When we stop looking toward the Oneness, even for a split second, we may become trapped in blindness, in darkness, and lose our hands. Often it is a decision we make that feels ordinary, trivial, invisible, unreal, entitled, or even non-optional and heroically self-sacrificing. Support and imagination are wiped clean, the messages of truth bent to fit the masters of despair. This universal message is in the world mythologies as well as our modern storytelling and evening news. This message is timeless, repeating on the transistor radio in a tower on a deserted island reaching only those seeking to get off the island. When we know this, truly know the light of the message, how could our justice system stay the same? Are we “woke” to redemption? restoration? forgiveness? love?
“Motion and rest” are signatures of the divine working within us (Gospel of Thomas v. 50) as we move toward “the one and become two” (v.11). Each figure in the clip from the movie Shelter sloughs off the garments of the world, one by one until truth is laid bare, naked. All escape doors shut. Sorrow swells into awe. Hope is borne. They return the garments of the world and fall into the arms of freedom, the bridal chamber of the eternal.
Intentional observing gives way to a special kind of remembering. This remembering is an opening penetrated with reverence or exhausted surrender. It rushes in like an unexpected wave… transforming, protecting, and guiding the surfer through the pipeline of her life to the shore where she begins again, invigorated with all the possibilities that lie in waiting. No, she is not reminiscing. No, she is not revisiting a timeline of events. She is remembering something that is essentially and uniquely her yet she has never known: the third.
“And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this” Mordecai said to Esther as she faced the critical crossroad that intersects with all of humanity. “In such a time as this” can you sense the wisdom energy held in the story of Esther and Vashti? calling you, in your position, whatever it may be, to wake into the movements of wisdom. Can you hear her rumbling and quaking above and below us all? The thunderous rumbling “No!” above us making the way for the quaking “Yes” in the ground below?
We can trace these holy yes’s and no’s throughout time and space, from the beginning. To trace these movements is to connect to the continuous and subtle movements of birth and death that are at first seemingly futile and meaningless but at last, breathtakingly beautiful to behold even a fragment of its’ light; the flickers of the golden ratio revealed in a mustard seed.
Emerson (1803 – 1882) writes: “….of progressive souls, all loves and friendships are momentary. Do you love me? means, Do you see the same truth? If you do, we are happy with the same happiness;”
This thread seems to be a dominant thread in “such a time as this.” Is it not? A rising concentration of new estrangements from family, friends, and community in recent times. Are we possibly entrained in the mythology of the Queen in Snow White, reading and listening to the news and social media for reflections of ourselves? to find happiness in the mirror? Such is the complex that Snow White circumambulates until her essence is awakened and the spell of sleep is broken.
Emerson continues, “but presently one of us passes into the perception of new truth;—we are divorced, and no tension in nature can hold us to each other.”
Divorced?! This word incites the tragic loss and emptiness that a broken love, a broken sacred vow, a broken family of two or more leaves behind. Is it such a grief stricken emptiness that he points? What does he mean when he says, “No tension in nature can hold us to each other?” Perhaps he is pointing to the absence of anything in God’s creation or of our own creation that can hold us up “in such a time as this.” Through the absence, is he pointing to the unceasing struggle with our Creator? The lifeline that supports us from that transpersonal realm, even in our denial?
Kierkegaard (1813-1855) reflects on the “one concentrated moment” between Abraham and God, his Beloved, on the mountain in the land of Moriah. He asks, “Who is it that snatches the staff from the old man? Who is it that demands he himself must break it? Who is it that makes a man’s grey hairs disconsolate? Who is it that demands he himself must do it?” Who is this other to whom Kierkegaard points? And is the space of “no tension” our personal Mount Moriah where the movements of Truth are revealed, faith is born? in the here-and-now?
Emerson is one of the many poets in time who have held the “Yes” and the “No” in their solar plexus and left their lipstick kiss on our cheeks, helping us wake up! and grow up! He tenderly goes on….
“I know how delicious is this cup of love,—I existing for you, you existing for me; but it is a child’s clinging to his toy; an attempt to eternize the fireside and nuptial chamber; to keep the picture-alphabet through which our first lessons are prettily conveyed.”
