Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Parable of the River Master

For a moment, let's embark on a journey, following the flow of a mighty river through a canyon gorge. The person commanding our raft is a River Master, who knows the river so well he seems to command the very flow of the river.  He appears to us to be all powerful, all knowing, and completely good.

As we board the raft, things seem to go very well for a time.  Life on the raft is beautiful, pleasant, the new scenery captures our senses.

Then the rapids come.  The raft is in turmoil as we try to hold on amidst the rocks and waves.  Being novices at rafting, our first inclination is to ask the Master to intervene: in our fears, we want him to calm the raging the flow of the river. We want a miracle, but our “miracle” is what WE want–a supernatural intervention. We beg and plead with Master for our miracle. And he doesn’t. We become frustrated, We develop motion sickness.

The master smiles.  All the way along, the Master calmly shows us the way, guiding us as to what to do.  The Master doesn't really use words--he shows us by example, he expresses his instructions by intuition.  He helps us learn to observe--to learn through our own experience to discern the flow of the river.  

But we aren't listening, observing, contemplating what was going on.  The master encourages us to do things to help steer, paddle, or move in order to better balance the raft. They’re little, mundane things--natural, intuitive, and unmiraculous.  Yet, because we are intent on demanding the miracle, we don’t listen to the Master. We think we know what is best, and we continue our one-way telling the Master what we want.

Because the Master does not seem to be helping us, we are faced with a choice, either we can keep complaining and do nothing, resulting in catastrophe, or we can start taking the initiative and doing something. Most of us decide the Master is incompetent, so we ignore him or her and start paddling as hard as we can on our own. A few of us realize this is futile — it’s too hard work.

At some point after many frustrating trials, we realize that the Master actually knows the river and how to navigate it. So we seek the Master’s advice, by observing what is going on, and by asking questions — not demanding — but rather, seeking to learn from the Master. We listen to the master’s coaching, and by observing the flow of the river, are able to better command the raft.

As we learn from the Master, we become actively involved in managing the raft and journey. Because we started to naturally observe the flow and follow it, learning through our own experience and working in harmony as a team, we move down the river, navigating the rapids and smooth places without incident. By becoming one with each other, the raft, and the river, we have become one with the flow, it becomes as natural to us as breathing.

After a while, we notice the Master is no longer there. Some question whether the Master was ever there at all: “aren’t we navigating this raft by ourselves?” Others of us become arrogant, saying that there is no need of a Master. Yet as we contemplate what really happened, we realize that the Master was deeply real, a fellow human traveler along the Way, but now the Master is us, emerging from deep within ourselves, as we observe, listen, and work together in harmony and love.

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