Befitting my kindergarten position at the back of the line during kickball team picks, I recently was assigned to write no more than 200 words reflecting upon a 40th verse abandoned on a neatly-maintained list after its 39 brethren had been claimed.
If you know me at all, personally or professionally, you may be experiencing paroxysms of disbelief at the thought that I could limit myself to just 200 words about anything. (Even my text messages have voluminous sub-texts.)
That applies even when the 200 words is forty-fold the size of my assigned clause-as-sentence, which was just five words: “….may your will be done.”
After I finished my written ruminations–which, amazingly, came in at six words under the maximum–I realized that one word might have done just as well.
I thought about the space between the cup of the Psalms, which overflows with blessings, and the cup of roiling wrath that provides the context for Matthew 26:42.
“And how else can it be?/ The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain./ Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?”
At the distinct risk–and likely realization–of sacrilege, I could not get out of my mind that when we mortals face each morning we simply don’t know and can’t control from which cup we will sip. We chose, in our multi-fold ways, to partake–or not–of the day and engage in our world; in neither case can we choose what each day hands us.
When we reach out to other beings it can be glorious. It also may be disappointing, maddening, or so harrowing it reduces you to zero at the bone.
We may maintain ourselves within the reasonably safe, the manageable known unknowns: Land of the Tightly-Wound and Closely-Held Amygdala. Akin to Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates (here I hear, intoned in Jim’s smile-leavened voice, speaking to the formerly fearful me, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?“). The banal pleasant present of (spoiler alert) the Good Place, shorn of its peaks as surely as its dark vales have disappeared.
Or we can take a page from the not-so Cowardly Lion.
But reaching out–and dealing yourself in–can also be like a cross between “The Lady or the Tiger?” and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans (will it be the grass flavor or the vomit, cinnamon or cement?). Will you be handed the cup that runneth over, or the vessel of down-to-the-dregs bitterness?
Some element of choice remains ever-present from the macro to the micro within each day. I choose to get outside and contemplate the horizon even when the winter wind turns my hands to powder-blue ice and all the sea and sky I can see is rendered in simmering dusky black.
I never regret going out to greet ordinary skies. I deeply regret when I cannot take the detour.
And sometimes–say, one in forty mornings–I’ll dally at the shore upon a hint of the merest glimmer of incandescent pre-dawn light, and be there to see something like this….
We don’t get to chose the result; we do get to chose where we stand, and sometimes what we position ourselves to see.