Here’s a paradox: Do not go with the flow; do go with the Flow.
At the far end of my cottage’s garden in Capel Curig (in north Wales) is a rivulet. Hidden by trees and gorse bushes, it rushes by the northern boundary, invisible to all, except to me and a few locals. It’s so small – you can leap over it – it has no name, except for the one I gave it. To me, this ‘watery companion’ is: Bach ac yn gyflym. (See here for the Bach ac yn gyflym poem). Welsh geographical place-names are very descriptive, and it seemed right to call this rivulet by this name. It means ‘small and fast’. Very apt, very Welsh. Very Celtic, very Druidic!
And sometimes, especially in the spring and summer you can see some of the larger water-insects swimming along with the flow and taking it easy, and the tougher insets battling against the flow.
Do not go with the flow
When is it the time not to go with the flow? I’m sure there have been times when you may have succumbed to peer group pressure and gone with the flow, and followed majority thinking. It may have been the right thing to do, but sometimes, just sometimes there’s a nagging doubt that it was the wrong thing to do.
Sometimes we’ve realised, too late, that we shouldn’t have followed the majority. Yes, majorities can be wrong, or at least they can be going in a direction that is different to us because of different core-values held.
It is difficult to be part of a group, when, on most occasions you and I go with the flow; and then someone suggests something – contrary to our core values – and then we just cannot go along with them. And then ‘eyes roll’, recriminations may start, encouragement to conform is felt, peer group pressure starts, or perhaps we’re then ‘sidelined’.
This might happen at work, in families, and yes, even in faith groups. Did you tithe? Did you assume the correct posture for prayer or for that ritual? I even remember when the question was ‘Are you a ‘who are’ or a ‘which art’. Do you start the circle in the East? Do you commence walking deosil or widdershins? And, so on. ‘Bear-trap’ questions that can intimidate, and coerce you into following others.
There’s a great, old, British movie called ‘A Man For All Seasons’ which is based on historical fact (albeit, loosely in places), which tells the story of King Henry VIII and the pressure he applied on various people to allow him to divorce his wife for another. Some agreed with him, and had a fairly easy life, such as the Duke of Norfolk. Others, like Sir Thomas More, although a dear friend of the King’s was treated harshly for not openly agreeing with the King (and wisely said nothing against the King, either).
In that movie the Duke of Norfolk seeks to coax Sir Thomas More to join him an openly support the King.
The Duke of Norfolk says: ‘Oh confound all this. I’m not a scholar, I don’t know whether the marriage was lawful or not, but dammit, Thomas, look at these names! Why can’t you do as I did and come with us, for fellowship!’
Sir Thomas More: ‘And when we die, and you are sent to heaven for doing your conscience, and I am sent to hell for not doing mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?’ ‘A Man For All Seasons’ movie, 1966 (staring Paul Scofield).
Okay, not wanting to emphasise the heaven/hell quandary of St Thomas More’s, which is something we can come back to at another time, but it’s an interesting question, isn’t it? ‘Why can’t you do as I did and come with us, for fellowship?’
Those that act in one particular way may well be doing so because their ‘internal compass’ or core value allows it, and they are being authentic; which if you and I follow them, we may be going against our core values and therefore would be acting in an ‘inauthentic’ way!
In such cases, maybe it’s better to go with your core values, if those values are positive, uplifting and right, and not to go with the flow; but be prepared for the consequences as best and as positively as you can. Sometimes, there is a cost involved!
Do go with the Flow
But, there are times when it is right to go with the Flow. Okay, this Flow is of a different order to the one above (hence the capitalisation). Whenever we have the opportunity to go with the Flow, my encouragement is to seize it!
Ofcourse, it has to be the Flow, and not a ‘near-miss’, and in these circumstances the Flow is recognised as always being the Energy (also capitalised, because it is Personal, and to differentiate it from non-personal energy) that is patient, kind, humble, acts soberly, defers to others, is forgiving, is full of truth, believes the good (in you and others), is full of hope, endures a lot but never harms. (based on 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, the Book). If those good things are not evident, then it isn’t the Flow.
The Flow is Spiritual! And, when it is authentic, when it is the Flow: Go with the Flow.
The Flow is the Source of All, God, ‘who flows through everything, without exception, and who has done so since the beginning’, writes Richard Rohr. And, error, he goes onto say, ‘is the state of being closed down, shut off, blocked, and thus resisting the eternal flow of what we’re meant to be.’
Richard Rohr mentioning those mystics from yesteryear, deserts fathers and mothers, and others uses their terminology and calls this flow: perichoresis. (See here for a brief article on this]. Perichoresis is the Divine dance.
‘When you’re all over, when you know you’ve done all that you can do
Put on your dancing shoes, it’ll see you through’. Steve Winwood
Some have seemingly ‘belittled’ and divested, (existentially and not essentially), the Flow in their lives, ‘distancing’ themselves from it [although the Flow is personal, and so ‘he’ or ‘she’ is better], and have reduced the Flow to a set of rules or a mathematical concept. But, the Flow is nothing less than the all-encompassing, inclusive and welcoming Divine dance to which you are invited, to surrender to the Flow as one gives oneself to one’s lover, to step onto the dance floor joyfully, and enter the flow, and really live.
‘I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.’ John O’Donohue