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, written by Jeremy. Read the commentary.

This summer’s canoe trip was, for the most part, a fairly placid experience. Smooth water, subdued weather, genial wildlife.

But there is a stretch of river where things get pretty inspired. Rounding a corner the river suddenly picks up its pace. The shoreline dramatically changes from stately cedar to uprooted trees – root systems pawing vainly at the sky. Just below the water’s surface, ghost-like trees lie naked and white, violently strewn about the river bed.

Everything sped forward into time, like the gears of my watch had suddenly let loose. As we shot forward a waterfall began calling for us, its menacing roar growing and growing until it and several destroyed canoes, wrapped with terrifying finality around half-submerged tree trucks, sent us careening for the shore.

Those moments on the river stand in sharp contrast to the photos Geoff Manaugh posted of the Los Angeles River. It too was once a wild river. Now, 3.5 million barrels of cement later, the river has been literally paved over.

Powerful and flood-prone, the river was eroding potential real estate and flooding properties built in its floodplains. So the Army Corps of Engineers gave it a straightjacket.

I first saw those photos in early April and it surprises me that I think them more often than I think of my canoe trip.

More and more I find myself riding a river like that of my canoe trip. Life boils, things have a moderately chaotic hue, and time bleeds out into whitewash. Yet a deep and thrilling satisfaction saturates more of my moments than ever before. Still, those photos of the L.A. river tug me.

When I tell the stories of the river, most people ask if it was horribly terrifying. Mention the cougar we saw and people wince. Describe how we flipped over in the middle of the rapids and got caught in a log jam – folks nearly wet their pants. Their reaction to unfettered power is fear.

Who taught us to fear power? What is in us that demands a straightjacket for wild rivers? Why are we driven to subdue strength?

Two things I know. First, seeing the L.A. river lying crushed and defeated in that bed of concrete haunts me. And second, riding that river this summer made my heart sing in a way I’d somehow managed to forget was possible.

I believe we fear power because it invites us to live without walls. It insists that we accept indefinite endpoints. Power takes us off our feet, multiplies our dimensions, and only gives us a rudder with which to steer.

How can our companies plunge headfirst into innovation if they’ve yet to set sail? How can we embrace our brilliance and our passion if we are still seated and alone? How can we invite our children to grasp the rudder’s handle if we’ve straightjacket all their rivers?

“Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our greatest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, fabulous, gorgeous, talented? Actually, who are you not to be? As we are liberated from our own fears, our presence automatically liberates others.”

– Marianne Williamson, A Return To Love

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