There’s an old story of a poor man who has a recurring dream of a treasure buried beneath a bridge in a distant city. He travels to the city, digs beneath the bridge and finds nothing. But an old man passing by says he too had a dream – of a treasure buried beneath a poor man’s bed in a distant village. By his description the man recognizes his own house and his own bed.
He returns home, digs beneath his bed, and finds the treasure.
Since roughly puberty, one of my life’s struggles has been intermittent bouts of depression. Maybe it’s inherited, maybe it’s just my portion, or maybe it’s connected with long-time sleep issues.
Whatever its source, in daily life, I work hard to counterbalance the onset of periods of low energy, negative thoughts, and aimlessness with contemplative practices, spiritual readings, exercise, music, family, and meaningful work. Or as much meaningful work as I can muster. These keep me in rhythm, aware, grateful, at peace.
But when I slip out of this delicate rhythm my well-being can slide pretty fast. If family issues come up, or a sickness, or even a vacation or a family visit, the amount of sleep, contemplative practice, and exercise routine all suffer.
Sixteen years ago I took a world lit class taught by a professor who opened my eyes, not only to the relevance of myth and classical literature, but to contemplative spirituality as well.
Dr. Thorpe opened the class with a simple statement “We’re lost. We’re trying to get home. That’s the story at the heart of Western literature and it’s the story at the start of the spiritual journey.” With that framework in mind we read Homer, Dante, and Dostoevsky. We read the stories like maps of the soul’s journey home.
As a kid who had grown up overseas and suffered from reverse culture shock, it was like being handed a golden key. I might not have been home yet, but I had a way to get there. It felt like hope. (more…)