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  • Writer's pictureKarl Koerber

Another Trip Around the Sun

Updated: Nov 20, 2022

A somewhat rambling reflection on the past year, faith and our sojourn here

This past March (2019) I published Through the Whirlpool, the culmination of several years of research and writing. The publication marked an abrupt shift from the introverted and solitary labour of writing, where I felt comfortable and safe, to the daunting task of presenting my creation to the outside world. Book launches, phone calls and emails to various bookstores and libraries, creating a web presence—all endeavours that fall outside of my comfort zone—became the order of the day and, frankly, left me a bit emotionally exhausted.

Once the first flurry of promotional activity passed it was easy, and perhaps necessary, to retreat into the solace of nature—working the soil, feeling the caress of the sun on my skin, sensing the throbbing vibration of LIFE all around me and within me—and easing back into something resembling equilibrium. The garden, the forest and the mountains—these are my wellsprings of spiritual healing and restoration, and I enjoyed many hours immersed there during the summer and fall.

Of course, I didn’t completely withdraw from the outside world. I’ve still been reading and watching the news, while trying to stave off despondence over the current state of things. It often feels as though we are approaching the next great cataclysm, where the collision of climate change, population growth and human greed touches off a collapse of massive proportions. I hope not. I hope we can still find the collective insight and will to prevent a total meltdown, but it is hard to see a path through the maze of obstacles that stand in the way.

I used to believe that humanity was on a trajectory leading to a world where we finally learned to live together in harmony, where the wealth and resources were shared fairly, and we were all equal citizens in a vibrant and peaceful global community. We have made progress in many areas over the centuries, so it made sense that, eventually, there would be a culmination where, as a species, we left behind our tribalism, avarice, aggressiveness and cruelty, and grew into adulthood.

Lately, however, that dream of a utopian world, where the lion and the lamb graze side by side, seems just that—an unattainable dream. Now I think that maybe the journey matters more than the destination; the struggle holds more reward than the victory. The books I have read lately, including In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Gabor Mate, Max Eisen’s By Chance Alone and Gently to Nagasaki by the wonderful Joy Kogawa, all touch on this idea, each in a different way. In these stories the tenacity of the human spirit is brought into sharp focus. Individuals find a way through the tangle of trauma, addiction, war, persecution and loss that seems omnipresent in our world, and find themselves elevated to a new self-awareness, strengthened by their battles with the demons they have had to face.

Not always, of course. Not everyone. Some fall by the wayside, succumbing to addiction, suicide or despair. For many, the light is too faint, the darkness too vast to find a way through.

But the idea that we are on a spiritual journey, that this phenomenon we call life is the fire by which our souls are tempered, holds appeal for me. It is a precept of some eastern belief systems and, while I am not an adherent of any religion, I do cherry-pick ideas that resonate with me. No one really knows what we are doing here; we are all just trying to find some sense of peace with the situation in which we find ourselves. There are those who believe fervently that a supreme being created the universe and manages it much like a CEO; others who believe the universe is purely physical and life is just a long, random chain of chemical reactions. Between these extremes are a myriad of metaphysical or philosophical perspectives but, without exception, all are beliefs—matters of faith. The mystery of existence can never be rationally solved or understood except, perhaps, on some deep, intuitive level of consciousness we cannot fully comprehend.

For myself, I suppose the best description would be an atheist of faith. The idea of a god does not ring true, but when I look at the great mysteries of human consciousness—our sense of beauty, the magic of art and music, our capacity for love and compassion…and life, just the wonder of life itself—it beggars belief that these miracles are merely the outcome of some freak of chemistry that “just happened” in the primordial soup. Call it a force, call it energy, call it a matrix of sentience that permeates the universe, but I must believe there is some kind of music behind this dance.

“Whatever we do is insignificant, but it is important that we do it.” This often-used quote is attributed to Gandhi, although apparently there is no confirmation that these were actually his words. It works for me, though. In the face of seeming hopelessness, when our efforts to bring about change appear futile, we must continue to honour and nurture the impulses that compel us to help, to improve, to reach out, to embrace, to make peace, to heal, to understand, to teach, to learn, to create, to dance and to sing. We must follow the light that, according to Leonard Cohen, “gets in” through the “crack in everything.” In my faith, Love and Truth are forces that underpin the architecture of existence, as real as matter, light or gravity. Love nourishes the soul; it is as essential as sunlight and oxygen to our well-being. Without it, we wither and die, become hollow and hungry shells, enslaved to yearnings that can never be truly fulfilled.

And so, as we embark upon another journey around the sun and the dark winter night begins its retreat, I take this moment to reaffirm my faith in the Love and Light from which all blessings flow (to adapt the old hymn), and to renew my aim to stay hopeful, to do what I can and to open my heart to receive whatever the future holds with gratitude and grace.

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