“I feel I must be cursed.”
This was said months ago by one I care about, but who chose a few years ago to take a different path to feel more comfortable with his life.
I feel I must be cursed.
Unable to see through them or identify the things that hurt and tangle us as we try a different route. Or even to continue on the route we thought we were on.
It feels like every way is blocked even tho our path and purpose seem to be just on the other side of the thicket.
I get it.
We all do, because we all have moments like this.
Dark coming on, not enough to sustain us as we continue on our way, not knowing if we’ll get “there” — wherever “there” was supposed to be. Running out of resources and time, or vice versa. The things we need now— love, security, joy, means, pennies— running on empty and no signs that say “Food, Gas, Replenishment, 1 mile” or “It’s going to Be Okay, 5 miles” in sight.
And it’s always easier to feel burdened by a curse, something laid on from outside, than to sit quietly with the horror that maybe I brought it on myself, as I have, even if just from a simple, honest mistake. A mis-take, an error in the grasping of a circumstance I face in this moment.
I’ve felt that often, too, in these last few years, months, days. Looking forever behind me for the moment I took the turn that led to, as T.S.Eliot described for all of us in the 20th century: The Waste Land:
What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief.
And the dry stone no sound of water…
Thank you T.S. Eliot. That is as close as I’ve ever read to how being cursed feels. A blockage put on us from outside ourselves, with a mysterious power, which dismantles our own light-force. Nothing we try to do to help ourselves works, for we can only see a heap of broken images…
…Until the moment we realize that maybe we are standing in merely a shadow at noon. Something we can step out of, if only we pick up a foot to test if the line between shadow and light is really impossible to breach. Maybe tip a toe first to see if it hurts, this line seemingly as impenetrable as a thicket.
I looked up “curse,” being me. I wondered about its etymology, its origin, its history, because when you understand where a word comes from, you can often understand the weight it also carries with it, as burden or as power. For nothing earthly is more powerful than words. They inspire. They kill. They darken others when of anger or hate. They enlighten when of love, with others, our selves, or our world.
“Curse” has no known source as a word. My faithful go-to Origins, by Eric Partridge, traces it back to Old English where it disappears into the swamp “o.o.o.”—of obscure origins—but he offers some guesses.
On one hand “curse” might come from a very old French, meaning to anger (coroz), which itself evolved from very old Latin corruptus, or corrumpere. Yes, akin to corrupt, which in itself carries the heavy weight of having broken up morally—or ruptured from—our light-filled self. Alas, no outer thing to blame here, no curse to reverse with a spell. It’s all inner struggle, these thick brambles that block seeing our way forward from this moment.
There is another possibility, Partridge notes, from a more modern (ok, just Middle) Latin. Perhaps a “curse” is a course, “a series of prayers, especially prayers of imprecation,” meaning we pray repeatedly against someone, certainly praying against ourselves in the process.
In either case, to feel accursed means we have ruptured with our light, our life force, our sense of mission and purpose while on earth. Worse perhaps we repeatedly pray words against ourselves in the process for a mis-take, something we didn’t intend to seize or take (or do?) but which hurts nonetheless.
No wonder brambles feel to be on every side.
The good news is that if we can pray at all in our dark despair, we can also choose to pray— to ask, to request, to woo—that which we seek to light us up inside. We can earnestly seek to mend our rupture within ourselves, so that in asking for direction, for the circumstances of our bramble to get better, we, too, are wooed back into the light of the stardust from which we began our journey. We can ask repeatedly that we be wooed back into love and loving our short time of life.
… I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
For this is essential to living the life, the path, the purpose for which we are here and now
If you only had one prayer left—one last request—in this world, what would it be?
Be that now.