The burden he was carrying became too much to bear. He didn’t even know that he was carrying it. It had become such an integral part of who he was. That was the way of things with him. He would just pick them up and throw them on his back, keep moving ahead, never thinking about the price being paid. It never occurred to him that each one he picked up and carried, would not learn to stand on their own. They would come to depend on him to do it. It’s what he did. He liked to do it. He liked to help. He was good at it.
But, there comes a time when the carrying no longer helps. It becomes a thing unto itself. It becomes the mission. It diverts one from their primary purpose. It takes over. You lose perspective. Forget why you started the journey in the first place. You just keep going along, looking for the ones struggling, picking them up, throwing them on, and moving ahead. He didn’t see that it was unfair to them. It fed his growing sense of who he was. Fed the destructive ego.
He never saw it coming. As you go along, day to day, you miss what’s happening in the larger scheme of it all. You respond to what’s in front of you. It began as a whisper, a gentle nudging in the far reaches of his consciousness, then slowly became a most annoying nagging in his head –“What? What is it? Show yourself! What do you want?” But, on he went, actions no longer resulting from intention, now just rote and reptitious, as the burden grew, and the voices increased in intensity, though still undiscernible.
And then one day he wobbled, just a bit, fell to one knee, and almost lost it. He heard the grumbling from the ranks. Apologized. Got back up. Soldiered on. But now he knew.
This mission, this burden, was no longer sustainable. In a moment of truth, a light of realization flashed through the dense fog, and he knew what he had to do. It was there all along – the source of the whispers and naggings. He really hadn’t wanted to hear what they were saying. The truth seems too harsh at times. It demands unpopular actions. It forces you to change. To think. To stop. To no longer “go along”.
So, he did what he knew to be right. He released the burden. He rested. Gently let it down, and hoped they’d be okay. He knew they would be. It would make them stronger. Learn to walk the road on their own. For, he had his own road, with his own load to carry.
They parted on good terms. He walked on, into the new day, into his journey,and everything felt right. Despite freak accidents on trains, things falling that never fell before, machines breaking down that had always run, it all felt perfectly right. He smiled through it all, a genuine smile, a knowing voice inside that just said, “That’s right, son. You did the right thing. This is where you need to be.” At the end of the day, that first day, all felt right with his world. He slept a deep and restful sleep, and upon awakening, on the second day, he felt whole. He felt wholly alive.
“Welcome home, son. We missed you”. He breathed a sigh of relief. “Whew – that was a close one!” Just then, he realized the song that had been playing in the back of his head for the previous week. Yeah…it sort of fit the way he’d felt.
Sometimes I feel like i am leaving life behind
My hands are moving faster than the movement of my mind
Thoughts and generations of my dreams are yet unborn
I hope that I will find them 'fore my moving gets too worn
If only I could live to see the dawning of the dawn
So we go on moving trying to make this image real
Straining every nerve not knowing what we really feel
Straining every nerve ending and everybody sees
That what they read in the Rolling Stone has really come to be
And trying to avoid a taste of that reality
On an early New York mornin' a mirror in the hall
Showed to me a face I didn't know at all
Lines were drawn around a pair of eyes that opened wide
And when I looked into them there was nothing left inside
So I walked into the little room and whistled like a sigh
As dawn light closed around me my head was still in gear
Thinking thoughts of playing more and singing loud and clear
Trying to reach a friend somewhere and make that person smile
Maybe pull myself away from that old lonesome mile
That often comes to haunt me in the morning
All my friends keep telling me that it would be a shame
To break up such a grand success and tear apart a name
But all I know is what I feel whenever I'm not playin'
Emptiness ain't where it's at and neither's feeling pain
Well now what is going to happen now is anybody's guess
If I can't spend my time with love I guess I need a rest
Time is getting late now and the sun is getting low
My body's getting tired of carryin' another's load
And sunshine's waiting for me a little further down the road
- Jorma Kaukonen, “Third Week on the Chelsea”