Stepping Stones

by Patrick Dykie

“Men may rise on stepping-stones of their dead selves to higher things”. – Lord Alfred Tennyson

      I was talking to a friend who had recently read some of my more serious stories. Over the past few years, I’ve written about such things as the meaning of life, finding happiness, achieving humility, and learning lessons from the world around us. I even wrote a letter to my Father who passed away a few years ago. My friend liked my stories, but he asked my why I didn’t include references to the Bible or other religious text. He said that maybe I could interest people with Bible verses or quotes from religious leaders. He said that he didn’t even see the name “Jesus” anywhere in the stories I wrote. I thought for a few moments about what he had said. I thought about why I write about general things, and don’t delve into religious beliefs. As I continued to think, two words seemed to pop into my head; “Stepping Stones.”

      Do you remember, how as children we would play down by small streams or creeks. Often the streams would have small stones partially submerged which led across the water. To keep our shoes from getting wet we would walk from stone to stone on our journey to the far bank. Sometimes the stones weren’t evenly spaced. They could be close together or far apart. The rocks rarely followed a straight line. Many were wet or covered with slippery moss. As you jumped from one to the other you sometimes lost your balance and had one or both feet slip off into the water. You might have even reached your arms out to both sides to regain your balance. As you jumped back on you were already thinking about what you would tell your mom when she asked what had happened to your new sneakers. 

     I remember my own set of personal stepping-stones at a small stream behind my house. I used to see how fast I could run across them to reach solid ground on the other side. Today you’ll often see man-made stones placed in straight lines in shallow waterways to be used as bridges. You’ll even see flat ones made of concrete or some other material used as pathways in yards and gardens. Stepping stones don’t always have to be solid objects. Another definition of stepping-stones is that they are a means of progress or advancement. We may look at a college education as a stepping stone to a good career. In the work place we often see opportunities as stepping-stones to a promotion, or more money.

     It sometimes seems that our entire lives can be explained as a series of stepping-stones. As we journey through life and continue to move forward we walk a path consisting of a series of steps. It’s not an easy journey. It’s often winding and twisting as it leads us along. We may even have to back-track a few times and take a different route. As we did as children crossing those streams, we may sometimes lose our balance, slip, fall, and get back up again. We may get a little bruised, wet, or even discouraged, but most of us move forward.

     Though we can see the far bank it seems so far away, and our crossing is taking an eternity.  As we make our journey we may walk or we may run. Some of us hurry, while others move tentatively along with arms outstretched as we balance ourselves. We may even have to jump from rock to rock. We may be moving so fast that we pass over stones without touching them in our rush to reach the other side.

     Here is something very important to be aware of. As we move across the stepping-stones we call our life, remember that the stones are not only events and milestones in our lives. They can also be people. You may reach a stone that is large and solid. It makes a perfect place to rest before continuing your journey. Some stones may be smooth, slick or wobbly. Others may be rough and pitted and give you a firm spot to step upon as you move forward. Think of all the people you’ve encountered in your life. Imagine them as stepping-stones as you make your way. Some of them have hindered you, while others have helped move you forward. Good or bad all the stepping-stones you have encountered have profoundly affected your journey.

      This brings me back to why I don’t write about the Bible, or take religious stands. When I started writing about many of the things I’ve seen and experienced in my own journey through life, I wanted to write about things that have meaning for everyone. Though I believe in God, I am not an expert on many religions, I’ve often questioned my faith, and I have a long way to go to becoming what I consider to be a good person.

     I wanted to write stories about things we all face and can relate to. It wouldn’t matter which religion you follow or what your beliefs are. In my serious writings, I try to have a place where people can think, and maybe ponder some of life’s questions. A place to rest, reflect, and possibly revitalize themselves for the journey still ahead. Through some of my writings, I  hope to be one small stepping-stone to someone who needs a sturdy place to take a break.

       Just be careful when you step. I am an imperfect man who is still slipping and sliding along his own series of stepping-stones. I’m also not an expert on the Bible, the Qur’an or even the Hindu Sruti. Like a lot of people I’m confused and searching for answers. I’ve been to other blogs where there are good people who are far better than me in understanding and quoting religious texts. I’ll just keeping doing what I’ve been doing.  As you read this story, I hope you rest for a few moments. You have a long way to go, and a lot more stepping-stones to cross.

      I hope as you pause here a moment that I am solid and not too slippery. I may possibly be a little rough; but not too much. Hopefully, I’m big enough to take the weight, and help you keep your balance. You may only step here for a moment, or you may rest here for a while, and read some of my other writings. You may even come back once or twice before moving on. It’s up to you. I guess it’s not so bad being a stepping stone. I’ve had many of them in my own life, and many more up ahead.

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One Comment to “Stepping Stones”

  1. As a sociologist, I have a more objective stance on religion than most people, for whom releion is deeply personal. Religion serves an imporant social function for the fabric of society, although the precise function is debatable. SOme say it is to provide people with answer to questions of the “Unknown” that we humans can and do contemplate–questions that will incapacitate us if we don’t settle them at least somewhat in our minds and hearts (what happens to us when we die? Why are we here? What is the meaning of life?). Others say releigion is a way to manipulate people so they behave in ways the ruling class wish them to behave without applying overt coersive measures.

    Either way, I don’t ascribe to any structured religion, although I’ve studied many of them. I know this: the founding documents of all major world religions are essentially the same in their message. They promote messages that bring people together in cooperation and acceptance–in order to insure mutual survival. Certain humans have manipulated the founding messages to their own agendas and billions of people over the centuries have died or been harmed due to these intentional misinterpretations of the orignial scripts.

    Is it any wonder than religion is a slippery issue? Your comparision to stepping stones and the slippery nature of them is quite apt and well done…as ususal!

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