If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live,
or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair,
but ask me what I am living for, in detail,
ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.
Thomas Merton, My argument with the Gestapo
As yesterday’s post reminded us, things are always changing in life, just as nature has its seasons:
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep in your heart the miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.
Kahil Gibran The Prophet
In the Christian calendar, this is the last week of the year, so some of the reflections around this time are on how to arrive at the end of one’s life without regret and with a sense of acceptance and wisdom. Do we ever get to any real place of resolution in this world?
This world is full of conflicts and full of things that cannot be reconciled but there are moments when we can transcend the dualistic system and reconcile and embrace the whole mess and that’s what I mean by Hallelujah…. That’s what it’s all about. It says that none of this – you’re not going to be able to work this thing out – you’re not going to be able to set – this realm does not admit to revolution – there’s no solution to this mess. The only moment that you can live here comfortably in these absolutely irreconcilable conflicts is in this moment when you embrace it all and you say ‘Look, I don’t understand a fucking thing at all – Hallelujah! That’s the only moment that we live here fully as human beings.
Its not so much what happens in a day that causes suffering, but our response to it:
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms —
to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances,
to choose one’s own way.
Viktor Frankl, Mans Search for Meaning
Similar to Mary Oliver’s quote last Sunday: a walk today shows that life’s experience is a mixture – cold frost and warm colour. Sheep and goats, as today’s Gospel parable reminds us.
A world of grief and pain,
Issa, 1763 – 1828, Japanese Buddhist poet.
Some of his poems reflect his attempts to come to terms with the premature passing of his children.
The creator of the universe loves circles: time and space are circles, the day is a circle, the year is a circle, the earth is a circle.
But when creating and fashioning the human heart, the creator only created a half-circle, so that there is something ontologically unfinished in human nature.
The beautiful irony is that even though we’re housed in separate bodies there is a profound hidden tissue of absolute connection between us. The Celtic tradition sensed that no one lives for herself alone. Your call to discover who you are and to bring your soul into birth is also a great act of creativity toward everyone else.
John O’Donohue, The Presence of Compassion