Step to the Music

Pursuing a spiritual path is a lonely business.  As we begin to discover who we really are there is an interesting dichotomy that arises. We feel the interconnectedness with everyone and everything, which is exhilarating, yet at the same time a kind of isolation sets in as we realize that the ‘normal’ way of living just doesn’t appeal to us anymore. Your life changes, your priorities change, and very often your associations change. So it’s important to surround yourself with like-minded people or at the very least, people who will support you even if they don’t understand what it is you’re doing.

I also think it’s great when you can find references to your experiences outside of your inner circle, like Elizabeth Gilbert’s time in India in her book Eat, Pray, Love.  If you’re interested in watching a really good movie about spiritual searching, rent the 1946 movie, The Razor’s Edge, based on W. Somerset Maugham’s novel of the same title. Maugham’s book reportedly is based on an actual person, but that aside, the title is taken from a line in the Katha Upanishad:

Arise! Awake! Approach the great and learn. Like the sharp edge of a razor is that path, so the wise say—hard to tread and difficult to cross.”

The movie was re-made in 1984 but I like the original better.  I mean, how can you beat Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney and Clifton Webb? Okay, so maybe I’m dating myself, but I do think original movies are better than their remakes. This movie tells the story of Larry Darrell, who returns from WWI and abandons his life of privilege, as well as his fiancée, to embark on a journey of self-discovery.

Those of us trekking a spiritual path know that it is difficult to tread, like that edge of the razor. Trying to balance what we learn, (mostly through direct experience, which is hard to describe and impossible to prove), with our everyday lives is tricky to say the least.  I sometimes envy the Indian sages who live their lives in caves removed from society, able to devote all their time to their sadhana (spiritual practice).  I have to say that sometimes I’m ready to pack my bags and move to some remote mountainside in the Himalayas myself.

Watching Larry Darrell’s journey through this movie reminds me that I’m not alone.  At the end of the movie, when Larry is having his final conversation with Isabel, his ex-fiancée, he admits those moments of frustration he has known on his path remarking how  “… it isn’t easy and it isn’t fun.”

So to all the Larry Darrells out there, let me leave you with a quote from Henry David Thoreau, who understood what it meant to tread the razor’s edge.

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.”


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