Every day there is a constant barrage of images, stories and acts that reinforce the cruelty and chaos of creation. I am not suggesting we ignore the pain or deny its power. That would be equally harsh. No, the disorder and confusion of this era is real - it is part of the challenge to birthing a new way of being - so we must be "wise as serpents and gentle as doves" in our alternative. Not reactive but creative. Not addicted to the drama of the moment, but quietly steadfast in nourishing, strengthening and honoring beauty. The late John O'Donohue suggests: "When our eyes are graced with wonder, the world reveals its wonders to us. There are people who see only dullness in the world and that is because their eyes have already been dulled. So much depends on how we look at things. The quality of our looking determines what we come to see.” To break free of the drama and live creatively rather than reactively takes practice. In his posthumous book, Beauty: The Invisible Embrace, O'Donohue writes:
What you encounter, recognize or discover depends to a large degree on the quality of your approach. Many of the ancient cultures practiced careful rituals of approach. An encounter of depth and spirit was preceded by careful preparation. When we approach with reverence, great things decide to approach us. Our real life comes to the surface and its light awakens the concealed beauty in things. When we walk on the earth with reverence, beauty will decide to trust us. The rushed heart and arrogant mind lack the gentleness and patience to enter that embrace.
Ours is a culture informed by busyness and shaped by arrogant impatience. The US President is the most obvious and offensive personification of this way of being. He tromps all over our historic allies, refuses to listen to those far wiser than himself, and insists that whatever he is feeling in the moment is the total truth. He is ignorant, boorish, and mean-spirited, bringing harm to millions every day without understanding the consequences of his selfishness. But he is not simply an odd American aberration - just the clearest distillation of our collective shadow. Tom Hayden once wrote in 1972, "The love of possession is like a disease with them." It is a quote from Sitting Bull in 1877 who experienced the link between the genocide of First Nations people and a greed driven world view born of conquest.
When Gandhi said, "You must be the change you desire to see in the word," he wasn't kidding. A change from fear to trust, greed to creativity, lust to beauty takes a life-time. It happens slowly. Always in small ways. So, in the years that remain I find that I am planting flowers. And herbs. Practicing scales and giving my days over to music-making with skilled and loving colleagues. Traveling six hours north to be with my soul friends at L'Arche Ottawa. Nothing very big. Just small forays into the practice of beauty. One of my favorite John Lennon lyrics puts it like this: "Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream..." Perhaps one day you'll join us.