Row Your Boat

My favorite piece of philosophy is Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. It’s deep. Please forgive the pun. Anywho, I feel the allegory encapsulates the learning process, coming into a greater and truer understanding of the universe, and how painful that process can be. However, I feel that it falls short on encapsulating Life itself.

Life, I feel, is more like a river. It continuously flows downstream, through meandering bends, long lulls, and turbulent rapids. We travel down the river on rowboats, unable to travel upstream no matter how hard we row, even in the calmest lull. There are always choices along the river. Once shore might look better than another. We can go to one shore or another, but never both, and once we get to one shore it may not be as great as it had seemed from the middle of the river, while the other shore may now seem better. We can get so caught up, working on the rowboat, making it as efficient and beautiful to behold as possible that the vistas pass by unnoticed.

Sometimes the river can get boring with lackluster shores, barren horizons, and naked sky. Sometimes the river is terrible with whitewater rapids, tossing your boat, smashing it against rocks, threatening to tip it over. Sometimes the river is pure joy with beautiful vistas, happy skies, and cool breezes. Every meander straightens, every lull quickens, every rapid eases, every vista fades.

Everything ends.


Everything also returns, for such is the nature of the river, the Cycle of Life. Meanders straighten to lulls, dumping into rapids that careen down a waterfall and into a lush, vibrantly beautiful pool. We’ll never get to the pool if we don’t endure the rapids, if we don’t trudge through the lulls and wind our way down the twists and turns. Things pop up along the way that try to sink our boat, and sometimes those things succeed. Sometimes we decide the lull is too boring, the rapids too painful, the twists too confusing, and we tip over our own boat, never getting to see the vibrant pool in all its wonder.

The river is as terrible as it is gracious and as ugly as it is beautiful. We take it all in kind because it is given all in kind. Don’t beat yourself up when you find yourself in a lull, find a way to power through it. Don’t give up if you find yourself lost in a delta, or mired in a swamp. Look back at how far you’ve traveled, the hardships you’ve already endured, the beauty you’ve witnessed. It’s truly a wondrous thing to behold.

Never stop rowing your boat.

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