I turn my attention now to the film Melancholia (2011) where we peer into the specter of the nuptial chamber such as the one described by Emerson. Through stunningly haunting imagery we experience the power of the “No” manifesting pre-verbally, against the egoic will clinging to toys. One glimpse into this imagery renders the desire to return to the picture-alphabet altogether understandable.
The new perception enters and is about to collide with the outworn on a global scale. Such is the handiwork of eternality.
In the story of Melancholia (2011) Justine utters the mysterious “No” amid her celebratory wedding banquet. No one understands but, clearly, everyone feels the weight of despair in the air nonetheless and defensively respond by leaning into propriety, tradition, complaining, begging, ritual of candlelight and cards, hubris and niceties, and wine while Justine becomes an object of escalating hate and ridicule, separate now from the herd. She becomes a burden, unable to eat, barely able to speak or walk. She is powerless and “too much,” the personification of frozen energy. Some might call her a nuisance, yet slowly she emerges anyway. No one can look at or see her meaning until …. they awake to the collective inescapable truth of their mortality. She meets them, without dogma or prescriptives, without complaint or ritual; rather, she merely leads them into the moment-to-moment “Yes” funeral walk into the “magnificence of nature” that is clearly not ours to command or possess, but to nurture and steward, eyes open to the end.
“I am not God” is the realization that breaks most, yet finds some. From this awareness I understand Emerson’s use of the short phrase “once abroad again” in the next lines to mean dis-identified from God, dis-identified from omnipotent control.
“The Eden of God is bare and grand: like the outdoor landscape, remembered from the evening fireside, it seems cold and desolate, whilst you cower over the coals; but, once abroad again, we pity those who can forego the magnificence of nature, for candle-light and cards.”
Yes, Emerson validates the “delicious cup of love” that is the “happiness with the same happiness” we find in particular sorts of kinship that mirror our likes and dislikes. However, he describes this sort of happiness as candle-light and cards compared to what lies beyond it.
Lying in the next chamber of the nautilus is a different sort of conversation with the true subject of “Conjugal Love.” Inside this real-time conversation eternality is revealed, isolation is broken, and a deep courage is claimed. If you have heard the gospel of John you might here the message of living water at the well: “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” Who is is that we are asking for water at “such a time as this?”
Emerson moves us away from the yolk of literalism and any confusion about what is sovereign, reminding us how easily we are compelled toward or tricked into following what is false, what is dead, what is escapist reverie, what is wrong. Why? Mostly because of what we have forgotten and what we have lost in false sincerity and broken vows. The finding of the sword wielded by Other that breaks literalism and hubris, ignorance and sentimentality, cowardice and greed, is through, only through.
“Perhaps the true subject of the “Conjugal Love” is conversation, whose laws are profoundly eliminated. It is false, if literally applied to marriage. For God is the bride or bridegroom of the soul. Heaven is not the pairing of two, but the communion of all souls. We meet, and dwell an instant under the temple of one thought, and part as though we parted not, to join another thought in other fellowships of joy. So far from there being anything divine in the low and proprietary sense of, Do you love me? it is only when you leave and lose me, by casting yourself on a sentiment which is higher than both of us, that I draw near, and find myself at your side; and I am repelled, if you fix your eye on me, and demand love.
In fact, in the spiritual world, we change sexes every moment. You love the worth in me; then I am your husband: but it is not me, but the worth, that fixes the love; and that worth is a drop of the ocean of worth that is beyond me. Meantime, I adore the greater worth in another, and so become his wife. He aspires to a higher worth in another spirit, and is wife of receiver of that influence.”
When we trace the divine “Yes” and “No” that we have been traveling on since the beginning of time, we notice how we “change sexes every moment,” we birth and die every moment, we shift from being a drop in the ocean to being the ocean …. continuously…. moment-to-moment. These continuous and subtle movements are at first seemingly futile and meaningless, frustratingly trying, but at last, breathtakingly beautiful to behold even a fragment of its’ light; the flickers of the golden ratio revealed.
“Emerson, Ralph Waldo; Carlyle, Thomas. The Complete Ralph Waldo Emerson: The Collected Works (p. 127). Bybliotech. Kindle Edition.
