A WALK WITH BILL SAMUEL
METAPHYSICS IS A WALKING STICK, NOT A CRUTCH
Many have written me about loneliness—aloneness—and I answer all of you here. It is a subject I am familiar with—we are all familiar with. From the human standpoint I have been alone. I have been lonely. I have suffered the bereavement of abandonment, the dereliction of desolation, the forlornment of friendlessness and forsakenness, the seclusion, the awful seclusion of unsought solitude. I (as Bill) have been alone, unassisted, unaided, unattended when it seemed I needed personal comfort—when I wanted something more than metaphysical mollification, more than philosophical platitudes. We have all cried for a relief more tangible, more holdable, more concrete than an injection of philosophical inspiration at different times in our experience.
And you know, loneliness isn’t limited to being physically alone. It can happen in a crowd. One can be surrounded by family and loved ones and still feel desolate, deserted, insular, isolated, reduced to ashes. I know. I know. But dear friends, all of you whom I love so, no matter how awful this loneliness, no matter how arduous the experience of it when it appears is as it should be and serves a purpose!
“What? What? My God, what?!” asks the lonely heart; asks the single flower blooming in the corner of the garden; asks the last leaf on the limb; asks the solitary sentry at his post; asks the bleeding soldier clawing at the mud; asks the mother at the bier of a child; asks the evening whippoorwill as the sun goes down. Who hasn’t asked the reasons for suffering? Who hasn’t wondered about loneliness? To the human sense of things, loneliness is a suffering, and suffering is a loneliness that screams.
Darkness is what Light knows Light is not—the means by which it knows infinitely. The All One is never alone in any kind of anguish—and knows it. Hopefully the long, preceding pages have helped make this clear. A further study of them surely will. But, for the moment, put the study aside and take a walk with me. Listen softly.
There is a pathway leading to the river. It goes down a hill, crosses a road, winds through a field soon to be green with Spring. Then it enters the forest and makes its way along ridges, across gullies and washes, over beds of leaves and pine-straw, fallen logs and rocks.
I usually walk with a stick. Oh, there’s great comfort in carrying a stick with one. There is more to it than meets the eye. My habit of carrying a stick grew out of a soldier’s loneliness, if nothing else—and out of the comfort of feeling the wood of company and companionship in one’s hand.
A stick serves to steady one in steep places and to help one over the hard climbs. It serves to brush branches out of the way and to turn over strange stones for an examination. A stick lets me tilt a flower toward me for better seeing, without having to bend down every time. It lets me bat pinecones like a little boy—or send seed spattering over the ground where it will be nested by the wind and rain to grow in another season. A stick, a staff, can be such a friend.
And yet, I’ve seen it be a protector too. Predators have been turned aside by the sight of it. I’ve awakened sleeping rabbits with it, but it also reaches out and brings the muscadines within touch. It can bring a wild apple tumbling down and sometimes turn the leaves aside revealing a fig the birds haven’t found—or a persimmon that clings to the branch. In the summer it can tap the wild plums into my hand or turn away the briars of blackberry to let me reach the fruit.
What has this to do with loneliness? Really, I don’t know—except it allows me to tell you that I have learned that even a simple walking stick—a piece of cut dogwood, willow or laurel—can be company and comfort for me. And if one can do that from such a simple piece of wood, don’t you see that you can find comfort for yourself too, out of the much you have—and out of the much that is available to you? If comfort resides in such a small tangible thing, how much more is available to us in the intangible and unseen?
Love to you from my hills of Alabama,
( Bill Samuel )