Tag Archives: go with the flow

Soundbite philosophy and other fish

I woke in the early hours with the absolute conviction that today’s blog post would be going in the ‘ritual’ category. The thing I can’t remember, is what it was supposed to be about. This is not unusual, my dreaming mind has a life of its own; I often wake with convictions that can’t then be pinned to anything coherent. When they can, I tend to use them. There may be a flow, something I can tap into, things my unconscious mind knows. And, when there’s an easy option, I’m not ashamed to take it. So, this is not a blog about ritual, but about thinking, and whether or not we go with the flow, and where the flow might take us.

I read somewhere (facebook perhaps) a lovely thought form that went ‘do not go with the flow. Dead things go with the flow.’ Fish tend to swim against the flow, I’ve watched them seeming to hang in the water in much the same way as kestrels fly against the wind in order to hover. If the canal is anything to go by, dead things can be depended on to go with the flow. So does rubbish. Often ‘going with the flow’ results in these floating things getting trapped by the curve at the front or back of the boat, at which point all motion ceases. And the flow varies in most watercourses, from barely shifting to torrential floods, all of which a person who goes with it, can be subject to.

Going with the flow is a surrender to the inevitable. Or at least, to what we assume is inevitable. It is the path of least resistance. The sapling that bends in the storm does not break. I spent a little while studying tai chi and Taoism, and the idea of yielding is very important in that tradition. Overcoming by yielding is a strategy worth considering, especially if you dislike violence or conflict. But can all trials be overcome through yielding? Looking at my own life, I have to say, no. I have yielded, a great deal at times, given way, acquiesced, offered no resistance. In the short term it reduced pain, but longer term it kept me trapped in a harmful, soul destroying situation. There are forms of oppression it’s very hard to tackle by yielding. Sometimes, yielding only serves to reinforce the problem.

There are lots of glib statements out there that seek to sum up a life philosophy in a few short words. The trouble is, that very few simple ideas can be safely applied to all situations for a failsafe ‘how to live well’ solution. If it were that easy, someone would have figured it out long ago. Anything that can be pinned down to a single sentence probably won’t get you very far, or won’t work all the time. Life is much more complicated. Being human is vastly complicated. The things that make sense to one person, in one place and at one time won’t necessarily have anything to give even that same person, in another time or place, much less anyone else.

Most actual philosophies and belief systems cannot be expressed simplistically. It’s tempting to want soundbites and easy catch phrases, but that’s not how a spiritual path works. It’s the commitment to complexity, to exploration and a quest for understanding that underpins all spiritual life. The difficulty is part of the point, part of what makes it meaningful to search for answers. The one liners that can readily be shared on facebook are often charming. They may raise a smile or trigger an idea, but slogan-philosophy only goes so far. The fun part is taking that nugget, be it ‘go with the flow’, or anything else, and working out what that means, right now, in your life. That’s where both the real work, and the real discovery happens.

Where is the flow going today? I don’t know. But I can go with it, or swim against it, get out altogether, and consider all manner of alternatives. The only one liner of philosophy I’m inclined to trust, is that there is never one true way to anything.