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“no sabe el rio que se llama rio…”

The river, says Pablo Neruda, doesn’t know it’s called “a river.”

Considering Neruda’s river as a metaphor for the potential of a single human life, I’ve found two messages in his poem that tug against each other; both feel true.

One is that the river becomes itself simply by being itself. We are here to become what we’re here to be. Stress diminishes in proportion to how well we’re able to get out of our own way. Rocks in the landscape may pose challenges, but as long as we remain true to the core nature of “self” we will re-create the landscape and become part of it in beautiful, lasting ways.

The second message is equally potent. We are not rivers. We are not unconscious, conscience-less matter winding through a landscape. We have both mind and soul and we are aware of how we tread upon the land, our choices and each other. It’s not enough to mindlessly create or shape our surroundings; we have to know what we’re doing, or at least recognize context and potential. A river can do terrible things and beautiful things at the same time. Somehow, as humans, we have to embody both concepts if we want to reach our highest potential.

We have to be mindful of how we’re shaping matter, consciousness and each other.

And we have to move forward in a state of wild, raw mystery – allowing the truth of who/what we are to predominate – trusting the truth to manifest in our own best interest as we allow it to become something others may be swept into or nourished by.

The plants in the stone
stiffen their spikes against it,
the hostile soil twists it,
gives it the shape of an arrow or a horseshoe,
narrows it almost to invisibility,
but it resists and goes on,
crossing the rusty threshold
of the volcanic night,
drilling, wearing away,
emerging hard and whole as a sword,
turning into a star against the quartz,
eventually slower, open to freshness,
a river at last, steady and abundant.

—Pablo Neruda