The Language of Animals

Animals are nothing but the forms of our virtues and vices, wandering before our eyes, the visible phantoms of our souls.

~ Victor Hugo

Men used to listen attentively to the messages of the animals; our lives, our souls, depended on it. The appearances and absences of certain animals at certain times were full of meaning and offered essential guidance. The hawk, raven, wolf, and bear all sent messages to men and spoke in a language we understood.

A part of us still understands that language. The animals still speak, showing up at interesting times, in “coincidental” ways. A husky a cousin to the wolf, might walk up to us just when we are in need of courage. A cat visits when we require patience. When peace is most precious, a dove flies overhead. The animals are speaking.

Today I’ll observe the animals to absorb their wisdom.

Excerpt from A Quiet Strength: Meditations On the Masculine Soul

The False Self

Ring out the false, ring in the true.

~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson

As boys we learned that we had to find out who others wanted us to be. Then we were taught we had to become that person in order to get acceptance, appreciation, and love – things we should have gotten just for being ourselves.

We developed the habit of creating a “false self.” This Self became so convincing that at times even we believed it was real. Afraid to be who we really were, to feel what we felt, to say what we needed to say, and to do what we thought was right, we created a drama and playacted our way through our lives. Our performance, however, was sometimes a painful tragedy that the ones who really loved us could hardly bear to watch.

Now we’re ready to bring the play to its end, and let our authentic life begin. We’re discovering, ever so slowly, that there are people in the world who will embrace our true Self – as long as we’re willing to show it.

Today I give up the drama I created to survive. I trust that I don’t have to play two-bit parts, that I can be wholly who I am. When I live my life like this, absorbed in the truth, I hear the inner applause resounding.

Excerpt from A Quiet Strength: Meditations on the Masculine Soul

Fire

The voice at the center speaks in tongues of flame … The child in man hears his fire rise.

~ M. C. Richards

The author of the quotation above, M. C. Richards, is a potter. Fire is at the center of her art, as it is at the center of much art – indeed, of life itself. The blaze captures our gaze. Love, like fire, can sear, is not always kind, can cut through the dead wood, demanding change. Solar fire lights each day; without it we would perish instantly. The sun rises brilliantly some mornings, giving us pleasure and another new day. The sources of fire are many: relationships, the sun, a forest burning wildly, and wherever friction exits. Fire is many things: strength, power, destruction, beauty.

Some people so fear fire that they never allow its flames to ignite them. They become passive, missing the activity inherent in fire. Others move too often into the fire and are frequently burned. Crafting the appropriate relationship to fire and to fiery people is key.

Today I will reflect on fire. I may light a fire in a fireplace, or make a fire on a beach, in my backyard, or elsewhere. As I watch the flames leap, I will think about how to kindle the fire in my heart.

Excerpt from A Quiet Strength: Meditations on the Masculine Soul

 

A Wordless Language

Nature is one of the languages God speaks.

~ Robert Bly

Many men have dabbled in, even mastered, languages. We speak fluent English, manage German “ein bischen,” use a peso’s worth of Spanish, murmur French when we feel amorous. We understand well the language of commerce, of industry. We’re plainspoken about stocks and bonds. We know “car talk.” We’re conversant in the colorful idioms of sports.

Every language has its proper place and time. And language is fun, even grandly mysterious at times. But for us to know and feel that point at which we and our God become one, we must speak the language of nature from time to time. We listen to God’s messages there, in the mountains, forests, lakes, and sky. The message is usually brief, and it’s delivered easily, right into the body and soul.

Today I’ll receive the wind’s whispers, the speech of the stream, the valley’s still, small voice. If I can be still amidst change as they are, I will become fluent in field, stone, tree, and fire.

Excerpt from A Quiet Strength: Meditations on the Masculine Soul

Earth, the Great Teacher

Speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee. ~ Job 12:8

So many men have been brainwashed into believing that the Earth is not alive, that it possesses no character, no feeling, and that it’s merely here to serve the insatiable demands of a greedy few. As we recover from this soul-shattering falsehood, a new depth of experience enters our life: we hear the Earth speak, groan, sign, and yes, bless us for listening to her cries.

The deeper I delve into the truth of my own body and soul, the deeper the teachings I receive from the Earth. That teaching is never stale, never inappropriate – each one of us will learn something different from the Earth, the first and last Mother and Father to us all.

Today I’ll listen to the truth the Earth has to teach.

Excerpt from A Quiet Strength: Meditations on the Masculine Soul