Spiritual Handholds on Life
The view of the high Sierra Lake, nestled in the snow and rock slightly below the timber line, was beautiful from my vantagepoint some five hundred feet above its shimmering surface. I was anxious to rejoin my companions and try the fishing before are afternoon shadow - edging out from the surrounding array of peaks - entirely covered the lake. Just a short distance beyond the intervening shale, the trail zigzagged down to the valley. I disliked the thought of returning by the long, tedious trail I had ascended, and decided to chance the shale - even though part of it lay above a sheer drop-off of several hundred feet.
I started working my way over the loose rock with considerable caution and had covered about half the distance when I became aware of a slight but persistent yielding of the shale under my feet. Desperately, I looked for something that would offer support and lurched forward to grasp a light outcropping of solid rock just as the surface shale underfoot - loosened from its foundation by the warm noonday sun - cascaded downward and disappeared over the cliff. Several seconds passed before I heard it rattle into the lake.
Finally - after due consideration of the folly of short cuts - I managed to move from handhold to handhold and, at last, pulled myself to the trail by the aid of a dwarf juniper root. I have forgotten how many trout I caught that afternoon, but I have not forgotten the value of handhold.
Handholds are needed also during the course of everyday life. They provide security when the things we depend upon seem to be slipping out from under us. What are the spiritual handholds I have found to be most value?
First, the teachings of the humble carpenter of Nazareth - for their insistence on the supreme worth of the individual, for their stressing of the significance of sympathetic understanding, and for their unsurpassed evidence of dauntless faith.
Second, the conviction that, while every person should delight in making a courageous and self-reliant effort to live up to his capabilities, there are well-springs of power outside himself that can be tapped - if he will avail himself of them.
Third, that the nature of this world and of the people in it is determined more by our individual vision, understanding and conduct than by any material environmental factors, and that - in other words - nothing will produce the good world but the good man.
These are the principal spiritual handholds I have found to possess enduring value. They offer both an exciting challenge and a calm assurance. They are the things I believe.