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On Transitions

For Jope

Midway in our life's journey,
I went astray from the straight road
and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood.

Dante, The Inferno

The difficulty with transitions is that there is almost nothing to say as one goes through with it.

The dazzling beginning always carries with it the promise of hope and the brilliant light of a new day. The triumphant arrival or accomplishment is marked by the jubilation of overcoming the odds and the dizzying happiness that success brings. But there is nothing to hope for nor to show for after the first step and before the last; and it is in that ambiguous middle -- neither there no more, but not yet here -- that silence, like darkness, comes to the fore.

It is no coincidence that the medieval period was called the middle ages. It was named that way because it was seen to be the transition between the glory of the classical era and the reestablishment of the modern world. And this period was also called the Dark Ages to perhaps describe the sleep of the world and its secrets Which remain hidden from view. It was as if that page of history could be done away with; but as we know, it was in the slumber of the medieval ages that the world began to take shape.

Like the black night that inevitably has to come, metamorphosis comes to a man and there silences him.

* * *

My own experience of transitions has been a rather painful one. I could no longer hold on to the past and its pleasures nor could I really see far into tomorrow and the possibilities it offers. As the Latin transitere means, I've been in transit for some time now and I really do not know where this shall take me. Nor do I know if I had already crossed the ultimate crossroad; it seems that they present themselves to me all the time and I've had to choose which way to take each time. Having to decide means that there are certain roads that can never be taken forever; I know that I may never pass this way again. But you have to keep walking.

The ignorance of transitions is that you never know if you have taken the right road or the wrong one. You do not feel the metamorphosis nor can you expect to suddenly see the change in a day, a week or a month. You can never tell if you are getting better or improving; change takes time and like the flower that one day blooms, you can not just watch it and wait for it. We are most blind to ourselves. And this is where other people -- friends and family -- truly help you; they see with their own eyes what you can never feel or imagine. They assure you or warn you so you better listen. Like a blind man on the way to the confines of home, he needs the gentle hand of an other to guide him back. One can only be lost in the journey itself and never in the beginning of it or at the end of it. I cannot imagine how I could still be in one piece if it were not for those who held my hand in the darkness of that transition.

* * *

My teacher once said in class that when you drown at sea in its unforgiving waves, you basically have two choices. You could fight for your life and try to swim against the waves or you could let the waves smash you into the depths and go through it. The first perhaps will leave you exhausted and drown you anyway. In the second, you would always have the chance to rise to the surface again.

* * *

The Captain in The Bridge of San Luis Rey said upon seeing Esteban trying to kill himself:
We do what we can. We push on, Esteban, as best we can. It isn't for long, you know. Time keeps going by. You'll be surprised at the way time passes.

Time is the double-edged sword for a man who goes through transitions.

* * *

I do not yet know what will become of me after this. I feel as if I've long started to pick up the pieces and have reshaped myself, but do not yet know if it will just fall apart once again or finally become a rock on which I can once again stand.

But it is good enough for now. One can never expect too much from a man who never promised anything. Camus said, "Better to die on one's feet than to live on one's knees." And so the rock rolls again. Let it fall. Over and over again. It is only the descent that both punishes a man who has a conscience and exalts him who remains innocent. What destroys me can only nourish me.

I drink this nourishment from the cup that was passed on to me. And while the cup remains with me, in that brief stay and transition, this intoxicating drink belongs to me forever.


  1. i'm tempted to say that you are not alone in your transition, that you still have us to go through this with you. but then again, i realized i don't really know what you're going through and perhaps i will never know and understand fully this stage/phase/transition/crisis moment in your life.

    still, just so you know, although you really will have to go through this by yourself, when the strong waves beat you out of air, just call or text, albert and myself will throw in a rope so you can take a breather before conquering the waves again.


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