise that after falling, it will split apart and become something entirely different from an acorn. 

In the case of the stream, the wind advises:

“By hurtling in your own accustomed way you cannot get across. You will either disappear or become a marsh. You must allow the wind to carry you over to your destination.”

But how could this happen? “By allowing yourself to be absorbed in the wind.”

This idea was not acceptable to the stream. After all, it had never been absorbed before. It did not want to lose its individuality. And, once having lost it, how was one to know that one’s identity could ever be regained?

The story captures what terrifies many of us about the idea of transformation. Some part of us resists the possibility of becoming something new because we fear losing a part of ourselves. We prefer the safety of remaining just as we are to the uncertainty of growing into something we don’t recognize.

We resist being absorbed and carried by the wind of beloved community to a new place where our journey continues into places we could never reach on our own. Like the stream, our fear may be that we’ll lose our individuality. It’s too high a risk. We have no promise that we’ll continue to be ourselves, evaporated and carried across a desert, rained down on a distant mountaintop. 

Or, if we prefer acorns and oak trees, we feel uncertain that we have something to gain by falling from the familiar branch which has always held us securely. And yet, remaining in its restrictive shell would never allow an acorn to become the magnificent expansive tree it’s capable of becoming.

I hesitate to say that the acorn is destined to become an oak tree. Or that the stream is destined to become rain on a distant mountain. But I will say that the acorn innately knows how to become an oak. And the stream innately knows how to release its hold on the earth and become absorbed and carried by the wind. 

It isn’t a matter of whether we can grow. It isn’t a matter of whether we can be deeply connected in authentic, meaningful community. It’s a matter of whether we are willing, despite our fears and uncertainties, to become something more. To journey to heights and depths we could not reach all by ourselves.