#Faith, Mystery, #Secrets, #FountainofYouth. #Despair, #Existential, #poet, #hero, #love, #admiration, #guardianspirit, #poetandhero
From Kierkegaard’s work: Fear and Trembling
“If there were no eternal consciousness in a human being, if underlying everything there were only a wild fermenting force writhing in dark passions that produced everything great and insignificant, if a bottomless insatiable emptiness lurked beneath everything, what would life be then but despair? If such were the case, if there were no sacred bonds that tied humankind together, if one generation after another rose like leaves in the forest, if one generation succeeded another like the singing of the birds in the forest, if the human race passed through the world as a ship through the sea, as the
wind through the desert, a thoughtless and futile activity, if an eternal oblivion always hungrily lay in wait for its’ prey and there were no power strong enough to snatch it away, then how empty and hopeless life would be. But that is why it is not so. And as God created man and woman, so he fashioned the hero and the poet or orator. The latter can do nothing that the former does. He can only admire, love, and rejoice in the hero. Yet he too is happy, no less than the former. For the hero is, so-to-speak, his better nature with which he is infatuated yet delighted that it is, after all, not himself, that his love can be admiration.
He is the guardian spirit of recollection. He can do nothing without remembering what has been done, do nothing without admiring what has been done. He takes nothing for himself but is protective of what is entrusted to him. He follows his hearts desire but when he has found what was sought he wanders about to every man’s door with his song and speech so that everyone may admire the hero as he does, be proud of the hero as he is. This is his achievement, his humble task, his faithful service in the house of the hero.
If he remains true to his love in this way, if he struggles day and night with the cunning of oblivion which wants to trick him out of the hero, then he has fulfilled his task. He is united with the hero who has loved him just as faithfully. For the poet is, so to speak, the hero’s better nature, feeble like a memory to be sure, but also glorified like a memory. Therefore, no one who was great will be forgotten. And even if it takes a long time, even if a cloud of misunderstanding whisks the hero away, his lover still comes. And the more time goes by, the more steadfastly he clings to him.
No, no one who was great in the world will be forgotten. But each was great in his own way and each in proportion to the greatness of what he loved. For the one who loved himself became great by himself. And the one who loved other persons became great by his devotion. But the one who loved God became greater than everybody. Each will be remembered, but each became great in proportion to his expectation.
One became great by expecting the possible, another by expecting the eternal. But the one who expected the impossible became greater than everybody. Each will be remembered but each was great wholly in proportion to the magnitude of that with which he struggled. For the one who struggled with the world became great by conquering the world and the one who struggled with himself became greater by conquering himself. But the one who struggled with God became greater than everybody. Thus there was conflict in the world, man against man, one against a thousand. But the one who struggled with God was greater than everybody. Thus there was conflict on the earth.
There was the one who conquered all by his power, and the one who conquered God by his powerlessness. There was the one who relied on himself and gained everything and the one who, secure in his own strength, sacrificed everything. But the one who believed in God was greater than everybody. There was the one who was great by his power, and the one who was great by his wisdom, and the one who was great by his hope, and the one who was great by his love, but Abraham was greater than everybody. Great by that power whose strength is powerlessness, great by that wisdom whose secret is folly, great by that hope whose form is madness, great by that love which is hatred of ones’ self.
By faith, Abraham emigrated from the land of his father’s and became a foreigner in the Promised land. He left one thing behind and took one thing with him. He left his worldly understanding behind and took faith with him. Otherwise, he undoubtedly would not have emigrated but surely would have thought it preposterous. By faith he was a stranger in the promised land and there was nothing that reminded him of what was dear to him. But his soul was tempted to wistful nostalgia by the novelty of everything. And yet, he was God’s chosen one in whom the Lord was well pleased. In fact, had he been a castaway, banished from God’s grace, he could have understood it better. But now, it certainly seemed like a mockery of him and his faith.
There was also in the world one who lived in exile from the world, from the ancestral land which he loved. He is not forgotten nor are his songs of lamentation when in sadness he sought and found what was lost.
From Abraham there is no song of lament. It is human to lament, human to weep with the one who weeps but it is greater to believe, more blessed to behold the believer. By faith, Abraham received the promise that in his seed all the generations of the world would be blessed.
