First Published in the Seminary Bi-Monthly Publication:
Saint Meinrad Seminary; November 11, 2014
Here we are, well inside the autumn season. A time of year when many reflections can, and have been, made of the changing leaves, their slow demise, and human life and struggle. As the year anniversary of a dramatic fall of my own has come and gone, I offer this reflection to add to the wisdom already shared on the subject.
The starting point, nevertheless, is not leaves - green or brown - but rather on physical therapy. Yes, you read that right. During my adventures this past year there came a routine consultation with a physical therapist and I gained an unexpected insight from this meeting. She talked about how the majority of people, albeit a natural inclination, are afraid of falling, hurting or making a fool of themselves. It is this inclination towards a safer route that causes many of us to balance ourselves with external things, often when it is unnecessary. The fear of falling takes over and we reach out instinctively. The trouble is not in itself a need for balance; rather the danger is revealed when a fall does occur - and in life, a fall of one kind or another, is inevitable. In the action of falling, after spending so much time holding on to externals, we end up injuring ourselves more than if we had minor falls all along. The muscles used to balance and keep us up are underdeveloped or seldom exercised. The physical therapist's advice: risk falling more frequently so as not to fall for real. It is even said that each human step, from first tenderly placed foot, to last strenuous stride, every step is a controlled fall with the possibility of things ending not-as-planned.
We experience this physical reality all the time, especially in the chapel. Chairs grasped when genuflecting, clung to when kneeling, and rising. Pushing off one's seat when standing and searched for when sitting. I'm not suggesting we all adopt a hands free approach to our posture at Mass, rather, notice how you interact with your environment and ask 'what am I afraid of?'
Those leaves, you know the ones, they seem to hang on long after their brothers, friends, cousins, friend's cousins - all have let go. It's time for them to fall, but they hold out. What could they have a fear of? When will they let go and accept the risk of falling?
Many people do their best to control the world they inhabit, but truth be told a single breeze or the changing temperatures are more powerful than we could ever try and wield. There are many opportunities we can fall into if we are simply willing to let go.