I am understanding that part of my purpose in coming here is to practice and learn bravery. Here, I enter a social and environmental context where it is possible to do so.
Where I come from, the opportunities for bravery are few and far between. During the years when both suns sail the northern hemisphere, fierce dust storms will sometimes rage across the purple plains. On these days, we become brave warriors who venture to save those beings lost outdoors and bring them to the safety of our shelters underground.
During Conference Days, when we gather with those from distant and neighboring planets, we sometimes need to muster up a diplomat’s social courage–for, like my extraterrestrial colleague Breanne here at the Science Lab, residents of some planets carve with a mean tongue. Yet always, when we return home, we bathe in the comfort of harmony and support. To borrow a phrase used here, we know that those near us will “have our backs.”
I have, already, in my short time here, needed to call upon the strength provided by my two brave hearts several times a day.
To be brave is to do what needs to be done when one feels like hiding instead.
During my early days here, when challenged by the overwhelming sense of being perceived as different, I called upon the energy of bravery to stay to talk with the one who saw me as alien.
Now, this is less of an issue. Those who know me accept that I’m not from around here. And many of my friends and acquaintances, such as my soul’s twin, Amber, and even Eric, now find our differences to be a source of interest. At the same time that we note our differences, we simultaneously discover that we are, in truth, more similar than not.
Now when I meet someone new, I tend to feel only the discomfort of being in the company of someone whom I don’t yet know, rather than the awkwardness of having had my foreign identity revealed.
Sometimes, the projects I am asked to complete through my career provide opportunities for bravery. I’ve begun to build a rocket.
I am unsure of the process by which I traveled here–yet I know that it was not through a rocket. As I use the materials from this planet to construct this mechanism for transport, I wonder how this rigid structure will withstand the shifting atmospheric pressures and deep vast areas of space that fill the galaxies. It will require tremendous bravery to travel within this constructed form.
On Friday, the day on which my colleagues laugh together about the coming “weekend,” our jokes were hushed by the lessons in bravery we faced.
Charlotte heard the calling of the name that only her soul answers to.
We found her preparing for the transition of leaving this form that has been her bodily home during her stay on this planet during this lifetime.
Erin, who is her friend, felt the pain of this imminent parting at her core.
I felt Charlotte’s sadness at leaving this form, her friends, this planet, and all the instances of form which she loves here. It can be sad even to bid farewell to a microscope or a particular plant slide which one has loved. Even the cold metal floor which one has walked on through the years becomes loved by the soles of the feet, and to bid farewell to these rivets and grooves–or a crack one knows well–can bring the deep pain of parting.
I felt Erin’s sadness at saying goodbye to this form of Charlotte which she has come to love.
I felt my own sadness at witnessing the release of a moment and the need to say goodbye to what one has loved when one transitions from one state of being to another.
And I felt the chill that the great Transformer brings with him when he comes to aid with the next birth.
Sir Reaper strikes fear into the mortal form, for these bodies understand that his scythe will one day come for them. This biological fear brings a shiver to each cell, while our hearts, which love so much, feel the stabbing of every impending farewell.
Through the sadness of both hearts, through the fear in every cell, I turned to face Sir Reaper.
“We are not ready,” I said, “to say goodbye to our friend. She is not ready to leave today. Her experiment is nearly finished, all the years of exploration and discovery, a lifetime of scholarship and investigation. Let her stay, to finish her project. To spend another day with each of us. Give us, give her, time to prepare for this goodbye which feels so final.”
“YOU AREN’T FROM AROUND HERE!” he bellowed. “It is not your place to plead for the lives of those who are. Today is the day I come for her.”
His clenched fists made it clear that there was nothing more to discuss.
We bid farewell as Charlotte left her form behind.
While Sir Reaper completed the necessary reports, we returned to our various project. I was mixing a Slimify serum when the maxolydian combusted with the mixolydian.
