holding fast to Love

“Cherishing this evening’s evolution. First on the scene are the cicadas. Next enter the tree frogs, followed by katydids and screech owls. Every night it is the same. I am grateful for dependable evolutions.” -scratched in my journal while sitting on the porch last evening

A dear friend, who read yesterday’s post, mentioned that while she was at it, she’d also read the previous post Listening for the Voice of Love , and noted how the two created meaningful bookends for this summer. In June, I was sitting with the morning, listening to the cacaphonous prelude of birdsong breaking open the dawn, remembering that all of it is held by Love, mysteriously yet assuredly. Now, at summer’s close, I sit in the evening, listening to the fanfare of cicada, katydid, treefrog, and screech owl, acknowledging the terrible brokenness of our world.

Both are always true. And my pendulum swings from one knowing to the other, settling, when I am centered, in the middle, holding both extremes within my arc of vision, within my heart.

This morning, we sat together, this dear friend and I, with the words of Meister Eckhart.

“Even in the shadows of my life

where I often tremble in shame

You are present there as light

that ever shines without ceasing

and when I turn my heart to that darkness

I find that you were there,

shining, all along”

Turning to face the shadows of life can feel sobering, stark, bleak, desolate, daunting, overwhelming. It can fill me with despair, if I dwell only there. But if I refuse to look at it at all, I forget that Love is also there. I make Love, and my own heart, too small. I want to become more adept at doing both–remaining seated in Love and Hope and Goodness, while also seeing clearly and saying ‘this is wrong’

Still, I believe that my heart, while I trust that it is big enough to hold it all, needs to be tended carefully. How much fuel, and what type of fuel, I feed it can determine its health. Too many violent images and words and it recoils. Too much anger and it grows hard to protect its tender recesses. Too much toxic venom and it gets poisoned.

The internet and mass media, as we all know, can be a dangerous place into which to carry one’s open heart. Algorithmic formulas reinforce exponentially whatever it is we dip our toes into, and soon our vision of world is horrifically skewed. I have taken care to feed my heart in those places with the words and images of those who are seeking human goodness and integrity, so that those kinds of ideals, and so my perspective of humanity, exponentially grows in me, as Mr Rogers might say, to ‘look for the helpers’. Virtual ‘places’ like The Fetzer Institute, media offerings like Krista Tippet’s, OnBeing (specifically her conversations on civil discourse), Jonathan Haidt’s work on OpenMindedness, Positivity, and understanding the ‘other’, feed my heart goodness. These are not the ones making all the headlines (much like the helpers are not the ones making the news during any tragic catastrophe) but living, moving, and having my being with and among those whose work is Love grounds me in the hope of humanity.

Still, every 4 years or so, when the political season ramps up, in my seeking of knowledge and information, even in my seeking words of Hope onto which I might hitch my own, negativity inevitably filters through the cracks, the dam bursts and suddenly my heart is flooded with toxins.

A walk in the ‘real’ world usually helps. Encountering ‘real’ people – being kind, doing good, extending grace -restores me. Human to human conversations soothe. I suppose that’s why it was so very disconcerting for me, for so many of us, this summer to come face to face with the tangible, blatant, meanness of humanity, where suddenly, for instance, wearing a mask to protect my fellow human beings marks me as a target for scorn and public shaming. Even some very real human-to-human conversations hurt my heart. From whence did this anger spring?

Ok. With full self-awareness I recognize my discomfort with anger– mostly, I suppose, the way it comes out, more so than the actual human feeling. To say I FEAR anger is perhaps a more apt way of expressing my relationship to it. I fear it hitting me full brunt. And I recognize my dysfunctional (codependent?) conciliatory self-protective mechanisms and attempts to preempt it. Still, I have witnessed the effects of anger fueling the heart of those I love, the toxic way it changes the quality of their humanity and damages relationships. Right now in our culture, there seems to be alot of fuel out there.

So, how might my heart stay centered in Love — while seeing fully the injustices and brokenness. How might it look fully into those shadows (within and without) without being drawn into darkness in this season of my life, and of our collective lives. How might I listen, without sinking into despair, to the inevitable chorus of nightfall. How am I called to BE with it?

To ever shine? Perhaps. For me, this seems to be the calling of my heart, to hold its center, seeking goodness and light, so that I can see and hear the other while remaining true to my heart, to model the Hope for a society based in humankindness, which I wish to see become real in our world. BE the change. There are others whose calling in these days of strife will look different than my own– prophets, for instance– their gifts and passions different than my own. I celebrate these too. (see my comment on the previous post )

It sounds like such a small thing to do. To act with integrity, to not get swept away in this storm. To be content to be the proverbial pebble in the pond — modelling positivity and peace, touching those next to you with Love and Grace — can seem irrelevant in the midst of a tempest such as this. Perhaps it might be better to envision the integrity of one’s heart, then, as an anchor, holding firm.

As the season turns toward autumn, and the song unfolds, may we each continue to listen for the voice of Love in our midst.

PS. Last night I dreamt there was a black bear on my back, sleeping. I had to take care not to wake him as I found someone to help me disentangle him. He’d gotten tied up somehow in my backpack straps. When we inadvertently awaked him, he was quite gentle (though groggy) as he mouthed my hand (like a puppy) as I reached up over my shoulder to soothe him. So…. there’s that. (;

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