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Category Archives: Sabbath

this…is who we are

via this…is who we are

I read this post the other day on the blog Lead Our lives. It resonated with me.

When I see myself as somehow separate and distinct from the universe that envelops me, I mistake my place in the universe as that of an outsider, a visitor, and spectator.

When I think of myself in that way, I allow myself to believe and shape a universe I can somehow master. This is unrealistic and sets me up for failure.

Alan Watts and Parker Palmer write about faith and fidelity as opposed to belief. When I have faith and trust in what is to come, I set aside the idea that life is plannable. Yes, I need plans, but they are in flux, open to improvisation in each ensuing moment. When I form a rigid set of beliefs, I end up in a binary and polarizing place, where only my answers are right and certain. When I am follow with faith and fidelity, I seek answers in the diversity and flux of the universe.

In the post, there is a reference to Father Richard Rohr who used the quote from Rabbi Rami Shapiro in one of his daily meditations, which I also receive. Whatever I call God, it is intriguing how much diversity and beauty in that name.

Mount Robson is a place I drive by frequently on trips to and from British Columbia. It is magnificent and is a symbol of uncertainty. As often as I drive by it, I cannot know it completely. It stands as a deep mystery. Having said this, I have faith each time I drive in this direction it will be there. Its majesty is grounded in both mystery and certainty that come together.

Robson

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What Have I Learned so Far?

I enjoy Mary Oliver and questions she asks in her poems. Living is a question, as I am uncertain what will happen, even in the next second, and how I will respond/react.

How we each live is the answer to a Mary Oliver question from The Summer Day: Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? Do I sow seeds of kindness? Do I somehow make the world a better place, without understanding what that means in advance, perhaps ever?

As I rise from meditation and prayer, I do I move in a mindful way, more attentive to my words and acts. Meditation and prayer help make the world holy, more whole as I attend to it. We each live Living in our particular concrete and real world of human relationships with each other and the world.

Meditation is old and honorable, so why should I
not sit, every morning of my life, on the hillside,
looking into the shining world? Because, properly
attended to, delight, as well as havoc, is suggestion.
Can one be passionate about the just, the
ideal, the sublime, and the holy, and yet commit
to no labor in its cause? I don’t think so.

All summations have a beginning, all effect has a
story, all kindness begins with the sown seed.
Thought buds toward radiance. The gospel of
light is the crossroads of — indolence, or action.

Be ignited, or be gone.

From The Irony of American History

Although Reinhold Niebuhr his book The Irony of American History, I think it speaks to each person’s and each collective’s history.

As I read this and his autobiography, I wondered what it means to be a refugee, to seek refuge, and be an immigrant. My family traces its roots in Canada to the mid 1600’s and Kathy traces her’s to the latter part of the 1700’s. On both sides of our family, our ancestors could not expect what was to come for them and us.

Parker Palmer and Allan Watts speak of faith, which allows each of us to step into the future, without understanding what that brings. My ancestors, coming from France, did not know the risks and opportunities that lay ahead. They had faith in what was to come, without knowing what was to come.

What is to come in my life is emerging through the lives of each person that follows. Thich Nhat Hanh writes we are an amalgam of our ancestors. We are individuals that emerge within a collective that is both present and absent in our daily lives. Who we are is a result of product of virtue and love we receive from others. Who we are is not accomplished alone. It is an act of compassion and faith; an act of forgiveness that we will do what is proper.

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.
Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.
Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.
No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.

The Prayer of St. Francis

Today, is our anniversary. We recited the Prayer of St. Francis at our wedding and have it displayed on a small and simple plaque. It reminds me of what it means to be human, in relationship with another person, and in relationship with God.

When I was in Spokane, I printed a copy and put it on the wall of the small room I stayed in. I refer to the room as my monastic cell and the Prayer of St. Francis seems a fitting complement to any monastic cell.

During challenging moments, I recite parts of the prayer to bring me peace and be present in the world.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

The picture is one I took several years ago of Kathy standing above a set of waterfalls close to the headwaters of the Fraser River.

Darling

I was not going to post today, but I came across this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye and it resonated with me. She wrote about language’s paradoxical power and fragility. Even though we may use the same words, they each mean something different to each of us based on our culture, history, and personal experiences. We have to be mindful and attentive to our use of language. It speaks to our character in the story we narrate through the words we choose and share with others.

