The 35W Bridge Collapse: Another Perspective
By Robert Larsen

Alignment is out of sync where truth and reality do not support each other. We all know what it feels like to be overextended. I was told once that I was not living up to my true potential unless I borrowed on all the credit that was available to me. The Tao Te Ching suggests it is the “folly of youth” that strives to have the greatest effect where knowing the least. Like struggling teenagers we all know the feeling of overextending our self and subjecting that self to the tension and anxiety produced by the fear of being found out. Like being stretched on a high wire over the Grand Canyon we dare not look down lest we dizzy ourselves by the height of our own remove. Ultimately we have no idea who we really are anymore. Now we’re just lookin’ for a fall.

The collapse of the 35W bridge over the Mississippi river is a catastrophic event that leaves a large footprint on us all. The anguish it gave rise to as expectations of dependable safety were betrayed, people injured, and lives lost, is difficult and unfortunate. It is a tragedy of historic proportions. That so many survived the fall into the waters of the Mississippi seems miraculous. What is curious is that an event that killed relatively few people received such vast and long lasting media attention. I believe it was the nature of the image in itself that caught and held our collective fascination.

When viewed, the 35W bridge looked like an over extended spider web with its exposed girders spanning the entire river with no center supports. It was made to look even more insubstantial by its proximity to the Tenth Avenue Bridge. The Tenth Avenue Bridge, a concrete and steel bridge with substantial center supports, still stands as witness to the collapsed structure next to it. Why no center supports for the 35W Bridge? It did not make water navigation easier since the Tenth Avenue Bridge next to it had center supports. But what an image it presented in its impossibly extended, stretched thin, techno-triumph.

As technology continues to usher us into the “information age” our focus is pulled further and further away from serving psyche’s expression of earth’s vitality. As this happens we force environmental changes into place that skip over details that are important to Her. As these forced information bridges “connect the dots”, concerns vital to psyche are overshadowed. As we are prodded on by marketplace’s survival demands to extend ourselves further and further, the empty space increases and our own sense of support becomes thin and brittle.

The increasing space between the informational dots seems to pull us apart and we become fragmented. We become like the disembodied information we serve; so much knowledge, so little wisdom. We have no substantial backing from earth so we force changes upon ourselves and Her without knowing the consequences. What we do to Her, we do to ourselves, but only one hundred percent of the time. The crises we see in the environment mirror the crisis that exists within. The more we try to fix it the worse it gets. Sitting in our chairs we look down from our own overextended lives and see nothing but the infinite void.

Beneath our focus upon the literal world, which Carlos Castaneda calls “first attention,” is our dreaming attention that he calls “second attention” and which the Greeks called the “underworld.” In second attention we are in touch with the underworld of dreaming all the time. This is where intuition and “feelings” come from as they bubble up into first attention. At the time of the bridge collapse our collective first attention consciousness was in a stressed, overextended state, as evidently, was the stretched taught 35W Bridge. Like the bridge, our society seems to demand that we be stretched further and further by demands to live apart from what the form of earth is telling us.

At the time of the collapse my initial reaction shocked me. What first struck me were surprise and then a sense of relief. This response, directly from my body, made me curious. As I reflected further and empathized with the victims I moved into grief and sadness for all who were personally touched by the tragedy, but first came the surprise and relief. As I questioned my initial response I found it was indeed the first and most genuinely embodied feeling response to the event. How curious! Why would there be relief?

As a dream image of the collapse coming from the embodied underworld of “second attention” presented itself to me, seeing the overextended stretched bridge supported by the ground again felt wonderful. Once more following the contours of Her body the bridge could relax! Reflecting internally, I felt held once again by the earth. There was also a synchronistic shift in the weather that week as the brutal heat wave that had pressured us for so long gave way to a sudden cooling. It is strange to contemplate, but for a moment the bridge collapse seemed to have brought a healing!

The strongest image I remember is film footage shot from a helicopter as the bird swung in an arc behind people looking on from the railing of the Tenth Street Bridge. The people are dwarfed by a section of the buckled bridge that seems to rear up like a raging dinosaur. Brought to life again by being able to touch the earth, it seemed almost animated as it ranged below the bridge free once more to express earth’s vitality.