This week on Story Signals, I’m sharing one of the most powerful short stories I’ve ever heard. It’s about the process of transformation, and the role plays in our lives. I first heard the story in Aravaipa Canyon, a remote area in Arizona. I was there for a men’s retreat, and the weaver shared this story with us. I’ll never forget it, and I wanted to share the story with you.
Once upon a time in a far and distant place, on a high mountain, a gentle rain began to fall. At first it was hushed and quiet, trickling down the granite slopes. But gradually it increased in strength, as rivulets ran over the rocks and down the gnarled and twisted trees that grew there. Soon it was pouring as swift currents of dark water flowed together into the beginnings of a stream.
The stream flowed on down the mountainside, through valleys, past forests, down cascading falls. Until at last it found itself far from its source in the distant mountain, at the edge of a great and vast desert. Having crossed every other barrier in its way, the stream fully expected to cross this as well. But as fast as its waves splashed into the desert, that fast did they disappear into the sands.
Before long, the stream heard a voice whispering from the desert itself saying, “The wind crosses the desert, so can the stream.”
“Yes, but the wind can fly!” cried out the stream, as it kept dashing itself into the desert sand.
“You’ll never get across that way,” the desert whispered once again. “You’ll have to let the wind carry you.”
“But how?” cried out the stream.
“You have to let the wind absorb you.”
Well, the stream wasn’t able to accept that. After all, it had never been absorbed before. It didn’t want to lose its individuality, abandon its own identity. And besides, if once it gave itself to the winds, could it ever be sure of becoming a stream again?
The desert replied that the stream could continue to flow into the sand, and that one day it might even produce a swamp there on the desert’s edge. But it would never cross the desert so long as it remained a stream.
“Why can’t I remain the same stream that I am?” cried out the water.
And the desert answered, ever so wisely, “You never can remain what you are. Either you become a swamp or you give yourself to the winds.”
The stream was silent for a long time, listening to certain echoes deep within itself, remembering parts of itself having been held in the arms of the wind before. And then slowly, the stream raised its vapors into the welcoming arms of the wind and was borne upward and over the desert in great white clouds.
As it passed beyond the mountains on the desert’s far side, there it began to fall as a gentle rain. At first it was hushed and quiet, trickling down the granite slopes. But gradually it increased in strength, as rivulets ran over the rocks and down the gnarled and twisted trees that grew there. And soon it was pouring, as swift currents of dark water flowed once again into the beginning of a stream.
– Story told by Belden Lane.
I try to avoid over explaining stories, but there’s one part that moves me more than any other.
“Why can’t I remain the same stream that I am?”
How often I want to remain the same person I’ve become. I put a lot of work and effort in to this identity, this work, this status. If I give it up, how I can be sure I’ll ever get it back? This happens with companies too. A product or service made us famous, and instead of continuing to move forward, with or without it, we stagnate.
We Become A Swamp
I encourage you to reach out to a trusted friend or family member, and get out of the swamp. There are wonderful things for you in the world, but you have to keep moving. We have to be willing to risk who we are, to reveal who we are meant to be.
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