Time passed, the possibility was there, Abraham believed. Time passed, it became preposterous, Abraham believed.
There was one in the world who also had an expectation. Time passed, evening drew near. He was not wretched enough to have forgotten his expectation; therefore, neither will he be forgotten. Then he sorrowed and the sorrow did not cheat him as life had done. It did everything it could for him. In the sweetness of sorrow he possessed his disappointed expectation. It is human to sorrow. It is human to sorrow with the sorrowing one but it is greater to believe, more blessed to behold the believer.
From Abraham, we have no song of sorrow. He did not mournfully count the days while time passed. He did not look at Sarah with suspicious eyes as to whether she had not become old. He did not halt the movement of the sun so that Sarah would not grow old and with her his expectation. He did not soothingly sing for Sarah his mournful melody. Abraham became old. Sarah became the object of ridicule in the land. And yet, he was God’s chosen one and heir to the promise that in his seed all the generations of the earth would be blessed. So would it not have been better, after all, if he were not God’s chosen one.
What does it mean to be God’s chosen one? Is it to be denied one’s youthful wish in youth so that it may be fulfilled with great pains in old age? But, Abraham believed and held on to the promise. If Abraham had waivered, then he would have given it up. He would have said to God, “Well, perhaps it is not your will after all that it should happen so I will give up the wish. It was my only wish. My blessedness. My soul is sincere. I harbor no hidden resentment because you denied it.” He would not have been forgotten.
He would have saved many by his example but still would not have become the father of faith. For it is great to give up one’s wish but it is greater to keep a firm grip on it after having given it up. It is great to lay hold of the eternal but it is greater to stick doggedly to the temporal after having given it up.
Then came the fullness of time. If Abraham had not believed, Sarah might well have died from sorrow and Abraham, dulled by grief, would not have understood the fulfillment but only smiled at it as at a youthful dream. But, Abraham believed. Therefore he was young. For the one who always hopes for the best, grows old, cheated by life. And the one who is always prepared for the worst, grows old prematurely. But the one who believes preserves an eternal youth.
So let us pay tribute to that story. For Sarah, though aged, was young enough to crave the pleasure of motherhood and Abraham, though grey haired, was young enough to wish to be a father. Outwardly, the wonder is that it happened in accordance with their expectation. In a deeper sense, the wonder of faith consists in Abraham and Sarah being young enough to wish, and in faith having preserved their wish and with it their youth.
He accepted the fulfillment of the promise. He accepted it in faith and it happened according to the promise and according to faith. For Moses struck the rock with his staff but he did not believe. So there was rejoicing in Abraham’s house when Sarah stood as a bride on their golden wedding anniversary but it was not to remain that way. Abraham was to be tried once more. He had fought with that ingenious power which invents everything, with that vigilant enemy which never dozes, with that old man who outlives everything. He had fought with time and kept the faith. Now, all the frightfulness of the struggle became concentrated in one moment. And God tested Abraham and said to him, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon a mountain that I will show you.” Thus everything was lost which is even more frightful than if it had never happened. So the lord was only mocking Abraham. Miraculously, he made the preposterous come true. Now he would see it brought to nothing again. It was indeed folly but Abraham did not laugh at it as Sarah had done when the promise was first proclaimed. Everything was lost. Seventy years of faithful expectation. The brief joy of a faith’s fulfillment. Who is it then, that snatches the staff from the old man, who is it that demands he himself must break it. Who is it that makes a man’s grey hairs disconsolate? Who is it that demands he himself must do it? Is there no compassion for this venerable old man? for the innocent child?”
As he reaches for Wilson, his imaginary friend, born in the isolation of his tragedy, his face made from the blood of Chuck Noland’s struggling hands trying to make fire … he fails to “save” him! Wilson swiftly fades into the distance on the ocean current and Tom brings the world with him to experience the depths of a particular sorrow. I imagine the audience…. utterly still, a pool of listening minds, hearts slowly breaking.
After viewing this scene, you may hear the whispers of Craig Wright’s play, The Pavilion:
“This is the way the universe begins. A raindrop (that isn’t really a raindrop) drops, like a word, “rain” drops, into a pool (that isn’t really a pool, more like a pool of listening minds), and tiny waves circle out in an elegant decelerating procession, -cession, -cession. Then, after a time, the pool of listening minds grows still.”
