In the meantime

Quote

ominous times

“Meantime … that’s when the mean men come.”
– my own definition, circa age 5

Seems we are living in the meantime.
Seems the mean men have come.
When a mother dies, trying to shield her children from gunfire,
And the children are killed, too.
It is the meantime.

When the mean men come to power
And bend that power to their own advantage
Leaving behind the families who struggle to make ends meet
And then claim they are serving the nation
It is the meantime.

When the mean men use their power
To abuse and then silence the women around them
Who take their dignity and threaten their life and livelihood, too
Sometimes taking that, as well,
It is the meantime.

When the mean men point their fingers and shout
Trying to distract us all from their abuses
Blaming anyone who looks different or seems powerless
For the outcomes their own system perpetuates
It is the meantime.

When the mean men are ready to do whatever it takes
To preserve their positions of privilege – of wealth and of power
Building walls and buying guns, hoping to keep themselves secure
Not understanding that the imbalance and separation is their greatest risk
It is the meantime.

When white men and women (like myself)
Wear privilege like underarmour
So tight that it seems to us like our ‘natural’ skin
We think it hides our flaws beneath its smooth whiteness
It is the meantime.

I am complicit in the coming of the meantime.
The mean men don’t have to be men (though they often are)
They don’t have to be white (though it makes it more likely)
We just have to be small, stingy, self-absorbed –
Another definition of mean.

Can I also be complicit in changing the times?
Oh, I do hope so.
And the first step must be outside my own walls.
It is time to leave the meantime behind
But how?

It cannot be done through power and privilege
All my usual tools do not avail
I will not figure it out on my own
My head is too small and my eyes too blind
Will you take my hand and help me not be mean?

[photo by Oiluj Samall Zeid per cc 2.0]

down is up

via dolorosaThe way down is the way up. – Richard Rohr

I don’t want to follow you on the way down.
I don’t want illness, weakness, failure, or sadness.
And I don’t think that you want me to want such things …
The goal for my soul is not mortification, any more than it is glorification.

The goal is you.

The trick seems to be that the elements of pleasure –
Fullness, satisfaction, acclaim, power, capacity –
Feel so good, that they quickly divert my desire.
‘The pursuit of happiness,’ is a siren song.
It is like sugar for my soul – empty calories that leave me wanting more.

On the other hand, loss is not a distraction for my desire.
Instead, the experience of loss drives me closer to you.
It is at those moments when my soul desperately cries out for you.
So, I must admit that there may be something to Rohr’s contention
That the way up is down.

The Via Dolorosa, the path of sorrows, is not to be sought,
But neither is it to be avoided at all costs,
Especially since even ‘all costs’ will not keep it away.
Even Jesus did not choose suffering
What he chose was to give himself to God.

[photo by Racineur per cc 2.0]

You think you are better than me

tension

You think you are better than me.
Of course, you are not.
But that does not make me better than you, either.

We are one.

Ugh!
That must make you uncomfortable.
It certainly makes me squirm.

Amazingly, that oneness doesn’t make us the same, either.
The mystery is that we are both uniquely a part
Of the universal One.

Like the left hand and the right,
Like the ear and the eye,
Our difference is a gift to the whole.

Indeed, it is that difference that makes it whole.

Until I put away my need to be complete on my own,
I will always be incomplete.
(Why is that always such a surprise?)

[image modified from a photo by Luc Blain per cc 2.0]
[I send apologies to my English teacher friends, lest you think you are better than I (am). Of course, as friends, you would never think that. I just needed to follow the voice of the small child who still runs around on the playground in my head.]

too much armor

Harness by Seamus Moran

At what point do you become so self-protected that you can no longer do the thing you were created to do?  How much protection do you need—and how much can you bear before you stop being able to grow, or fly? – Quinn Caldwell

What is God’s will for a wing? Every bird knows that. – Saint Teresa of Avila

What will our children do in the morning if they do not see us fly? – Rumi 

I wanted to write that this rich conversation between artists helped to fortify my soul … but fortification is the problem, isn’t it?

Freedom is a scary, precious thing, calling life to life in all its tender vulnerability.

May we all be brave enough to fly into the face of fear with thundering wing and gentle feather.

 

[The photo is of the sculpture “Harness” by Seamus Moran, as posted to his  Facebook page.  You can also view his work at www.seamusmoran.com. Used with permission.]

 

 

 

Our future’s history

One dark night – I think it was in the early 20’s or just before – there was a great and terrible storm in Denton. It engulfed the whole city, especially the city center.

soldier monumentOn the south side of the square, there was a bolt of lightening as bright as the light on the Damascus road, and that young confederate soldier looked up. He shook his stone head and covered his eyes. When the flash and rumble had subsided, he put down his rifle and climbed down from that arch.

