INSANE FOR THE LIGHT

“We can make our minds so like

still water that beings gather about us

that they may see, it may be, their own

images, and so live for a moment with

a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer

life because of our quiet.” 

Robert Bly

 I’ve always wanted more quiet in my house as a child. By the time I was nine, I was seeking silence in the woods that backed up to the dirt-poor farm my dad bought. I’d sit on the million’s old rocks on Sand Mountain in Alabama and let the wind and noiselessness wash over me and baptize me with serenity.

For 30 years I had a quiet cabin in the foothills of the southern Appalachians. I tell you all this because my home here in Austin, Texas, thanks to this virus being passed around like an inhuman hot potato, is more quiet than it has been in a hundred years or more.

What do we do with the potentially deadly lull in assaults to our overstimulated ears? Maybe, just maybe, we let more light into our daily lives – perhaps some almost heavenly light. We’ve been looking at modernism’s electric lights, neon signs, cell phones and computer lights for so long that we have, to quote an old song, been “blinded by the light.”

We have been Plato’s cave dwellers for so long seeing dollar signs, credit cards, GNP flashing upon a movie-like screen in our collective caves. Chained to the dark floor thinking that what we are seeing projected on the screen is reality.

We may be the generations who break free of our chains, crawl out of the caverns, see the sun, and finally see that what we have been looking at is not real but illusions and brain-washed fantasies. Perhaps due to the Coronavirus (not “Chinese Virus”) even in the quiet nights we can feel human again and

“We know the road; as the moonlight

Lights everything, so on a night like this,

The road goes on ahead, it is all clear.”

Robert Bly

And the road ahead, while cluttered a bit with hoarders and dishonest politicians, is also filled by those who are helping others, shopping for others, praying for others, loving strangers, and maybe, just maybe, we will start crawling out of the darkness of greediness and entitlement and live more gently on the earth and with each other so that when the Spanish poet, Antonio Machado asks us the question: “What have you done With the Garden that was entrusted to you?” We will say we tended it with lots more love and very timely tenderness.

“I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various sections.

and it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly, that I am ill.

I am ill because of wounds to the soul, take a long, long time, only time can help

and patience, and a certain difficult repentance

long, difficult repentance, realization of life’s mistake, and the freeing oneself

from the endless repetition of the mistake

which mankind at large has chosen to sanctify.”  

D.H. Lawrence

 

Surrendering to What Is: Staying Open to What Will Be

“You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.” ~ Joseph Campbell

Yes, I know. You read the word; heard the word “surrender” and you think, not me, I’m not giving up. I won’t accept defeat.

I’ve been thinking about this word a lot lately having just sold my cabin in the Appalachian Mountains that I’ve had for 30 years and recovering from a hip replacement – letting the old hip go and getting a knee replacement next month. Lots of letting go.

But even earlier I remember the Christian hymn being sung in the old wooden Baptist church we attended on Sand Mountain, Alabama – the one I was baptized in at nine.

The old folks would sing:

“…I surrender all,

I surrender all.

All to thee, my blessed Savior,

I surrender all…”

I didn’t really know what they meant. I didn’t have a whole lot to surrender, give up, or give into – a Daisy BB gun shooting sparrows off the wire and the Johnny Cash album I got the same year for Christmas.

However, at the tender young age of 68, I find myself more than ever exploring this whole surrendering process, and I have more than a few clients trying to find ways to circumvent surrendering to what is in their lives.

I want to be clear; I’m not talking about surrendering to religion or God or Jesus or a Guru. I’m talking about letting go. Grieving what was, what will never be again, and feeling freer than ever to proceed into the present. I don’t know anything much, but I do know the word religion means “to bind.” So many of us are bound to our past, and Lord knows there’s days I wish I had my cabin back, my energy of my 30s and 40s, and a lover or two long gone and the money I casually and foolishly let fly.

Most mornings now I wake up, have my morning coffee meditation, and begin again to surrender to the way things are. I take a few deep breaths, gently relaxing and proceeding to keep learning and feeling trust that I’m right where I’m supposed to be. I get up, work on a book that few people will probably read, counsel a few folks though fewer and fewer, check my mail, walk my dogs, and at night dream dreams of people, projects, and possibilities of days gone by.

One of my dear clients in her 60s said in session yesterday, “But I want back the fire in my belly that I used to have for my work. I want it to blaze again.”

I could only empathize, but said, “that 40-year old fire may be gone but I see much light in you!”

“I thought my fire was out,

I stirred the ashes

I burnt my fingers.” ~ Antonio Machado