In college we tend to do some foolish things, and I did my share. Most I still can’t tell for fear that a statute of limitations hasn’t run out yet. One Sunday, several of my teammates decided to go cave crawling. I don’t mean walking into a large cave and exploring rock formations, but instead, finding a cave marked by a hole in the ground and a small wooden sign and lowering ourselves into a cavern equipped only with a flashlight. Then we would actually get on our hands and knees and crawl down into a smaller cave to follow a flowing stream of water to its source. Sometimes our heads and bodies barely fit in the opening. About a half of the way to the source, we began to worry what would happen if it started to storm outside. Would the cave fill up and drown or trap us? We, of course, had told no one where we were going that day, and our car was parked in the middle of the Ozark Mountain forest so our imaginations started running rampant about being trapped in a cave forever. The sound of water rushing all of a sudden started getting louder, and we decided to turn around. On our journey back the water rushing seemed to get louder and louder, so we increased the speed of our exit to a full sprint through water until we reached the main cavern. We then realized the increased sound was a waterfall beyond the cavern. We had been running toward the sound, not away from it. This realization didn’t slow down my resolve to exit the cave, and so I grabbed the rope and made a rapid climb up to the light emanating from the opening to the cave. If you were looking from the outside you would have thought a drowned prairie dog was popping out of his hole. I was so glad to see the sun and open space, I spent moments just lying on the ground basking in the sun. I felt that my life had been returned to me.
I understand Sufis talk in terms of becoming “a being of light.” My memories of emergence from the dark cave into the radiant sunlight help me understand this concept. Dostoevsky describes Alexei Karamazov falling asleep and dreaming about the wedding at Cana, and for him too, it is a dream of indescribable joy, but when he wakes from it he does a curious thing. He throws himself down on the earth and embraces it. He forgives the earth and vows to love it forever. I identified with Karamazov, when I emerged from the darkness of the cave. I literally and figuratively experienced illumination. The sunlight had illuminated the cavern and the exit hole, it taken me from my dark madness of cave crawling, to the way out from my despair.
Perhaps, my foolish college experience was a foreshadowing of my life. There have been other dark moments, and I have learned when they occur to always seek the light. Your Friend, Webb