Flames raced up my sleeves and every cell again screamed in terror.
Before I could grab the extinguisher to hush this fire that was engulfing me, I heard a roar and felt a blast of coolness.
It was Amber. She found within her a bravery worth a thousand heroes, and she put out the flames that threatened my life.
“Run,” she yelled. “Route to safety! I’ve got this.”
I ran into the hallway. Then, charred and scorched, I reached inside for my own slice of bravery, and I forced myself back into the lab to help. Amber herself might be in danger! And I could help put out the fire that my own activities had caused.
My help wasn’t needed. Sir Reaper had come to her assistance, and between the two of them, the flames were extinguished.
Gratitude. Awe. Deep abiding thankfulness. Humility.
Amber had saved my life. And Sir Reaper had helped to save the lab and all of us.
“Not your time,” he said as he headed upstairs to trim the bonsai.
I know that one who serves the great transition must be full of both wisdom and courage. Sir Reaper demonstrates to each of us what it means to be brave and what it is to understand the meaning of timing.
“Amber,” I said to my truest friend, “My life is yours.”
She had no words to return. Her eyes filled with tears. After great acts of bravery, our bodies tremble, feeling small within the vastness that we have entered for that moment. When we return, each cell exhales. We are left with awe and gratitude. It is acts both small and large that bind us to our friends, and when our love for another is what makes us whole, then saving the other is the same as saving ourselves.
The chemistry station had been damaged by the fire. It fell to me to repair it. This required bravery, for the body shivered at this place where it had felt fire’s sting.
Yet the station needed to be fixed if we were to use it again. I had been the one whose activities had damaged it; I should be the one to repair it.
Just as I completed the repairs, I heard Erin’s sobs coming from the place where Charlotte had left.
“I can feel your sadness,” I said to Erin. “Hush. For just one moment. Hush and listen.”
Erin released her sobs.
“What did you love in Charlotte?” I asked her. “Was it her form? Or was it something else, something inside of her?”
Erin thought for a moment. “I loved her smile,” she said. “I loved the way her eyes turned up at the corners when she smiled. I loved the light that came from her eyes.”
“The light that came from her eyes came from inside of her,” I said. “That light came from her soul. And where did you feel your love for her? Did you feel it in your form?”
Erin touched her heart. “Here.”
“Did you feel it from inside of you?”
“From your soul, you loved her soul,” I said to Erin. “It is only her form that no longer has her life in it. What you loved is not removed from life. It is simply no longer in that same form.”
Erin looked at me.
“And what you loved her with, your own soul, that is still connected with her. You have not lost your friend.”
“I don’t believe you,” Erin said.
We talked of other things, of plants and stars, of broccoli and moons, of crystals and fish.
And then, Erin looked at me and said, “You know what? It doesn’t matter if I believe it or not! For I feel that what you say is right! I feel it in here! So belief doesn’t matter!”
She opened her arms to me in a hug, and I felt at that moment that we became friends.
The day had almost ended, and I turned to clean up the mess that was the consequence of the fire and its extinguishing. If one’s activities contribute to a mess, then one should clean it up.
The day was over, and I had completed none of the tasks on my project list.
I will need to be brave when I return to the Science Lab on Monday, for the employee evaluation that I received on Friday read “Terrible.”
It is understandable. When one’s colleague makes her great transition, when one’s experiments combust and one is engulfed in flame, when one’s friend is in deep mourning, when one needs to repair equipment one has broken and clean messes one has made, then one may not complete any of the activities enumerated on one’s project list.
I would make the same choices the next time. For it is more important to do what is right and what the situation asks than what one is told one should and what is on a list.
From doing what is right, from responding to the situation, I gain courage, and with this courage, I find the bravery to return to my place of employment even when the slip of paper in my file describes my efforts as terrible.
It is not on a slip of paper that one finds one’s true evaluation, but in the eyes of the truest friends and in the double beats of both brave hearts.