by Burton D. Carley
I do not know if the seasons remember their history or if the days and
nights by which we count time remember their own passing.
I do not know if the oak tree remembers its planting or if the pine
remembers its slow climb toward sun and stars.
I do not know if the squirrel remembers last fall’s gathering or if the
bluejay remembers the meaning of snow.
I do not know if the air remembers September or if the night remembers
I do not know if the earth remembers the flowers from last spring or if
the evergreen remembers that it shall stay so.
Perhaps that is the reason for our births—to be the memory for
Perhaps salvation is something very different than anyone ever expected.
Perhaps this will be the only question we will have to answer:
“What can you tell me about September?”
The innocent mistake that keeps us caught in our own particular style of ignorance, unkindness, and shut-downness is that we are never encouraged to see clearly what is, with gentleness. Instead, there’s a kind of basic misunderstanding that we should try to be better than we already are, that we should try to improve ourselves, that we should try to get away from painful things, and that if we could just learn how to get away from the painful things, then we would be happy. That is the innocent, naïve misunderstanding that we all share, which keeps us unhappy.
~ Pema Chödron
Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.
~ Henri Nouwen
It’s not enough to love something–or someone. Of course you love a person or art or music or the theatre. But you have to imagine that this person or this thing is trapped in a house afire, and the fire is apathy, and the fire is ignorance, and you have to go into the house all the time, day after day, year after year, and put out the flames and save the thing you love and rebuild the house in which it lives, and show it to others who will come to the rescue when you no longer can. Love is cheap and silly–a moron can love ice cream–but devotion is something worth talking about.
–Eva Le Gallienne
We sat in silence, letting the green in the air heal what it could.
Life itself is as much a long walk as it is a long conversation, and the ways along which we walk are those along which we live.
~ Tim Ingold, Ways of Walking
Searching for spring all day, I never saw it,
straw sandals treading everywhere
among the clouds, along the banks.
Coming home, I laughed, catching
the plum blossom’s scent:
spring at each branch tip, already perfect.
~ unknown zen nun from the Song Dynasty (trans. by Sam Hammill and J.P. Seaton, The Poetry of Zen)
We can no longer hear the voice of the rivers, the mountains, or the sea. The trees and meadows are no longer intimate modes of spirit presence. The world about us has become an ‘it’ rather than a ‘thou.’
~ Thomas Berry
What is needed is a new pattern of rapport with the planet. Here we come to the critical transformation needed in the emotional, aesthetic, spiritual, and religious orders of life. Only a change that profound in human consciousness can remedy the deep cultural pathology manifest in such destructive behavior. Such change is not possible, however, so long as we fail to appreciate the planet that provides us with a world abundant in the volume and variety of food for our nourishment, a world exquisite in supplying beauty of form, sweetness of taste, delicate fragrances for our enjoyment, and exciting challenges for us to overcome with skill and action. The poets and artists can help restore this sense of rapport with the natural world. It is this renewed sense of reciprocity with nature, in all of its complexity and remarkable beauty, that can help provide the psychic and spiritual energies necessary for the work ahead.
~ Thomas Berry, The Sacred Universe
Our bones know the way of things. Our guts understand what baffles the mind. The soul or spirit is often most clearly manifest in the sensations and language of the body. We feel called towards or driven away by people, places, and things at the gut/bone level. The head can then clarify or obscure this information, or choose to work with or against this body-knowledge.
~ Aidan Wachter, from ‘Six Ways: Approaches & Entries for Practical Magic’
I urge you to find a way to immerse yourself fully in the life you’ve been given. To stop running from whatever you’re trying to escape, and instead to stop, and turn, and face whatever it is. Then I dare you to walk toward it. In this way, the world may reveal itself to you as something magical and awe-inspiring that does not require escape. Instead, the world may become something worth paying attention to.
~ Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence by Anna Lembke