Against the Ice

“As much as we search after those spiritual highs, that sense of peak connection to God, and I still think we should, we cannot always attain them. And to feel empty and disappointed in those numerous moments when we are left down on the ground, decidedly uninspired, well – what then? But no- it is not all about highs. The bread and butter of one’s relationship with God, like one’s relationship with one’s spouse and children, is daily devotion, a sense of steadfastness – standing there through thick and thin, through the dry days and the high days and the low days, but still being there to make the lunches and say the brachot (blessings). It is a relief that sometimes all God wants of me is simply to show up, to be my small uninspired self in His presence, to show my devotion through emptiness and humility as well as through passion and intense emotion. “

Rachel Anifeld, Parsha Thoughts and More

Amen and Amen. Amen for Your blessings inspiring me throughout this work thus far, and Amen for blessing me with the persistence to continue and to complete it.

Koren Tehillim, Psalm 41 Commentary

The year is 1909. The movie, Against the Ice, opens with a dog sled crossing an expansive sea of ice and snow with two men, arriving to a makeshift hut where they meet a team of men who step into swift action, providing medical aid and comfort to Jorgensen who needs amputation. An instant later we are celebrating at a Christmas meal, acknowledging the lives lost and the sacrifices the explorers have made to finish the mission of the Denmark Expedition. You can feel the relief in the men as their exhaustion pours out of them and their imaginations are already returning them to the embrace of home. They believe they are finished only to hear the Captain pronounce at the end of his toast, “We’re half way there.” One can imagine their hearts stop at the sound of that phrase – “We’re half way there” – their minds crossing into despairing confusion as they listen to the Captain share that he and Jorgensen retrieved a map on the remains of the explorers in the last expedition. This map points to the cairn that holds the sought after treasure; it holds the essential documentation recorded on the expedition into this unknown region of the world. And so, and so, the Captain went on, they needed to go “further” and “cross the ice cap” to retrieve the findings left behind.” It is this “halfway” point that reveals who has the calling to explore the unknown and trek in the icy wilderness for at least another year.

“We’re not going home then?” one man replies, which seems to be the reply for all.

The Captain returns with some astonishment, “This is why we are here boys. Without these findings the North agreement could be lost, claimed by the Americans. Now, Jorgensen is incapacitated. Now I can’t do it alone. Which provides one of you lucky boys with a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’ll need a volunteer to accompany me.”

Iver Iverson, a wide-eyed and 25 year old zen mechanic, with no previous experience as an arctic explorer, was the only volunteer. In the film he is portrayed as the innocent figure with idealism matched by a true spirit of reverence to his Captain, his teacher, along with something else in particular. He is the gentle “simple” one who is perceived as the “fool.” He is the “simple” childlike figure who is perceived as childish, dooming the expedition. He is the “simple” figure that intrinsically knows not only how to “show up” in any condition but also how to practice lashon tov (good speech), a profound act of “devotion through emptiness and humility as well as through passion and intense emotion….. standing there through thick and thin, through the dry days and the high days and the low days, but still being there to make the lunches and say the brachot (blessings).”

Ivan is the redeeming figure, the conscious feminine, the union of masculine and feminine. He has what Suzuki calls “imperturbable composure,” the still point always close and accessible, the light that brings ships in from the storm. He walks in Truth and speaks it only at the most opportune time for mutual survival, for continuing on the wings of creative flux whose plans elude us…completely. His movement leaves no trace, leaves nothing extra behind. No malice, no regret, no gloom, no doom. Just being. Pure essence.

Ivan seems to stand comfortably in Holy sorrow, holding the raw tension of the opposites held in life and death as he grieves the loss of his beloved dog who he named. His dog initiates him across a threshold, never the same, accompanying him with each subsequent sacrifice, made again and again, never easier, always for the lives of the pack until the pack is altogether gone.

Ivan seemingly stands comfortably in Holy imagination, Holy possibilities that lie just beyond the reach of his Captain’s eye that occasionally catches a glimpse here and there, a spark of hope arriving on a mirage or two or even mustard seeds of gratitude. As conditions become fiercely untenable and the Captain shows signs of madness, Ivan becomes the container for them both….never giving up….until it is finished….and “all is well” arrives at their door. The Captain remembers.

Who is he? Is he you? Is he me?

Is he the original face of humans?

The Captain remembers.

While it may seem otherwise, forgetting is more difficult than remembering.

Forgetting requires a body impervious to ecstasy,

remembering requires only a fleeting kiss from a beloved.

Forgetting demands a heart hard and brittle,

remembering requires only a moment’s cry of joy.

Forgetting requires constant denial of God,

remembering requires only a moment of surrender.

Forgetting demands ceaseless hiding from the Other,

remembering requires only an accidental meeting.

Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Pirke Avot, Ethics of the Sages, 3:10 Commentary

Author: Kairos Spiritual Direction and Life Coaching

Rachel Magnell, Ph.D. is studied in Counseling Psychology, Neuroscience, Jungian Depth Psychology, Hypnosis, Yoga Philosophy and Meditation.

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