“It is not the length of life, but depth of life.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
I grew up with rocks. I had bags and bags of my treasured rocks in our garage and each had it’s own unique story. Every paperweight was a rock; gifts I gave were rocks; even refrigerator magnets were rocks – shiny pieces of polished quartz that I loved to rub with my thumb, or tiny bits of black lava that had been expelled from an ancient volcano.
I thought I wanted to be a geologist: someone who looks beneath the surface, someone who tries to make the invisible visible. I grew up not only with rocks but also with time, measured not in days or weeks but in millions of years.
There is something about the earth that invites you to dig. I really used to think that if I could dig hard enough and long enough, I would eventually get to China. When I got older I realized that wasn’t real, and that my imagination wasn’t satisfied with geological truth and that the digging I wanted to do couldn’t be done with a shovel.
My fascination with geology came from the feeling that not only was there more to the earth than could be seen on the surface, there was more to me. What I really wanted to be was a geologist of the soul.
Depth. That which is below – deep below the surface. Surface is the sand along the beach that blows in the wind. Depth is the rock underneath. Surface is easy – not much effort needed to find it and not very rewarding when you do. Depth is more difficult. Sometimes it emerges on it’s own, but you normally have to look for it. You have to dig.
Surface is static. Sterile. Frozen. Plant a seed in it, and it never grows. Depth evolves. Depth is turning towards something, looking for something. Depth is a process – a voyage from the outside to the inside. Depth doesn’t just happen. We have to make mistakes. We have to go on a journey. That creates depth.
I became a writer because I thought it was the only way to find the truth about myself – to dig, deep down below the surface, searching for my own interior, for ancient layers inside of me. Searching for depth, searching for my spirit, longing for a connection with my soul.
Spirit in mythology and traditional cosmology is connected to the elements of fire and air, and it rises, reaching up and out. Soul is connected to the elements of water and earth, and it descends, inward and downward. When we rise with spirit, we get peak experiences and those overviews of life that include moments of freedom. Soul goes the opposite way. Water runs down. The earth has gravity and pulls us to it. The soul wants us to grow down and become deep like a river. The real connections are not surface connections. You can have many friends on Facebook, but your real friends are those who know and support your deep self and will remind you when you’re losing touch with your own soul.
What is often missing in modern mass culture is this depth of connection. When you see a culture dividing into simplistic polarities — which is all of our politics nowadays — what’s going on is a loss of soul. People who are in touch with their soul know what they’re supposed to be doing in the world. They know what their way of contributing to life is in the same way that people know what music they love and what food they enjoy — not just life-sustaining food, but food that has flavor, that makes you feel nourished, even inspired.
As I continue my voyage below the surface I have discovered ways that help me cultivate depth: having a personal experience with the holy; being more contemplative; having a relationship to the mysterious things in life; slowing way down; finding an artist outlet; connecting to the wisdom of the past; and then I go outside. And I dig up rocks.