“Hang on tightly; let go lightly.” That’s the motto of the protagonist of the movie Croupier, and it has a lot to recommend it. We all have visions of how we’d like things to go, and it’s worth working toward them with resolve and integrity: this effort helps lend meaning and purpose to our lives. At the same time, what actually happens results from myriad causes and conditions, many of them beyond our control. Which means that letting go is as essential a skill as holding on: knowing what to let go of, and when, and how.
Robinson Jeffers offers a beautiful image of this delicate balance between hanging on and letting go in his poem “Rock and Hawk”:
I think, here is your emblem
To hang in the future sky;
Not the cross, not the hive,
But this: bright power, dark peace;
Fierce consciousness joined with final
Life with calm death; the falcon’s
Realist eyes and act
Married to the massive
Mysticism of stone,
Which failure cannot cast down
Nor success make proud.
How do we inhabit this “fierce consciousness joined with final disinterestedness”? The unwavering dedication to perceiving things as they are, to fully accepting the reality of a situation while simultaneously working to transform it, and most of all, transform ourselves through it. That’s the valiant consciousness, and conscience.
And at the same time, relinquishing our ego-driven attachment to results, cultivating a “final disinterestedness” — not meaning we don’t care, but that we “win” or “lose” with grace. There’s the underlying humility and honesty to acknowledge that our conceptions of winning and losing, success and failure, can be flawed or downright deluded, narrow and selfish.
It’s been helpful to me to believe in my thoughts and feelings just enough, yet not too much. Mysticism shares its root with mystery, and part of “massive mysticism” is accepting not knowing — at a fundamental level, we’re open to the possibility that our ideas of order might be “all frogged up,” as my niece says. This window of doubt on a foundation of faith is our openness to learning from life, and to growing beyond the limits of our world as we know it.