Our Spirit Shines Through Cracks of Gold

THE PHOENIX. A red bird with sapphire eyes; it falls to the flame and is reborn from the ashes. The flame is a test we all endure, for we all have the phoenix in us.

The phoenix is the bird of light, an emblem of the sun; a symbol of who we are and where it is we come from. How, how did humans get here?

Courage — from the Latin cor, the French cœur — an action of the heart. Whatever’s lost, an action of the heart restores. There’s nothing else worth fighting for.

Our circumstances and the challenges we’ll inevitably face by fire can’t determine who we are and the way in which we dance through life. It takes courage to get back up, to be you, to rise from the ashes and start anew.

Our reaction to our circumstances is often all that we can control; this is a strength that can never be taken from us. This is to rise like the phoenix in the face of adversity.

Author and student of Stoicism Ryan Holiday discusses a passage from the end of Ernest Hemingway’s classic, A Farewell to Arms:

The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills.

Perhaps this is a lesson Hemingway couldn’t fully appreciate in his own life. This theme mattered to him. He wrote 47 endings to A Farewell to Arms, struggling to articulate this motif.

It may mean that those who try to be strong by wearing impenetrable armor will never rise beyond their self-constructed limits.

We all face adversity at some point or another. It’s okay to hurt; it’s okay to ask for help and be vulnerable; you will bounce back. You will regain your strength when you least expect it; it’s who we’ve always been.

Maybe that’s why we created the legend of the phoenix; inspiration for everyday heroes, human beings, just like you and me.

The phoenix is a bird of legend; no different from the ones we know. The eagle. The peacock. The golden pheasant. Majestic yes symbolic perhaps; but telling of the human spirit? We created a legend for that.

The seagull lives amongst the sea and takes on whales and sharks and campsites on the beach — full of possibility.

The crows perch atop the fields, annoying yes, dubious too; but the black and steely crow has the last caw! Persistence is their greatest strength; more like the phoenix than the birds we hold in high esteem.

It’s not those who try to be invincible who climb to the highest peaks. It’s those that fall and get back up with a smile, time and time again. Those that take on a worthy cause that’s laid them low, that seemed insurmountable, that was bigger than them.

Hercules took on the incomprehensible challenge. So did Mother Mary. Legends with humble roots. Greatness formed in the smoldering flame.

In the Japanese art of Kintsugi, broken dishes are repaired with gold and silver, making them more beautiful than they were before they shattered.

Signs of wear mean signs of luck, of use, of treasure.

Breaking doesn’t mean we’re broken; our spirit shines through cracks of gold, which impart who we are, where we’ve been, and what it means to be a human being.

Perhaps the universe presents us with unique challenges for a reason. They’re what we need to grapple with and learn from so that when we rise, we’ll be ready for whatever comes our way.

We all face challenges; we’re defined by how we respond.

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