Around mid-day, I woke to a familiar sound: Rosin’s cello.

Understanding the signal, I headed toward the fire pit. I saw others making their way as well.

There was no fire today, but there was the feeling of warmth and closeness that only comes from going through hardship together. With everyone gathered, the song slowly came to an end, and Rosin lowered her bow. She stayed seated while she spoke.

“Yesterday was a hard one, but we got through it, and each of us are stronger than we were. I know it is hard to move forward with so many of our friends gone, but to go back is worse. Forward—forward is where we heal.”

Rosin paused for a long moment, then stood and spoke with full force and passion.

“You came into this world in pursuit of your wildlings. Yesterday, many of you lured your wildling under the needwell’s guidance, captured them by force and caged them. The needwell is right about one thing: to pursue your wildling is terrifying. It means understanding who you are. It means giving up control. It means subjecting your life to the whims of something wild. But you saw the result of trying to dominate and tame it instead: suffering and pain. The gratification of illusory control will never be as fulfilling as pressing past fear into true freedom.

“I have no doubt many of you bear great shame for what you did to your wildlings. After all, you followed your wildling into this place because you are a dreamer and an idealist—you have a deep and desperate wish for the world to be better. You have not only come face to face with loss and grief, you have directly experienced your own darkness.

“I expect most of you are comfortable and at peace with the idea that you have weaknesses: idiosyncracies, clumsiness, momentary lapses in judgment. But the idea that you—a good person!—could dominate and exploit such a creature chills you to the bone. That is seeing your darkness. You will instinctively want to run away from that darkness and back into a place where you hold tight to the idea of seeing yourself as a good person who would never hurt anyone. The acceptance of our own darkness is far more than most of us can bear.

“Yet take the individual darknesses that make up each one of us and combine them as if they are cells in a massive organism and it’s plain to see from whence arises the monstrosity of the world’s darkness. The worst of the world—the thing you want to heal and what you most want to fight—it’s in you, too. In polite company, you may scoff and say ‘I would never—’ but you each inherently know your part in such horrors.

“But here is what you may not expect. You cannot become fully aware of your place in the world and your contribution to its healing if you imagine yourself a being of pure light, but by becoming intimately aware of your own darkness.

“Community can be one of our greatest tools and our greatest joys, yet as a multi-celled organism of individual people with their own darkness, it is so easily torn apart and even turned into something destructive.

“And yet imagine a handful of cells who courageously let go of all judgments of others and feelings of superiority, who can look at each one with compassion and respond to one another with encouragement. Such people know their darkness and know that whatever is wrong in the world is wrong in themselves, too. And in recognizing such, they have already made the world a better place and made themselves ones who create space for authentic and deep and welcoming community.”

Rosin paused and took a drink from her canteen. Absolute silence except for the sound of a single nightingale.

“As you think about pursuing your wildling, I know how great is the fear and how deep is the pain and shame that you feel. But fear not, friends: your wildling is a resilient and understanding creature. They know your darkness and your light. All they want—all they want—is for you to follow.

“If you choose, today you are going into the wilderness to find and follow your wildlings. You are truly ready. You’ll find everything you need inside yourselves, in each other, and in the wilderness itself.

Rosin picked up her cello again and began to sing.

When she’d finished playing, she laid down her cello. Everyone was quiet, as if they were feeling deeply the decision they’d already made in their hearts.

“Get your things together. Meet me on the deck at the lodge in an hour.” Rosin said.

Rosin turned and walked through the crowd and out the camp. The scattered group sat for a moment, taking in everything they had just heard.

“Holy shit,” Taylor turned and said to me in a hushed voice.

“I know,” I said.

See the lyrics to You Decide if you didn't catch them listening to the audio.

Chapter 18: BaconReflection: Radical self-acceptance