There’s a story that turns up regularly in books about Buddhism and other Eastern religions.  It seems that a king was intensely interested in understanding his faith, so he was in the habit of calling a wise old monk to his chambers when he had a burning question.

One day the king summoned the monk and asked, “Venerable One, what holds up the Earth?”.

The monk replied, “Highness, the Earth rests on the back of a turtle.”

The king thanked his mentor, and sent him away.

A month later, the monk was summoned again.  The king said, “Venerable One, I have pondered long on what you said, and I must ask: What holds up the turtle?”.

[Now if I were telling this story aloud, I’d go through a couple more iterations of summoning and turtles before the punchline, but in the interest of brevity…]

The monk replied, “Highness, it’s turtles all the way down.”

Silly, but this story is a good analogy for recovery.  We are tempted to think of recovery as a fixed goal: if I do this and this and this for long enough, and do them right, I’ll be sober.  But in reality, recovery is a never-ending process, not an event. There is no such thing as perfect recovery, only progressive recovery. 

We don’t have to settle for “good enough.”  Recovery is the unfolding of a new human being, made of the same parts, the same trials, the same pain, the same triumphs as the old, but at the same time more than that.  It is a never-ending journey of discovery and excitement, if we choose to make it so.

Like the turtles, it goes all the way down.

4 thoughts on “Turtles

  1. Julie Zickefoose

    Trudging the road of happy destiny. I have been stopping myself lately, when I find myself thinking, “If only I were…then life would be better.” I remind myself that overall I’ve got it pretty darn good. No, it’s not perfect, but what in this world is? Thank you.


  2. carrythemessage

    I like this so very much. There is no finish line. I have had to check in on that fact a few times. As the BB says, we trudge the road of happy destiny. Not TO happy destiny. That small wording makes a world of difference.

    Wonderful post – thank you.


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