by Mark Nepo

Life is the greatest storyteller. No matter what we’re going through—sick or well, in despair or wonder—faith in life means believing that there’s always more beyond the condition of our understanding—the way the rest of the Universe whirls beyond the light of any given star. In just this way, we’re always part of something larger than our condition, and the circumstance we’re in—real and consuming as it can be—is not the condition of the Whole. Faith in this distinction allows for healing.

It helps to tell stories. I share this one because Tom’s story is our story. Tom is an architect who feels very lost. Today, he’s leaving work, entering the elevator on the fiftieth floor, alone in the metal box taking him back to the ground, stopping along the way to gather others. As he descends, he leans against the wall of the elevator, wondering how he came to be so tired and lost. Tom is a man who started out in innocence, but as he tried to love, he was hurt. As he tried to help others, he was manipulated and betrayed. Tom began with a sublime trust in life, but became jaded and fearful. What he doesn’t know is that when he’s afraid, he forgets what he knows. When he fears situations, he forgets what he’s learned about moving through the world. When he fears he’s lost his way, he forgets who he is. When he fears the world is lacking, he forgets the gift of life.

Each of us struggles between being insular and making our way in the world. One more story that is our story. On a dreary day, a vital, thoughtful woman hurries to live behind a tall, thick wall. She thinks she’s building a castle, but it soon becomes a prison. Though she thinks the wall keeps everything painful out, surprise curls over the top like a cloud and circles her head like a fog. And sorrow seeps through the cracks in the wall like a distant memory that lodges in her ear. In time, she puts her sad ear to the wall and listens for life on the other side.

Those who love her pound on the wall for her to come out, but she just backs away and hides. No one knows what pain or argument with life had sent her into exile within herself. But after a while, life leaves her alone.