Weaving a Life of Meaning

 This gorgeous beauty, black and yellow, patient and still, lives outside my front door. Each night she deconstructs and re-constructs her web. Her web is her hoWriting Spiderme as well as the source of her sustenance and survival. Sturdy and flexible, this product of her patient and wise weaving, provides a means for her livelihood. Nightly she works hard, so that during the day her food will magically appear, not just for herself but also for her children who will traverse the fall and winter in their mother’s care so that they will be birthed into creation come springtime. Alternating between repose and effort, the Writing Spider weaves a life.

What does it look like for us to weave together lives that have a sensation of meaning and purpose? A life that is not only for our own benefit, but for the benefit of the larger whole. And what does it look like to live in sync with the rhythms of one’s own unique temperament, weaving together the various filaments and threads that life hands us in a way that gives one a sense of wholeness and purpose?

There are probably many ways to address such questions. Religions and philosophy strive to answer such profound things. Depth psychology addresses such questions from the perspective of listening deeply to the various ways that the soul deconstructs and re-constructs the conscious or ego-centered mind that dominates our thinking and behavior during the day. The ego actively decides what is acceptable and unacceptable to our dominant mode of thinking. Then at night, our dreams take the material that is left-out of day-time consciousness and then seeks to weave together a tapestry that expresses the totality of who we actually are. A life well lived, from the depth perspective, is one that tends to the weaving together of conscious and unconscious images. The ego-mind is relatively conservative by nature, while the unconscious mind sees everything as food for thought and for our potential vitality. We dance our lives between these polarities – conscious and unconscious – and we seek to grow as we strike a balance between the two. Carl Jung referred to this dynamic dance as the process of individuation.

In my own life’s journey, I see this dance play out in between the polar opposites: periods of darkness interspersed with periods of light; times of incredible joy mingled with unexpected times of sorrow and pain; the experience of satisfaction in the company of others while, at other times, retreating into long periods of solitude and reflection, and moments of clarity bracketed by times when I feel confused and lost. I have not been able to resolve these polarities by force or manipulation or sheer willpower – though I have certainly tried. The opposites often co-exist in exasperating ways. Grief interrupts joy, sorrow disrupts happiness, darkness interrupts light, and sometimes the necessity of solitude cuts me off from the need for meaningful relationships. But I know this, now, after 62 years: I need both, and become anxious, angry, depressed, or even sick when I resist these rhythms and fight against them. It’s easy to say “go with the flow,” but the challenge is to actually do so.

Dancing, weaving, going with the flow – knowing when to hold on, when to pursue, and when to let go — these images stir my imagination and give me a sense of hopefulness. Meister Eckhart, a 13th century Bishop in the Catholic Church, encouraged his flock to make space for God by becoming “mothers of being,” by creating space within for “nothingness,” so that God would have room to take up residence within the human heart and soul. When we learn to dance with what “is,” we can learn to weave what God gives us hourly and daily — and nightly — into a life that matters and has meaning for ourselves and for those for whom we care. Like the Writing Spider, we can weave together the various and often disparate stories of our lives into something beautiful and strong, not just for our individual journeys but for the world as well.

Where I Have Been

Darkness    In darkness and in light we are made.

But first, there was darkness before the wind of God’s spirit brought light. And each night, we are reminded that darkness is as much a part of life as is the light of our daytime lives. We receive equal doses of both.

So, I have been in darkness these past 12 months since my last posting: a period of gestation, of soul-searching, of existential wrestling with unseen angels. There has been light too; but in my soon to be sixty-second year, I am learning to treat darkness with more respect, and at times, I can even befriend the dark.

As children, we loved a “camp-out” under the stars. Just a few yards beyond our own backyard, we took our sleeping bags and flashlights, our comic books and playing cards, and loved the night. We loved the stars above and the stories we read in the night sky, it’s images and characters imagined as real, and the games we played in the night. With darkness, we felt a sense of freedom, a taste of trust in the natural world, and a certain camaraderie with our childhood buddies and friends.

When darkness comes unbidden — through some present suffering, or illness, or of simply feeling lost in the middle of our forward progress — it’s not such a chummy sensation. It may feel more like shame or guilt or disorientation. We want a way out, but feel stymied. Much like the time when I considered the possibility of divorce: I could not find a way up and out towards the light, so I decided the only logical alternative was the way down, deeper into the darkness. And that was how I found hope.

We are fascinated with darkness, and we fear it too. In Jung’s way of thinking, darkness is archetypal. Darkness is a spiritual reality that manifests throughout our lives in nature, in our relationships, and in our souls. Our efforts to get rid of our personal times of darkness usually result in making things worse. But if we get the hang of it — lighting a candle in the dark, inviting a trusted friend, or just waiting for the lesson our souls need — the darkness gives us gifts we otherwise would miss and be the poorer for missing such blessed offerings.

I have a new office, a new stage in my career as a therapist of soul, a new community, and a new home I share with my wife, Sarah, and dog, Theo. It’s a very good thing. Without the darkness, however, I never would have known what my soul was drawing me towards.


All is darkness
And distant drumming,
Walking along slowly
With shadows only as guides.
How is it that I am here?
Where am I going?
How can a dark road feel so much like –

Dark faces move
Do they mean me harm?
Are they really parts of me?
Or am I actually their creation?
From somewhere I feel a dare:
Join hands with these Others.
Jesus! These least of these?
Couldn’t I, instead, just run?

Come now.
We can do this.
In larger numbers we’ll go.
The drumming growing louder.
And Dancing!
And singing –
See it now!

A wrong road made
By love and grace
And risk.
We howl our tender mercies
As we claim their new light.
Roads that seemed right go
When we forget to celebrate faces in the

by John B. Rowe