Angeles Arrien: Thank you for your great riff. Took us into a real transcendent place where memory and imagination are woven together. I love the invitation that you started this morning. What it brought to mind was Mary Oliver’s great question at the end of one of her poems when she said, “What is it that you want to do with the one wild, precious thing called your life?” …. “What is it that you want to do with the one wild, precious thing called your life?”
That’s always a daily question and always thinking about the tribal people’s of South Africa often say that death is, from the time that we’re born death is on our right and destiny is on our left. Death is always asking us every day the question, “Are you using the great gift of life well? Are you using the great gift of life well?” And Destiny on our right is asking another question, “Are you doing what you’ve come here to do? Are you doing what you’ve come here to do?”
And what is it that we want to do with the one wild, precious thing called our life? And, when you were talking, an old memory came to me. Seven years ago I was asked to do some consulting work in New York and they said, “Well tomorrow morning let’s go down and meet, and have our meeting at the café below the Miracle Bridge.”
I said, “Miracle Bridge? What’s the Miracle Bridge?”
They said, “Oh you know, the Brooklyn Bridge. You know, we, us natives, we just call it the Miracle Bridge.”
I said, “Well, why do you call it the Miracle Bridge?”
They said, “Well, I don’t know. We just call it the Miracle Bridge.”
And I thought, “Well therein lies a story.” So I began looking for that story and it’s an incredible story about aliveness and commitment and being seized by something that is so important and matters so important that you’ll do anything to make sure that it comes into form. Which is really the definition of Eros. Eros is really the love of something to bring it into form and it’s not about libido it’s about the love of bringing something that you love into form. So I found the story about the Miracle Bridge and it’s a very short story but it’s a riveting story about doing something with the one wild, precious thing called your life.
The Brooklyn Bridge that spans the river between Manhattan and Brooklyn is simply an engineering miracle. In 1883 a creative engineer, John Roebling, was inspired by an idea for this spectacular bridge project. However, bridge building experts told him to forget it, it just was not possible. But Roebling, undaunted, convinced his son, Washington, an up and coming engineer, that the bridge could be built. And the two of them conceived the concept of how it could be accomplished and how to overcome the obstacles. Somehow they convinced bankers to finance the project. Then with unharnessed excitement and energy they hired their own crew and began to build their dream bridge. The project was only a few months underway when a tragic onsite accident killed John Roebling. And severely injured his son, Washington. Washington was brain damaged, unable to talk or walk. Everyone thought the project would have to be scrapped since the Roeblings were the only ones who understood how the bridge could be built.
Though Washington Roebling was unable to move or talk, parts of his mind were as sharp as ever. And one day, as he lay in his hospital bed, an idea flashed in his mind of how to develop a communication code with his wife. And all he could move on his body was one finger. So he touched the arm of his wife Mary. And he began to work out a tapping code with her. They developed a code, which they mutually understood. And for thirteen years he tapped out the instructions for her to tell the engineers how to continue building the bridge. Within thirteen years, and this consistent daily instruction to his wife, this spectacular Brooklyn Bridge was finally competed. And therefore they called it the Miracle Bridge.
I think we’re being called collectively and individually and relationally at this time in history to come and return into a place of deep engagement and aliveness and really participating in the great gift of life. And really entertaining the question, “What is it that I want to do with the one wild, precious thing called my life?” And in the conversation of restoration that the crucible of restoration is a return to aliveness.