One of the courses I teach for the Community College of Vermont, Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) has as its motto Trust the Process. Many college courses, especially Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) courses, require very strong left-brain, critical thinking skills. Theirs is the world of logic and clear measurement. While PLA and many arts courses require these same critical thinking skills, they also develop right-brain functions such as reflection and intuition, open-ended, often ambiguous processes for which the reminder to “trust the process” is most helpful.
Looking out on a beautiful autumn morning on Stannard Mountain in Vermont, I marvel at the creative expressions before me. Nothing is ever the same when I look out my window. Just now light shifts, leaves drift from increasingly bare tree limbs, and birds weave their unique patterns of flight among the rocks of a decaying stone wall. Two nights ago, a wild rain storm took down the better half of an old cedar that has been a part of this landscape for a very long time. Life itself is ever creating a new reality, and we, Life’s human expressions, are called to do the same.
There is a concept in Japanese philosophy known as Wabi Sabi. While this term has had many different meanings over the centuries, here in the west we have borrowed the term to express the staggering beauty we find in the imperfections of life. A wander through any forest confirms the wisdom of a Wabi Sabi philosophy. On a recent hike up Camel’s Hump here in Vermont, we discovered fallen trees in various states of decay, leaves in the process of browning, and a path sometimes rutted by the feet of countless ardent visitors. Stepping off the path, looking high into the canopy of trees, and allowing afternoon sunlight to illumine what it would, we were awed by the exquisite harmonies we found there. Objectively, we saw rotten wood, decaying leaves, and churned earth; aesthetically, we witnessed the dance of life in one of its most vibrant and inspiring expressions.