November 12 – Burning the Wrapper – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

From the beginning, the key to renewal has been shedding, the casting off of old skin.

The Polynesians say the world began when Taaora—their name for the Creator—woke to  find himself growing inside a shell. He stretched and broke the shell, and the Earth was created. Taaora kept growing, though, and after a time found himself inside another shell. Again, he stretched and  broke the shell, and this time the moon was created. Again, Taaora kept growing, and again, he found himself contained by yet another shell. This time the breaking forth created the stars.

In this ancient story, the Polynesians have carried for us the wisdom that we each grow in this life by breaking successive shells, that the piece of God within each of us stretches until there’s no room to be, and then the world as we know it must be broken so that we can be born anew.

In this way, life becomes a living of who we are until that form of self can no longer hold us, and, like Taaora in his shell, we must break the forms that contain us in order to birth our way into the next self. This is how we shed our many ways of seeing the world, not that any are false, but that each serves its purpose for a time until we grow and they no longer serve us.

I have lived through many selves. The first of me, so eager to be great, to set things ablaze, shunned everything that was ordinary. I hunted the burn of a champion’s hip and wanted to be a great musician too—to be famous and extraordinary. But as I grew, the notion of fame left me lonely in the night. Thrones, no matter how pretty, have only room for one.

The second of me wanted to be covered by waves, inhale the stars, and move like a song. Now I wanted to be the great music itself. But to be the great thing was still as lonely as it was magnificent.

The third of me gave up on greatness.It was how I let others draw close. I asked more questions, not really interested in answers, but more, the face below the face about to speak.

And then during cancer, there came yet another self—there, bent and distorted in the hospital chrome as the late sun flooded my pillow. I was dead in the chrome, alive on the pillow, a quiet breath between—dead, alive—at once. And oddly, it did not scare, for I felt the pulse of life in the quiet breath, and the place to which I transcended is here.

Almost dying was another shell I had to break. It has led me to realize that each self unfolds, just one concentric womb en route to another, each encompassing the last. I would believe in arrival but for all the arrivals I’ve broken on the way.

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