Wise words from myself

As I’ve been going through long-ignored documents and books, I’ve found some interesting messages from my past self.

My high school yearbook quote, for example:

Remember that the Mirror shows many things, and not all have yet come to pass. Some never come to be, unless those that behold the visions turn aside from their path to prevent them. The Mirror is dangerous as a guide of deeds.

Recognize that? It’s from The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien, when Sam looks into the Mirror of Galadriel and sees horrific things happening back home in the Shire. He’s tempted to turn aside from accompanying Frodo in his quest, but decides to go on. And all would have ended quite differently if he hadn’t.

Why did I choose this quote? Did it really represent my state of mind at the age of 18? How could I know anything about quests and the dangers involved? Tolkien wasn’t even my favorite author, and I actually remember almost instantly regretting my choice of words once they were down in print. But here they are, telling me something I needed to know over 30 years later.

It’s now, in midlife, that I can say — having turned aside from my path many times — Galadriel was right. Our mirror-consciousness that only reflects the world, that is not immersed in its living stream, is dangerous as a guide of deeds. We want to predict the future, to ensure safety; our knowledge is more than we can handle. Images of fear and catastrophe flash at us and make us want to turn aside, to run away or maybe toward the danger, to try to control and contain it.

But the path doesn’t change. It’s still there, and it must be walked to the end.

Here’s another passage that I wrote on a scrap of paper, ca. 2002:

In order for healing to occur one must submit to the humiliation of revealing one’s illness to others, perhaps hurting or contaminating them. The urge to contain the illness and keep it hidden is the enemy of healing. Symptoms are the gift of the principle in us which is free of this restrictive, containing principle, which breaks through our controlling will. We must not seek to heal by controlling the symptoms, pushing them back into invisibility, but by encouraging them to come out in a guided way. The purpose of the human community is to bear one another’s healing process, to in turn bear the eruption of another’s illness, and express (heal) our own. When we refuse to do this we cease to be truly human.

Why did I write this? I don’t remember. And what did I think I knew about healing? At that point I had some experience of the process, but I had no idea how much of my own hidden soul-illness remained to be expressed, how much I was unconsciously holding back. It took a long time and much suffering before that could take place.

And yet I already knew what I needed and was telling it to myself, even if I couldn’t fully hear it. I still agree with what I wrote then, now that I have some experience to back it up. This is a principle I can live by. But how did I know? It remains a mystery to me.

Have you ever found messages like this from a younger self? What did they tell you?

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4 thoughts on “Wise words from myself

  1. I find messages like that all the time, usually as a note found when I reread a book that I read previously in a much different mood or even one I taught at a particular college in a particular semester. One example is a line from The Handmaid’s Tale, which I last taught at Otterbein College in 2007: “Truly amazing, what people can get used to, as long as there are a few compensations.” At the time, I thought this was about dystopia. Now I see that it’s about the everyday. When I look back on what has been said and what has happened since Nov. 2016, it is truly amazing.

    1. Amazing indeed. Experience and knowledge are always interacting in such ways, and we have to try to keep up.

  2. Beautiful quote about healing– I love it, wise indeed. Yes, I have been shocked to read the clarity with which I wrote something many years ago– when I still seem to be learning the same truth decades later (specific examples elude me).

    1. Some lessons take a long, long time to learn (if ever). I’m grateful to have had enough years to at least become aware of this fact.

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