Shadow Souls

Flare up like flame
And make big shadows I can move in.

Rainer Maria Rilke 


I, 59 

God speaks to each of us as he makes us, 
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear: 

You, sent out beyond your recall, 
go to the limits of your longing. 

Embody me. 

Flare up like flame 
and make big shadows I can move in. 

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. 
Just keep going. No feeling is final. 
Don’t let yourself lose me. 

Nearby is the country they call life. 
You will know it by its seriousness. 

Give me your hand.


Rainer Maria Rilke
In Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God
Trans. Anita Barrows

Patience

30 

Not making war 

A Taoist wouldn’t advise a ruler 
to use force of arms for conquest; 
that tactic backfires. 

Where the army marched 
grow thorns and thistles. 
After the war 
come the bad harvests. 
Good leaders prosper, that’s all, 
not presuming on victory. 
They prosper without boasting, 
or domineering, or arrogance, 
prosper because they can’t help it, 
prosper without violence. 

Things flourish then perish. 
Not the Way. 
What’s not the Way 
soon ends.

Lao Tzu : Tao Te Ching : A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way
Le Guin, Ursula K.; Tzu, Lao

31 

Against war 

Even the best weapon 
is an unhappy tool, 
hateful to living things. 
So the follower of the Way 
stays away from it. 

Weapons are unhappy tools, 
not chosen by thoughtful people, 
to be used only when there is no choice, 
and with a calm, still mind, 
without enjoyment. 
To enjoy using weapons 
is to enjoy killing people, 
and to enjoy killing people 
is to lose your share in the common good. 

It is right that the murder of many people 
be mourned and lamented. 
It is right that a victor in war 
be received with funeral ceremonies.

Lao Tzu : Tao Te Ching : A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way
Le Guin, Ursula K.; Tzu, Lao

Every day lately, I feel myself teetering on a precipice of despair, barely catching myself from falling over. Every day I heave many sighs of relief that somewhere someone has remembered the common good.  That somewhere someone has chosen nonviolence, and it has made all the difference. Then I begin the next day teetering and sighing.

Patience is a difficult spiritual practice for me. I desire the magnanimity to allow myself and others to grow at the pace we are able to grow but instead, I often despair over our human limitations. The practice of patience is a way to get through this time of social rancor.

Breathing in,   I am patient.
Breathing out, I release despair.

Breathing in,   I am patient.
Breathing out, I release shame.

Breathing in,   I am patient.
Breathing out, I release blame.

Breathing in,   I am patient.
Breathing out, I release impatience.
Breathing in,   I am patient.

May it be so.

What We See Is Not Always What We Get

Mass shootings every other day, judges threatened and shot for verdicts handed down, masks ripped from the faces of those who need protection, coups plotted, police and military infiltrated by far right extremists. Enough of the list. I know I am nearing the end of my rope when I stop reading a work of fiction, or stop watching a drama which features a selfish, arrogant, seriously wounded character.  Too much reality for me right now. The stakes are too high.

Somehow this insight from Ursula K LeGuin in her translation of Lao Tzu : Tao Te Ching : A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way gives me a way to cope:

“…values and beliefs are not only culturally constructed but also part of the interplay of yin and yang, the great reversals that maintain the living balance of the world. To believe that our beliefs are permanent truths which encompass reality is a sad arrogance. To let go of that belief is to find safety.”


Perhaps, I am wondering, this moral upheaval is part of the process of reversal, and the outcome will bring us a re-visioning of communal values and beliefs. The way I see things now is morphing into how we see things, although at a painfully slow pace. It is given to me to live with integrity while paying attention to what is emerging. I pray to remain open, making every effort to understand.

Photo Credit: gawler.org