Monday, October 16, 2017

a journey can become a sacred thing...

Closing out one's ministry is a complicated affair, yes? It's not that I don't
have some clarity about what will happen next. Nor is it that I am second-guessing myself. No, I just wasn't prepared for all the competing feelings that race through me at all hours of the day.  Grief, joy, bitterness, relief, confusion,
satisfaction and everything in-between. Those who don't really know me have been all too quick in sharing their advice about how I should be managing this transition. The best I can summons is silence when I receive their half-baked, gratuitous platitudes about what I should be doing or need to be feeling at this time. I much prefer the words of poets who evoke rather than advise. Today I read these words on Facebook from the late John O'Donohue:

When you travel,
A new silence
Goes with you,
And if you listen,
You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say.

A journey can become a sacred thing.

Make sure, before you go,
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you towards
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life;
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.

Later in the day a new friend reposted Parker Palmer's words from his On Being column that included this poem by Wendell Berry:

To Hayden Carruth

Dear Hayden, when I read your book I was aching
in head, back, heart, and mind, and aching
with your aches added to my own, and yet for joy
I read on without stopping, made eager
by your true mastery, wit, sorrow, and joy,
each made true by the others. My reading done,
I swear I am feeling better. Here in Port Royal
I take off my hat to you up there in Munnsville
in your great dignity of being necessary. I swear
it appears to me you’re one of the rare fellows
who may finally amount to something. What shall
I say? I greet you at the beginning of a great career?
No. I greet you at the beginning, for we are
either beginning or we are dead. And let us have
no careers, lest one day we be found dead in them.
I greet you at the beginning that you have made
authentically in your art, again and again.

All of which is to say: this journey of letting go is like beginning all over again. Those words speak to my heart. My friend Pam says it is a birthing - and birthing is hard business, as my beloved family in Brooklyn knows all too well - and those words fits me, too. I disdain the controlled and manipulating sounds spoken by professionals about the ebb and flow of light and darkness in our hearts. Especially from those who have not journeyed long and hard enough or don't passionately grasp the contours of mystery. Robert Bly's translations of Goethe's "The Invisible King" is just what the doctor ordered.

Who rides at night, who rides so late?
The father rides on, his child in his arms.
His arms are curled and firm round the boy,
He keeps him from falling, he keeps him warm.

"My body, why is it you hide your face?"
"Dad, over there do you see the king?
The Invisible King with ermine and staff?"
"Dear boy, what you see is a rolling mist."

"Hey there, my boy, come along with me!
I have the neatest games you'll ever see.
On the shore my daises blow in a line.
My mother has shirts all golden and fine."

"Dad, is it true, you don't hear at all
The little gifts the King is offering me?"
"Calm down, my boy, no need for all this -
It's a dry oak leaves making noise in the wind."

"Child, good child, do you want to go?
My daughters will care and wait on you so.
The great circle dance they do every night,
They'll sing and dance and tuck you in tight."

"Dad, it worries me that you don't see
The Daughters there at that ugly spot."
"I see the spot very clearly, my boy -
An old gray willow, that's all there is."

"Your body is slim, and I love you.
Come now, or seize you is what I'll do."
"Dad, listen, please Dad, he's got hold of me!
He's done something bad to me, he has!"

The terrified father rides wilder and wilder;
The boy is now groaning as he sits slumped over;
In grief and fear at last the father got home.
The boy lay dead in the father's arms.

(NOTE:  Bly writes, "The rationalist father denies, frantically, any suggestions of "the other world" or the spiritual realm, and the result is that his son dies. This poem is a miniature history of Europe.")

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