What is this particular sorrow that we are traveling on, remembering still? Still. Listening?
Rumi takes us on the odyssey of love in his poem Sublime Generosity. It begins…
“I was dead, then alive, Weeping, then laughing.
The power of love came into me,
and I became fierce like a lion, then tender like the evening star.”see full poem in The Essential Rumi, translations by Coleman Barks with John Moyne.
When the extraordinary power of love enters the solar plexus the world is suddenly turned upside down. What was higher is now lower. What is lower, higher.
In love’s youth it is wild in its ferocity, moving in one direction – up, up, up toward the stars, “needing to be tied up” as it flies oh so close to the sun, swept in the ecstasy of seemingly transcending the deep hunger for being “enough” to survive in this wild world which is, in the beginning, indistinguishable from our deep hunger for being whole, Holy, One, Home. The trajectory of death that inevitably awaits is unimaginable from here where only Light is seen, flight is felt. We are, after all, really going down, down, down.
Later, once our husks of attachment are annihilated, surrendered, let go through experience …. fantasy and doubt become tangible, clear. You are their witness now, not just for everyone else to see. They are your children that have been playing in your back yard the whole time, unattended, waiting to be claimed.
The image of the lion and the evening star are replaced in the poem by a featherless, “plucked chicken,” “the fool.” From here, the yearning for wings like Yours or even yours is painfully strong, tempered now by something.
When He tells you that you are now the candle “for this assembly” you are aghast with confusion as you exclaim, “I am no candle! I am [nothing but] scattered smoke!” I am nobody, nothing. Vapor.
He calls you a teacher, a guide, and this seems somehow backward. Upside down?
Knowing everything in your heart, He removes your unspoken yearning to claim His or even his or her wings. “You already have wings, ” He says. You hear this but you do not understand … yet. “Don’t you remember?”, you ask, “They melted in the sun.”
Later, you hear events say to you, “Don’t move. A sublime generosity is coming toward you.” And you listen. It feels like the first time you have ever truly listened. Every auditory hair of every cell in your body is standing now in full attention, ready. All wanting and need ceases along with their contradictory children. All sensory input stopped. The quiet makes you weep.
An old love says to you, “Stay with me.”
You say, “I will.”
And Mary weeps…you.
Say your prayers in a garden early, ignoring steadfastly the dew, the birds, and the flowers, and you will come away overwhelmed by its freshness and joy; go there in order to be overwhelmed and, after a certain age, nine times out of ten nothing will happen to you.Lewis, C. S.. The Four Loves
“Three things make you worthy of a teacher: the capacity to listen in the beginning, the ability to question in the middle, and the courage to go your own way in the end.”Rabbi Rami Shapiro commentary on the sage advice of Yehoshua ben Perachyah (2nd Century BCE) who walked with Jesus, in Pirket Avot 1:15
Listening to the teachers and teachings, asking questions, and finding our own way, in this order, may possibly be the universal path of receiving and following any timeless spiritual tradition grounded in Truth, Love, Awe, Wisdom, Justice. Each action — listening to the teachings, engaging the questions that rise from them, and courageously becoming the teaching in one’s ordinary daily walk — holds the still point inside of Mystery, keeps the light on. They are the three elements comprising the triangle of the student, they are the humility of beginner’s mind, they are the soil prepared for the Holy seed, the remnant making space for divine action.
Why is it so hard to listen to the teachings? listen and speak the questions? become the teachings? Answer: many reasons, too large to count. Can we find the path in a single lifetime, our “lifetime” that seems to go by in a day? If one is truly pondering these questions then one may see the ancient vision of Venus in the background, giving Psyche the trial of separating a pile of beans, peas, seeds, corn, barley, grains of all sorts….. by evening. How many hours till the evening of our life do we have to become the student, hear and ask the questions, and embody the teachings on our journey home?
Now, try reframing the question in terms of Kairos time, non-linear time, divine time. If you know what I am talking about you are graced by the kiss of infinity and you are laughing. The seeds are sorted and you are ready. I bow to you.