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Forsaking a Fixed Form

Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Forsaking a Fixed Form

Tom Elenbaas

George MacDonald, in his book Phantastes, writes of a moment when he awakes from sleep and in that state we all know well between waking and sleeping, and is drawn into a place of spiritual imagination that later inspired Clives Staples Lewis. Here he is describing his bedroom that has opened up (like the wardroom in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe) a sort of portal into another world. He explains a floor rug that transitions into the meadow floor of the new world:

...stranger still, where this carpet, which I had myself designed to imitate a field of grass and daisies, bordered the course of the little stream, the grass-blades and daisies seemed to wave in a tiny breeze that followed the water's flow; while under the rivulet they bent and swayed with every motion of the changeful current, as if they were about to dissolve with it, and, forsaking their fixed form, become fluent as the waters. [Phantastes, Chapter 2]

I'm interested in the thought behind the phrase, "forsaking their fixed form, become fluent as waters." Like the world of the spiritual imaginating into which MacDonald steps, phrases like these open a new world of thought for me - and you'll notice in my writing - become the doorways to new insights, foundations for new construction. So here's what it brings to mind.

I was speaking with a friend awhile back, and he suggested that I spoke about myself as a "solid." "Huh?" I said just as you probably did. "A solid? What does that mean?"

I was talking about being an introvert, about being more critical than encouraging, and about being more creative than administrative. He said that these might be true on personality tests or spiritual gifts surveys, but that we human beings are not static beings, not solids, but that we are changeable and fluid. Myers-Briggs might disagree, and so would a lot of assessments. They thrive on defining our personalities and our types and helping us to better define ourselves in relation to other people around us. But what if... what if, "forsaking our fixed form" we could become "fluid like waters?" Or maybe not fully fluid, but that we might become more integrated relationally with the people around us. What if we weren't stuck by static personalities, or character types, or ways of living in the world, but that we could "become all things to all people." What if, instead of living over-against those we don't understand and in line with those who are like us, or contrarily being attracted to opposites, we would living dynamically in relationship with other people while still maintaining our own identity? 

I wonder if this is a skill one develops over time, or a social practice we develop as we interact with diverse people, or a matter of character development in which we interact at higher levels of depth in which we see into and understand one another's hearts and minds? 

Too often, I think we cling to our preferred personality, we excuse our accepted attitudes, and we baptize our behavior even in times when it drives us further from one another. Maybe I don't prefer to be a solid, even if it makes me predictable and creates an easy justification for bad behavior. I think I'd like to learn to forsake a fixed form and learn what it means to become more fluid like waters.

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