Coming in From the Cold
The rhythmic lyrics of Bob Marley poured out over the radio as I careened down the highway on my way to work. It was one of his lesser known songs—Coming in From the Cold— but one of my favorites. In typical Marley fashion, the song has bouncy rhythms while his vocals reverberate basic lyrics. In this case, most of the song is some derivation of “In this life, this sweet life, we’re coming in from the cold.”
Tears streamed down my face, I thought yes, that is what I want. I want to come in from the cold.
Let me explain: I have been in a two month funk lately, a strange malaise that I could not quite pin down. It was very vague: I felt tired, uninspired and disconnected from my sense of purpose. And I found myself watching a lot of Netflix.
I cannot say exactly what created this funk. I am sure it was some combination of the emotional upheaval of the holidays, having some involved projects at work and not taking time for the things that feed me. The large quantities of Netflix probably did not help either. Whatever the reason, I do know how it affected me. It silenced my channel.
My ideas about why we are here are grounded in the context of the Great Turning, the idea that we are at a unique and pivotal moment in planetary history where the future of human life is uncertain. Our questionable future is because of our industrial growth society, a society where we view people and the planet as expendable resources to be exploited for profits. If life is to survive on this planet, we need to make a drastic shift from an industrial growth society to a life sustaining society, one that acknowledges the right of all life to continue living. That is a massive switch that is going to take all of us participating fully.
Each person holds a unique piece of this shift, a gift or contribution that is theirs and theirs alone to give. There is something that needs to be done that only you can do, or a way of being that the world needs that only you possess. You have something to give and if you do not give it, the world simply will not have it.
Poet David Whyte calls this the shape that waits in “the seed of you to grow and spread its branches against a future sky” (What to Remember When Waking) and “the truth at the center of the image you were born with” (All the True Vows). Poet Mary Oliver hints at this by saying “Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination (…) announcing your place in the family of things.” (Wild Geese) and asking us, “What is it that you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” (The Summer Day). The Quakers refer to it as your vocation, from the Latin word vocare, to call. It is your calling. That thing, beautiful and mysterious, that ceaselessly calls you to it.
For some this is their paid work but for many it is not. Elizabeth Gilbert describes it as that thing that you would do no matter what, even if you knew you were bound to fail, something that you love doing regardless of any guise of success or wealth or fame.
I especially love Martha Graham’s description, “There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action. And because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium, and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.”
Lately, because of my funk, my channel has been closed. For me, my channel has to do with writing, being a witness and story teller to this world in the time of the Great Turning. I have not been doing that, I have not been writing. And it was not just that I have not writing; I was not being the fullest expression of myself, not living out the deepest and most vibrant way I knew.
And it hurt. I felt sad and isolated and exhausted. I felt disconnected. It felt like, after a raucous, celebratory party, where all your favorite people where there and you sang and danced and ate delicious food and engaged in equally delicious conversation, the next morning you then wake up in your lonely apartment to nobody but your silent appliances and everyday life. Everything looks the same and nothing is wrong, but you still have that memory stored in your body of how alive life can be, you know there is something so much wilder and more vivid that you want and it wants you back.
That is what I want. I want to live in that connection and aliveness, I want to choose that end of the spectrum of human potential, the part that is fully alive and fully connected and celebrating all that life has to give. Like Marley said, I want to come in from the cold.
So, here it is. I am writing again. This is me coming in from the cold.
And, in case you are needing to do so also, here is a little inspiration from Bob Marley.