If you really want to—!

If you really want to, you can run springing into the air like a little child—taking off and flying just like you always imagined! If you really want to, you can sprint with balloons and kites, bounding over obstacles and catching their lift to sail through rooms and out windows and up into the sky. Those fusty pieces of paper that you have to deal with every day are actually paper airplanes just waiting to be creased into their proper dimensions, and launched with your heart riding aboard to catch the breeze.

I’m not sure I understand the weight of being trapped to the ground—whether by the obligations of life (which can be very real), or by the weight of even very discouraging or grief-ridden experiences (which I’ve been weighed down by, more times than I care to think, and still am at this moment in some ways). I understand a lot of those weights and griefs, but I don’t understand how so many people seem to think that even the daily grind of life is somehow a normal way of being, even an inevitable or inescapable way of living. Living?! they call that living?

I don’t mean to act flip, as if there are no troubles in life: Let your mind review even the headlines and photos of people both far away and in this very country, who suffer starvation and live practically, it seems, only on dirt—and let your heart widen to take them in, and grieve with them even in what small way you can from far off, which is then how we start finding practical ways we can genuinely lift others up, even a little. Let your heart and ears open to people you know, who may be carrying weights or griefs they’ve said nothing about—when you ask the simple greeting, How are you doing?, let yourself really want to know, and give them room (and encouragement) to tell you. Make sure they know you really are interested to know. Let children who are hurting or frustrated by adults find in you a genuinely open heart, who will listen and respect them, when the “adult” world can’t be bothered to give the same respect that it thinks it’s owed (without having earned it). In small ways or great (since what counts for others aren’t whether those are small or great, but meaningful ways, even if to you it’s just like offering a plain cup of water), let your heart take on some of the weight of others’ worlds and lighten their burdens—and let others do the same for you, when you’re the one needing it.

But trapped or bound to the ground, including by daily humdrum, as if it’s inevitable? Not at all: everything, you know, has some kind of weight—but it’s possible for things to fly, too. Children understand this, and so do children’s authors, when they write of Oz, and Seussian escapades, and a girl debating nonsense with a Cheshire cat or a loopy tea party. (Even without geting into politics!) They know their readers will simply leap into the air, believe the impossible, and in no time be soaring through worlds that lift them into the joy that really is our native environment.

You don’t have to be a child, of course, or even read children’s books (though that’s a good idea for every adult to do regularly, to keep grounded in those tomes’ brilliant, and far more perceptive, reality), to launch yourself into that exhilarating flight, or that leapfrog chase to explore intuitive sense outside the bounds of our tiny, silly “reason” (as we often like to call it). If you really want to, you can leap into imagination in any environment, and bring the sparkling creativity of fresher perspectives that bust open the windows to make a wider view visible.

In a graduate research class, during our final presentations, many people were offering very well-done, thorough projects replete with all sorts of figures, numbers, statistical regression charts, and other tools of quantification that helped them make sense of the business-related things they were researching. Then I got up there, but what I had wanted to study was, How can you tell if people in a church are really loving one another? (which seemed to me a pretty important thing to be able to find out). Instead of charts and PowerPoint slides, I drew a forest on the whiteboard, and explained the perspective of seeing both the whole environment (of whatever you’re trying to understand), and the trees (its individual members) at the same time, as well as down to the individual leaves, cells, molecules, and so on (all the other details involved)—getting a full sense of the scope of what you were dealing with in a human community, both groups and individuals, plus how they all interact, all the time. Because, especially with people, it’s a living, dynamic system, that works on all those levels at once. And because all of that vibrant complexity has to be known and navigated qualitatively, even intuitively (in fact, that’s almost the only way it can be navigated), I illustrated that by folding a sheet of paper into a glider and launched it across the room two or three times, urging people to watch its flights as I gave a running commentary on how, though it seemed a little random, in reality it was guided by the subtle, complex interplay of its own design and the environmental forces it was soaring through—and how this was a pretty good image of how best we can navigate our way through understanding a dynamic, complex environment like a community of people, and all the ways they interact.

I got the idea I was making my (very quantitative-data-venerating) professor crazy; at least, I figured that when at one point she actually put her head down on the table for a few moments (about the time I launched my paper airplane on its first flight). But I was just sorry she didn’t know how to fly, right there in the room. I wanted to help everyone there know a little more how to step aboard an airplane, or grab a bunch of balloons or a kite, and go soaring off through their own lives, finding freer and higher perspectives that would actually help their down-to-earth practicalities make more sense, plus even be a little lighter to deal with. Because you bring some of that lightness and flight with you, when you come back down to walk among the dealings of your life again.

You can do that too, if you really want to. Life’s serious business (not to mention its genuine burdens, and griefs) needs attending to, of course—but you can deal with them better, and bring more of a breath of life to lift them, when you yourself are also leaping into the sky with the joy and abandon and wisdom of a child, to breathe freer air and gain a wider perspective, not to mention being released even for a bit to bring some of that freedom back down to Earth and share it with others.

If you really want to—it doesn’t take any special skill or gift, any more than it takes a gift for a child to run merrily with balloons and pretend to fly away. You have the same ability, because that’s who you still are, too. Only, you have to want to; the air doesn’t seize you and toss you upward, but you can leap into it and catch its lift, at any moment, even right now. And tomorrow, and at work, and at home, and on the road, and anytime and anywhere you are.

In fact, once again I’ll let Enya show a few lessons on how that’s done, since she always seems to know that leaping for joy, doing the impossible, and soaring into heaven is one of the most practical, down-to-earth pursuits anyone can—well, can leap into and celebrate. Here’s how she puts that:

(Here are the lyrics, for anyone who’s interested:)

When there’s a shadow, you reach for the sun,
when there is love, then you look for the One.
And for the promises, there is the sky,
and for the heavens are those who can fly.

If you really want to, you can hear me say
only if you want to will you find a way.
If you really want to, you can seize the day,
only if you want to will you fly away.

When there’s a journey, you follow a star,
when there’s an ocean, you sail from afar.
And for the broken heart, there is the sky,
and for tomorrow are those who can fly.

Chorus (2x)

Ah! je voudrais voler            Ah, I want to fly
comme un oiseau d’ailé.       like a bird on the wing …
Ah! je voudrais voler
comme un oiseau d’ailé, d’ailé, d’ailé …

Chorus (2x)

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One Response to If you really want to—!

  1. Janet Conrad says:

    How ever so timely – Roger. Thank You. Beautiful words of encouragement reminding us all that we do not have to be stuck in our rut if we don’t want to. We do have a choice. Sometimes we feel stuck with no voice about it, no exit available. There is an exit – it’s right there, whether in our minds or in our physical worlds. Reaching out to touch it through reaching out to others or reaching out to our Lord. Reaching out in our minds to escape our very real realities. We are not bound. We are truly free. The doors are open – time to walk thru them. You’ve given us a push in that direction. Much Appreciated!!

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