One day I was talking to Henry about changing the mess he’d made of his life—and marriage and children—and he said, “This is impossible. I’ll never be worth anything. I’ll never be happy.”
“If you had sufficient experience with being happy,” I said, “I might believe you. But you have none. All you’ve known is pain and fear from the time you were a tiny child, so you know only one view of life. Let me tell you a story, one I’ve heard in several variations:
“A man is walking down the street and falls into a hole. The walls are so steep he can't get out.
“A doctor passes by, and the guy shouts up, ‘Hey, you. Can you help me out?’ The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down the hole, and moves on.
"Then a priest comes along, and the guy shouts up, ‘Father, I'm down in this hole. Can you help me out?’ The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down the hole, and moves on.
"Then a friend walks by, and the man shouts, 'Hey, Joe, it's me, can you help me out?' So the friend jumps in the hole. The guy says, 'Are you stupid? Now we're both down here.' The friend says, 'Yeah, but I've been down here before and I know the way out.'"
“What’s your point?” Henry asked.
“You’ve lived your whole life in the pit,” I said, “so your opinion about getting out and changing everything is kind of worthless. I’ve been in the pit—I know it well—and I’ve been out. I KNOW how to get out, and I’m offering it to you. It seems to me that you might be smarter to listen than to tell me it’s impossible, especially since I’ve done it.”
Most of us live, as Henry David Thoreau once said, lives of “quiet desperation.” We're in a deep hole and can’t imagine a way out. Occasionally we scream for assistance, but no meaningful help arrives. Eventually we conclude that there is only one choice in life: to stay in the hole. We even order furniture and bedding to make the hole slightly more tolerable. (Turns out—much to my surprise—that UPS delivers to holes in the street) But the hole is still a hole,
There are now many people who have learned about Real Love and climbed out of their holes. They enjoy the beauty of the world, as well as a freedom of choice they’ve never known. If we ask for help from such people, and IF we follow the directions we’re given, we can climb out of our hole and find the joy that is impossible in the bottom of the pit.
Feeling unconditional love is like living on a new planet, with different rules, infinitely more choices, and the potential for endlessly expanding joy and fulfillment. In order to get there, we first have to climb out of the pit we’re in and follow the guides who will gladly lead us to the new world.
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