Start Close In


 The change you want (and may not want!) always begins with some small step.

 Which is not - let me qualify -  just any old step, but a step of integrity towards the truth. And then to live in the truth

 Instead, in other words, of biting off more than you can chew, take a small step - a close in step.

 "Start close in,” says the poet, David Whyte, - “don’t take the second step, or the third.” 

 That is, don’t look too far ahead! Don’t think about future steps.

 “Start," he says, "with the first thing close in, the step you don’t want to take.” 

 Take that crucial, close in, first step. 

 Take that first, small step that you have long considered, but have not been willing to take until now. 

 As when, for instance, two months ago, my wife and I took a first step towards changing our diet. 

 We took a first step into living within a certain dietary discipline, recommended by Professor Susan Peirce Thompson.

 What Susan recommends is simple and makes nothing but sense. 

 It involves the simple discipline of staying within a structure of four bright lines: 

 - No sugar,

  - No flour,

   - Set portions 

    - Three meals/no snacks.

  On the second day, my wife exclaimed: “We’ve made it two days!” And was so thrilled. 

 Next thing you know, two months had passed and the diet had become a way of life.

 With unimagined results  - including the end of cravings, a dramatic decrease in blood pressure, and solid weight loss. 

 A small step has changed so much. So that, for instance, I will never again hear a Doctor tell me that I need to lose weight. 

 It was the same ten years ago when we joined the Eastern Orthodox Church. That small step set in motion incalcuable changes.  

 On the day we joined up, someone looked on disapprovingly. It was a cold and uncomprehending look. 

 The non-verbal message was plain: "You’re crazy."

 Ten years on, it’s clear how sane we were.

 The fruit of that decision proves it - a thousand, trillion blessings.

 Among them:

  - The best friendships of our lives.

     - A deep sense of spiritual unity as a couple.

 As St Paul understood - the step into Christianity’s fullness, regarded as weakness and folly by the uncomprehending, is actually a step into an incomparable power effecting the quality of one’s life in both time and eternity.

 Now, a small, first step is possible even when everything is against you. As was the case with Alexander Solzhenitsyn who, though ostensibly powerless - imprisoned and close to death - began to form words in his head about the horror of the Soviet Gulags. 

 And then by later putting pen to paper, Solzhenitsyn's words of truth were instrumental in bringing down the Soviet Union. 

 As he exclaimed - out of the truth of his own experience - "One word of Truth outweighs the entire world.” 

 Here were words of truth so powerful that as late as 1988 it was determined by the Soviet leadership that "Solzhenitsyn would remain on the Soviet Union’s blacklist of forbidden writers, saying that “to publish Solzhenitsyn’s work is to undermine the foundation on which our present life rests.”  

 In Cancer Ward, for example, he painted a picture of the difference between  Rusanov, a man of the regime - who'd sold his soul to the system - with Shulubin, determined to save his. 

 Described as “mortally ravaged yet morally purified,” Shulubin vows that ‘Not all of me shall die,’ ‘Not all of me shall die.'

  He whispers the words over and over: "Not all of me shall die."

  'There’s a fragment, isn’t there?… Just a tiny fragment. 

  Sometimes I feel quite distinctly that what is inside me is not all of me

 There’s something else, sublime, quite indestructible, some tiny fragment of the universal spirit. Don’t you feel that?'

 Shulubin refused to conform to the system. Which in particular meant that he would not go along with the collective which was deliberately choosing not to know, and not to remember that, it is God and not man, who is the measure of all things. 

 Likewise in communist Czechoslovakia, Vaclav Havel took the step of putting words of truth to paper in his work,  The Power of the Powerless.

 The power of the powerless is to tell the truth, and to ‘live in the truth.'

 "That single phrase” - to live in the truth - said the Economist, "did more to inspire those trying to subvert and overthrow the communist empire in Europe than anything else.” 

 The step to utter the phrase, live in the truth, had the effect of bringing down a seemingly invincible power.

 The point of this article is never to underestimate the power of a first step towards integrity. 

  You’re teetering on the brink, are you?

  In a way, aren’t we always?

  And which way will we go?

  One small step may make all the difference.

Life Has Just Begun, Chimera