humming-birdWhen our lives are going well, we feel a certain “hum.” Skies are often blue, the sun shines bright, and warm, and when we look into our check books, we seem to always be in the black. Work is clicking along, with an occasional bump or pothole that temporarily deters us; but soon, with good colleagues and mental agility, we are back on our way, humming right along. We are loved and we love, and life is good.

But, what do we do when the “humming” stops? The stock market tanks, a door shuts on a cherished dream, a relationship abruptly ends, a loved one dies, or some other crisis drops down from the sky as if from “out of the blue.” What then? We listen, but there is no hum. We try to find the hum, to get it humming again, but effort and willpower get us nowhere. Maybe, instead, there is only silence — or pain, or anger, or fear, or helplessness.

Maybe we turn to God in such times – a common practice. But to which God do we turn? The God of comfort and compassion? Or do we turn to the God referred to by Jesus when he said, “Whoever wants to save (get the hum back) his or her life must lose it (the hum)?” Or do we turn to the God of solace and soothing embrace? Or what about the God of emptiness and non-attachment as suggested by certain Buddhist ideals? Which God we turn to can make a world of difference when the hum stops.

Carl Jung said that “God is the name by which I designate all things which cross my path violently and recklessly, all things which alter my plans and intentions, and change the course of my life, for better or for worse.” When the hum stops, part of the problem we face is that we miss the hum, we seek the hum as if we are lost children longing for home, we want to re-start the hum — and thereby, in our anxious striving, we end up increasing, rather than decreasing our suffering. It’s hard and nearly impossible to muscle the hum back into its resonant existence, no matter how hard we try. It’s not so simple as finding a key or unlocking a lock in order to unleash the lost humming. Sometimes, maybe always, the best thing to do when the hum stops is to lean into its mystery, lean into the unknown, see what else is there in the middle of our plans getting turned topsy turvy.

If we’re running into brick walls at work, for example, maybe we see in this how devoid our lives have become of play. Have we lost touch with our children, or have we been absent from the “child” that lives within each of us? If we’ve been living at light speed while sucking the life out of the humming, is there a message of stillness and observation and a need for peace in the midst of the lost hum? If a relationship is ending, is it really a catastrophe, or is it life inviting us into creating a new version of who we are? Are there others who want to be there for us, or new friendships waiting to be kindled? Looking backwards with 20-20 vision, we often see that this is absolutely the case. But what if, in the throes of hum-less-ness, we developed better forward-looking vision? We might glimpse the seeds of hope, creativity, spontaneity, laughter, new life, and adventure in the dark soil of loneliness, dullness, and even depression.A depth psychological view, a view from the perspective of the soul or the collective unconscious — or whatever you wish to call it — of hum-less-ness suggests that there is a whole world of creative energy beneath the surface of the way we wish our lives to be. I think, though, that it might be an entire rich and expanding universe, actually, that is down there. I’m betting on that, both for you and for me.



John R


One thought on “WHO AM I WHEN THE “HUM” STOPS?

  1. Rick Putman says:

    As I read this I’m reminded of the Buddha’s teaching about “What Is.” My understanding of this teaching is that most of human suffering derives from not accepting “What Is;” as in, “She is who she is and I can’t change that. All I can do is accept; claim my likes and dislikes of ‘What Is’; and set my personal boundaries accordingly.


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