In the early days of my relationship with my partner, he gave me a book to read. It was called “Faded Sun”, by C.J. Cherryh. I have since read many of her works, and she has become one of my favourite science fiction authors. However, “Faded Sun” has a special place in my heart, as one humanoid species in it — mri — have articulated a key principle I have harnessed in my life. The mri play shon’ai — the passing game. They sit in a circle and pass objects to each other, in no particular order, by throwing them. Warrior cast plays with knives, whereas other casts play with stones or wands. The objective is to catch the object thrown to you and pass it along, always being ready to catch and pass the next one.
“One plays shon’ai,” said Niun, “to deserve to live, to feel the mind of the People. One throws. One receives. We play to deserve to live.
We cast. Hands empty, we wait. And we learn to be strong.”
— Faded Sun, C.J. Cherryh
This metaphor for life is very close to my heart, even more so for our life in this information age, where there are so many things coming our way on any given day and we need to process, deflect, absorb, enhance, and pass the information on. The best way, I find, is to take it as it comes, calmly, not losing concentration on what is important, and let go of the attachment to the result, to receive and cast without fear or hesitation, and wait for the next thing to come our way.
We cast. Hands empty, we wait.
In childbirth, we can have the best plan of how we would like things to go, yet we must not hold on to the “perfect birth” idea, as every birth unfolds in its own way. All we can do as challenges come up is make decisions that are consistent with our research and understanding, choose the course of action we believe to be the best, and let go of the outcome. If we make each decision in agreement with our values, the outcome will be the best it can be for that particular birth.
In work, we can attack a given task as it needs doing, do our best, and cast it into the world. We are then ready to receive the next task, holding no attachment to the outcome of the previous task. We do our best at anything thrown to us (in the game of shon’ai doing anything less might mean death) and send it out into the world. We don’t dwell on it until it comes back, at which point we do our best once more, before sending it on.
In parenting, we make decisions every day. We choose how to address a tantrum, what to feed the child, how to dress them for a given environment, how to stimulate the child’s development, what game to play, what book to read, what song to sing, what routine to try. Every decision is the universe’s way of throwing a challenge at you and make you choose what you will do. Once the decision is made, the action performed, you don’t have a chance to undo it. You move on and wait for an opportunity to do it again, differently if you so desire. With the changing needs, personality, and developmental capabilities of a child, the only way you can effectively parent is to not accept an illusion that something that works now will work the next time you try it. Instead, you pick a solution every time a challenge presents itself, with full knowledge that you can get a completely different result than you did the time before.
This means not lingering when making a decision. It means using all of your strength, resources, and current knowledge to address the issue and to move on without regret. You’ve picked a path, now you can walk it until the next crossroads, where you can pick your way once again.
Hands empty, we wait.
This means no fidgeting in the meantime and second-guessing yourself. This means being at peace with your past decisions. You cannot change the past. You do not look back — you wait until a chance presents itself to act in the present. Meanwhile, you wait in peace.
We cannot possibly hold in our mind every challenge that needs a decision in our future. (That’s what time planners and calendars are for.) We would drive ourselves mad trying to remember everything that’s going on in our life on any given week. The key is to realize that the only thing that matters at any given moment is what we are doing at that moment. Be fully present for what you are doing now. We need to be ready for future challenges, yet we should not dwell on the past ones.
To be mri is to play the Game, its player-to-player, hand-to-hand passing rhythm “as old as time and as familiar as childhood.” To play the game is to cast oneself — one’s fate — forth from the hand, to let go, to make the leap forward freely, and without fear.
— The Faded Sun Trilogy, a review by Charlene Brusso