On a hot, humid, summer night, during the early 1900’s, in the middle of what is called the Mississippi Delta, it is rumored that one of the greatest blues guitar players, Robert Johnson, “went to the crossroads and fell down on his knees”. There have been many great guitar players since, and truth be told, there were great guitar players at that time. What has been offered as a possibility, is that while at “the crossroads”, Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for his ability to play and sing the blues. This was rumored during his life and he did little to deny the claims.
More recently, the rumor was started that one of my favorite musicians, Bob Dylan, had gone to the same crossroads and made a deal with the same Devil, because he left Minnesota for New York as a mediocre guitar player and returned full of ideas and skill on the harmonica and guitar. Bob Dylan stated once that the songs he wrote came from somewhere outside of himself and this only fueled the debate as to whether some deal with the Devil was made. There are other reasons concocted to prove an already decided opinion, but the fact is, someone in the world, believes that the Devil is responsible for the success of one of the most recorded songwriters of all time.
Robert Johnson died at the age of twenty-seven. Bob Dylan has lived for many years. Both of these facts are used to prove that the Devil is obviously at work. If a person obtains wealth, the Devil is blamed for their success by those without wealth. If a person experiences hard times, there is always a preacher to be found willing to blame Satan for the troubles being had. I am old enough to remember Flip Wilson exclaim, in a comedy routine, “the Devil made me buy this dress”. The routine touched on, in a funny way, people’s tendency to blame the Devil for what they do for themselves, but opens up the notion that “the Devil”, might be some sort of excuse we use for our own thoughts and actions.
What I know about the crossroads is that we will all be there one day. There will come a time, when we find ourselves in life, wanting more, needing more, simply out of energy to do anymore for ourselves. If we find ourselves at the crossroads, falling down on knees, our temptation will not be to ask the Devil for something to provide our eventual or overnight, success. We will not want to sell our souls to the Devil in exchange for a better way of life or an easier path. The raw deal at the crossroads will come when we exchange our own will, or freedom, or choice, for the wills and choices of others. No matter what we call the others, even if we call it God.
Though it matters little, I do not believe Robert Johnson or Bob Dylan exchanged their souls for success. Though it matters little, I do not believe that those with much or those with little, those with wealth or those without wealth, or those with relationships that go well or that go poorly, are no more or less in the will of God than anyone else. Every decision we make adds to the value of our soul. Every decision we refuse to make, eats away at our core of inner being. It is not that we have to take responsibility for where we are when we get to the crossroads, but it is that we have to own the power we have forgotten when we are there.
Whether it is God or a demon waiting for us at the crossroads, we must choose, to offer our freedom, or claim our freedom. We must choose, to do, or not do a thing, or we must hand over our lives to whatever power that is around. Most often, the handing over of our lives comes in the form of statements like, “she makes me so mad”, “the reason I am depressed is that the world is so chaotic”, or “happiness will come when I get a promotion or a new car”. The handing over of our lives occurs when we choose to look for something outside of ourselves to change something inside of ourselves.
We are all at the crossroads, always. My life is a series of ups and downs. My life is full of good decisions, bad decisions, and decisions that I should have made but did not. It is easy for me to blame my current situation, my future situations, or my past situations, on those around me, the Devil, God, or even myself, but in reality, I know so little about how the world works and what good is in store, that blame should not even be an option. When I blame someone or something for a situation, I assume a situation is finished. I assume a circumstance is the final act of a play, that in reality, never ends.
The crossroads has at least four choices, forward, right, left, or back. The direction we choose is not what makes us happy. There is not one way that is God’s way and one way that is the Devil’s way. There is only the chance, while not knowing what to do, that we ask for guidance and make a decision. Even a small decision. Even a decision that will have little affect on our lives or the lives of others, as long as it is a decision, will help us move towards peace, because it was an exercise in the practice of co-creating the will of the Creator.
We may not choose to breathe, but we may choose to breathe deeply. We may not choose the weather, but we may choose to smile in the rain. We may not choose our destinies, but we may choose the road by which we arrive. We may not choose the hot button topics of the times, but we may choose to have no opinion on such matters. We may not choose the circumstance that caused us pain, but we may choose how much time we devote to the retelling of that story to ourselves and others. And, we may choose to love those that do not deserve love, we may choose to help those that might help themselves, and we may choose to smile for the joy that is to come, though that joy may remain unseen for a time.
We are all at the crossroads. Regardless of what we think we see there, we can smile, and decide for ourselves what we will offer the Universe in return for the help of the Universe. I would suggest that it will offer you what you offer it, in the same measure. Not just by positive thinking, but with regard to helping others, offerings of peace, and workings of miracles for others. You are a mirror of the Creator and you are also the hand of the Creator. You are what is good in this world. Share that goodness with the world and watch the effect it has on your ability to enjoy all things. It is not all about you, but it is always for you.