As he was climbing down, he stepped for a moment on the old water fountain on one side of the base of the arch and it crumbled under his weight. From it sprang an arch of water that sprayed up – higher than the stone arch, itself – and fell just to the other side. Seeing that, the young soldier moved to the other side of the arch and raised his foot and stepped down on the fountain on that side, crumbling it and releasing an arch of water that rose and joined the first in mirror image.

Suddenly there was another crack of lightening. It struck the stone arch and broke it into a thousand pieces, but the arches of water remained, dancing in the bursts of lightening that continued to spark the night around him.

Then Johnny went to work. He took the pieces of the stone arch and began to fit together a mosaic that extended up the sidewalk toward the courthouse. It was tedious work. He had to fit and re-fit the pieces until they came together well. As the night wore on, he realized that he would not be able to finish his work before daybreak, when the spell of his re-enchantment would break. He sat back in despair and dropped his head into his hands.

Then, slowly, he noticed dozens of other forms had gathered round him – men and women, boys and girls, a diversity of faces and voices. They all took up the task with him – fitting the pieces of the mosaic along the line of the sidewalk, moving northward. The continuing rain created a small stream that ran through their work, from the courthouse to the water-arches. The gathered throng finished the mosaic just as the rain stopped and the sun ran its rosy finger across the horizon.

Johnny stepped back to admire the view, resting his tired form upon the wall of courthouse, his feet planted among the low bushes that ring the building. A shaft of sunlight fell upon him and the spell was broken. Johnny turned back to stone. He stands there now, gazing out upon a different world than the one he knew when he was soldering. There is a new look of pride in his stance – one that sprang from his change of heart, from his awakening to a world where difference is strength and where the circle of his heart was expanded with one great lightening strike. It is the same world where we can learn and grow and work together, as our hearts, too, are changed.

The dawn now finds its reflection in the small stream that, miraculously, continues to run from the seat of justice to the water-arch. There, on a hot summer day, the children of Denton cool themselves as they splash together. They, in their laughter, continue to write our future’s history.

[images from the Portal to Texas History ]

the whisper

mysteryThere is a holy whisper in the universe.
Sometimes it is hard for my heart to hear it.
Sometimes I even doubt its presence.
But then, I am overcome by beauty.
And I am reminded.
It is so.

Sometimes it seems I will be pulled apart by chaos.
So much in disarray.
So much violence and anger.
So much pain and terror.
But deep below it all, there is an anchor of truth.
It holds me, still.

I often wish for a different reality.
I even try to make it so.
But my small fictions cannot do the trick.
The real is real.
And the very deepest real,
Is a call to unity – even in the midst of chaos.

Much of that struggle and pain
Is created when my fictions strike up against yours.
Even so, the struggle and the pain are real,
They stretch and tear and bind.
They do hurt – immensely.
But they are not eternal.

How can I release myself to the seeming chaos?
How can I become a part of that deep unity,
Without loosing myself?
So, I continue to construct my fictional self
Out of the rubble of my efforts.
All to no avail.

I fight the inevitable
Like a small child fighting sleep.
I whine and struggle, rock and fidget.
I push against the embrace
Until I can resist no longer
And I fall into peace.

And here is the wonder of it all
I am held in the arms of truth.
The chaos is not random.
It tumbles into patterns of fractal beauty
Where I am both lost and found
And my heart at last can hear that holy whisper.

[photo ashokboghani by per cc 2.0]

[Thanks to Richard Rohr, in his meditation blog, for helping me begin to see.]

ask, seek, knock

doorwaysYour words to me:
Ask, seek, knock.

So, what do I ask?
I ask to know You.
No small ask, for a small me.
Yet somehow I dare to hope
That it is your call
Echoing within me,
Evoking this desire.

Oh Holy One,
I ask to know you.

And what do I seek?
I seek a deeper understanding,
One centered in my heart
Rather than my head.
One that helps to anchor my soul
In a truth too big for explanation.
Big enough to lose myself,
So that I might be found.

Oh Holy One,
I seek understanding.

So where do I knock?
I knock on the door of your heart.
I knock on the side of the mountain.
I knock up against the daily news.
I knock on the walls of my cell.
I knock inside my skull.

Everywhere I turn,
Whatever I encounter,
I knock.
Surely you are there,
Since you are everywhere,
And any doorway is a threshold
To encounter.

Oh Holy One,
I knock.

[image edited from photo by Joanna Paterson per cc 2.0]