Language possesses the power to bridge differences. The fragility lies in the idea that we can only hope language bridges differences.

The opening lines remind me of the  etymological roots of companion, meaning to break bread with others on a journey, but, in this instance, it is a fragile journey. The food and tea do not taste quite right under the circumstances.

The last stanza speaks about holding words delicately and pressing our lips on each syllable as we are kissing them, hence the title of the poem.

I break this toast for the ghost of bread in Lebanon.
The split stone, the toppled doorway.

Someone’s kettle has been crushed.
Someone’s sister has a gash above her right eye.

And now our tea has trouble being sweet.
A strawberry softens, turns musty,

overnight each apple grows a bruise.
I tie both shoes on Lebanon’s feet.

All day the sky in Texas which has seen no rain since June
is raining Lebanese mountains, Lebanese trees.

What if the air grew damp with the names of mothers,
the clear belled voices of first-graders

pinned to the map of Lebanon like a shield?
When I visited the camp of the opposition

near the lonely Golan, looking northward toward
Syria and Lebanon, a vine was springing pinkly from a tin can

and a woman with generous hips like my mother’s
said Follow me.

2

Someone was there.
Someone not there now was standing.
Someone in the wrong place
with a small moon-shaped scar on his left cheek
and a boy by the hand.

Who had just drunk water, sharing the glass.
Who had not thought about it deeply
though they might have, had they known.
Someone grown and someone not-grown.
Who thought they had different amounts of time left.
This guessing game ends with our hands in the air,
becoming air.
One who was there is not there, for no reason.
Two who were there.

It was almost too big to see.

3

Our friend from Turkey says language is so delicate
he likens it to a darling.

We will take this word in our arms.
It will be small and breathing.
We will not wish to scare it.
Pressing lips to the edge of each syllable.
Nothing else will save us now.
The word “together” wants to live in every house.

Saint Francis and the Sow

This poem by Galway Kinnel reminds me everyone is blooming. There is something hidden inside of us we cannot fully know and understand. It is the inner voice that calls us to what we are fully human to do.

It is essential to be mindful and attentive to that voice and find moments of silence. Unlike the sow, humans are able to pause and reflect, pray and listen to the response. Having said this, it is not something that is intuitive and instinctual. It is something we have to remind our self of from time to time.

The bud

stands for all things,

even for those things that don’t flower,

for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;

though sometimes it is necessary

to reteach a thing its loveliness,

to put a hand on its brow

of the flower

and retell it in words and in touch

it is lovely

until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;

as Saint Francis

put his hand on the creased forehead

of the sow, and told her in words and in touch

blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow

began remembering all down her thick length,

from the earthen snout all the way

through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,

from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine

down through the great broken heart

to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering

from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:

the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

 

To Discriminate

I will not post this weekend, as I am away. As well, I want to begin writing an article, so my schedule will change next week, but I will be back.

After I wrote my poem yesterday, I thought about what it might mean to live in a different way than I do. I cannot. I do not have those experiences. To discriminate is to see and recognize differences. In a world of extreme ideologies, there are those who simply refuse to see differences as essential to our human condition.

Hannah Arendt wrote about living in pluralism being the ultimate human condition. It is what makes us each a person, separates us in some distinct way from others. It is challenging and unavoidable.

I lived in a small town in Northern Alberta when I was young. We were the only French-speaking family with children in the community. I understand others have suffered more than I ever did. It seems it is only the loud ones with most extreme ideology who act and speak with violence that are seen and heard.

Edmund Burke contended “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good [people] to do nothing.”

Albert Einstein said “Compassionate people are geniuses in the art of living, more necessary to the dignity, security, and joy of humanity than the discoverers of knowledge.”

Thomas Merton pointed us in the direction of mindfulness: “The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.”

I think compassion is being mindful of the beauty we find in the differences of others and the world. It is speaking up and out when we see things done that are not proper. It is in being mindful and present to the Other that we are most human. I leave you with these thoughts.

To discriminate,

To see the differences in the Other,

It is what makes living worthwhile.

Without seeing differences,

The world is a monotone,

A sea of sameness.

Without seeing differences,

The world is extreme,

A dangerous place.

Without seeing differences,

I do not see the exceptional,

I cannot see an Other’s humanity.

 

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