We use the word heartbreak as if it only occurs when things have gone wrong: an unrequited love, a shattered dream, a child lost before their time. Heartbreak, we hope, is something we can avoid; something to guard against, a chasm to be carefully looked for and then walked around; the hope is to find a way to place our feet where the elemental forces of life will keep us in the manner to which we want to be accustomed and which will keep us from the losses that all other human beings have experienced without exception since the beginning of conscious time. But heartbreak may be the very essence of being human, of being on the journey from here to there, and of coming to care deeply for what we find along the way…
One must — as in a swimming pool —
dare to dive from the quivering springboard of trivial everyday experience and sink into the depths, in order to later rise again —
laughing and fighting for breath — to the now doubly illuminated surface of things
Stay with the feeling in the body. Don’t advance into proliferating a story. Don’t retreat into denying the sense of hurt.
Not advancing, not retreating,
Not real, not empty.
There is an ocean of bright clouds.
There is an ocean of dark clouds.
Dogen, 1200 – 1253
photo Nicolas A. Tonelli
One of the nice things about a Saturday after an intense week is that we can come back to ourselves, and find within us a centre that is always there, even when we lose sight of it:
I lost my way, I forgot to call on your name. The raw heart beat against the world, and the tears were for my lost victory. But you are here. You have always been here. The world is all forgetting, and the heart is a rage of directions, but your name unifies the heart, and the world is lifted into its place.
Blessed is the one who waits in the traveller’s heart for his turning
Leonard Cohen, Poem#50 from The Book of Mercy
Even if a person does not observe Lent, the themes are universal and necessary :
Sometimes the etymology of a word can be helpful. Linguistically, lent is derived from an old English word meaning springtime. In Latin, lente means slowly. Etymologically, then, lent points to the coming of spring and it invites us to slow down our lives so as to be able to take stock of ourselves.
Lent has always been understood as a time to metaphorically spend forty days in the desert unprotected by normal nourishment so as to have to face “Satan” and the “wild animals” and see whether the “angels” will indeed come and look after us when we reach that point where we can no longer look after ourselves. For us, “Satan” and “wild animals” refer particularly to the chaos inside of us that normally we either deny or simply refuse to face – our paranoia, our anger, our jealousies, our distance from others, our fantasies, our grandiosity, our addictions, our unresolved hurts…. The normal food that we eat – distracted ordinary life – works to shield us from the deeper chaos that lurks beneath the surface of our lives.
Lent invites us to stop eating whatever protects us from having to face the desert that is inside of us. It invites us to feel our smallness, to feel our vulnerability, to feel our fears, and to open ourselves up the chaos of the desert so that we can finally give the angels a chance to feed us. That’s the ideal of lent, to face one’s chaos.
Ron Rolheiser, Entering Lent
photo: Another believer
Some reflections from Brother Roger of Taize who I once met when I spent a silent retreat there. He was a good and kindly man, and outlines here an approach which can shape our whole attitude to this day and to life:
Are there realities which make life beautiful
and of which it can be said that they bring a kind of fulfillment, an inner joy?
Yes, there are. And one of these realities bears the name of trust.
Do we realize that what is best in each of us is built up through a simple trusting?
This is something even a child can do.
Br Roger of Taize