Photo by ON MY BLUE JEANS on Unsplash

In the Closing chapter of Joseph Marshall’s Keep Going we overhear the conversation of an aging grandfather and his adult son:

He reminded me often, as I remind you now; there is another Grandfather. Remember that in our language Grandfather also refers to the Great Power others call God. The words I spoke are really from that Grandfather, because of the journey that He gave me and helped me to make. The journey that has been my life is the source of what little wisdom I have gained.

That Grandfather is all around. He is in the storm that challenges you, and in the strength that enables you to face it. He is that whisper of hope against despair, and the sunshine on your face when you meet each new day. He is there with you in your victories and embraces you when you suffer defeat. He was there when you came into this world to begin this journey, and He will be there when you leave it to begin your next one.

Once again the young man sat silently absorbing his grandfather’s words. Then he whispered, “Thank you, Grandfather.” And he would always remember how the breeze grew stronger and rustled the cottonwood leaves louder, even if only for a moment. In the rustling of the leaves he thought he heard a soft, strong voice speaking in a lilting rhythm…yet the words were not clear to him. “Grandpa, do you hear the voice in the leaves?,” he asked….“Of course,” (Grandfather) replied softly. “What is it saying?” (the young man asked).

“It is life speaking,” replied the old man. “It says simply to Keep Going.”

I’ve posted in the GlobeBlog before about Tenacity, but the kind of perseverance that drives us to keep going day in and day out when there seems to be an endlessness and even, at times, a hopelessness about life is something completely different.

So how do we keep going in this strange new world we are living in with more death than any of us can remember, and an economy — a shell of its former self — that we cannot even look squarely in the face for fear of what we will see? I think the only sane way for any of us to grapple with any of this is by making a concerted effort, on a daily basis, to see things through a broader lens: this kind of hardship is, in a way, woven into the inner fabric of our lives. Even as a society, we must recognize that we will have periods of figurative and literal collapse, and that this enables the birth of new life (again, figuratively and literally). Without death, without failure, we cannot have new life, and we cannot have any kind of what we define as success for ourselves or our society.

We can talk about these things theoretically, but the road we are on now is a really hard and long road to travel on. We want to jump over these periods of difficulty. We want to wake up from what seems to be a nightmare, and get back to normalcy, whatever that may mean for a future that now seems distant and unclear.

Several years ago, I remember backpacking with my pre-teenage son on a trail that I wasn’t familiar with. We had been backpacking before, and I was familiar with reading US Forest Service maps, as well as wilderness guides. So we started out in a very confident way, believing that we would easily reach our destination, a high altitude camp called “Cliff Lake.”

I do remember reading in the wilderness guide that right before we arrived at the lake, we would have to pass through a dry stretch of the trail that included many clusters of Manzanita bush; but on our actual trek, the Manzanita bushes seemed endless, and I just kept repeating to my son: Cliff Lake is coming around one of these bends. “It should be just around the next bend or so,” I would say, after each switchback in the trail. This really grew tiresome for my son, who, with a heavy pack, was starting to reach an exhausted state as we climbed the trail through endless, steep switch-backs of Manzanita bushes. I finally gave up saying anything.

We walked in a kind of silent fatigue, among the Manzanita bushes, for what seemed like most of the afternoon, and the light was now fading.

And then we rounded a corner and we were at Cliff Lake. We were almost too tired to celebrate anything, but we had done it: we had kept going.

 

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