Gerard Manley Hopkins
WHEN will you ever, Peace,
wild wooddove, shy wings shut,
Your round me roaming end, and
under be my boughs?
When, when, Peace, will you,
Peace? I’ll not play
To own my heart: I yield you do
come sometimes; but
That piecemeal peace is poor
peace. What pure peace
Alarms of wars, the daunting
wars, the death of it?
O surely, reaving Peace, my
Lord should leave in lieu
Some good! And so he does leave
That plumes to Peace thereafter.
And when Peace here
He comes with work to do, he
does not come to coo,
He comes to brood and sit.
D-Day at Seventy Years
As I do my morning dishes National Public Radio reports from Normandy, and my reflections spiral into a deep longing for another way to define “The Greatest Generation.” For me it would be a generation which refuses to be satisfied with a “piecemeal peace,’ but instead does the hard work of self- examination and conversion, work which leads to whole and lasting peace.
Today I choose to honor the hundreds of men who refused to go to Normandy, and those who risked scorn and poverty to support them. They were men who believed that if we as human beings had been awake and living lives of nonviolence, the dictators would have been kept from power and D-Day would not have happened. You can read their stories and learn about the film,”The Good War And Those Who Refused to Fight It,” at http://www.pbs.org/itvs/thegoodwar/ww2pacifists.html. The film is available from PBS USA and likely from your public library collection. Clips are available on youtube.
Gerard Manley Hopkins
“Spring and Fall”
to a young child
Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name: Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.
Recently the Seattle area experienced two back-to-back wind and rain storms, so severe that the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge was closed. Police officers had to escort a few traumatized drivers to safety.
Still today, I see leaves clinging to trees as if they don’t know they should have fallen last week, or, as if they refuse to fall until they are ready. Driving through the city I spontaneously burst into several rounds of “Rocky” music, shouting raucously, “You go, leaves!” I think this is a healthy spiritual practice.
But the leaves must fall, and
November must come,
Lest there be no spring.
There must be spring.
I have long prayed with Gerard Manley Hopkins. He is my modern Meister Eckhart, and another profound mystic. On a retreat many years ago, this poem became a call to integrity for me. The gloriously colored leaves remind me of the artist and mystic in each of us. Contemporary society often fears and therefore shuns that aspect of ourselves. I learned that we need to mourn that loss and commit ourselves to nurture it back to life. We should mourn when something beautiful dies, because, “It is Margaret [we] mourn for.”
When all is said and done our call in this life is simple: Love God, Love Self, Love Others. Love is born through a rigorous process of disarming the heart. it is an act of unparalleled trust. It frightens us, so we fiercely protect our center like petals protecting the heart of a flower . The choice to unveil the beauty of the center leaves us vulnerable, so we resist and protect it. I am deeply grateful for the witness of many prophets who faithfully do the hard work of disarming so that they can preach the truth from a clean place. Because they are doing it, I believe that it is possible.
The practice of disarming the heart is so important, that without it, we have no moral authority to do justice. Our call to do justice presupposes the call to let go of the ego entrapments that motivate us: unbridled power, arrogance, addictive control, unfocused fear, selfish competition, resentment. The more these attitudes motivate us, the more we stifle dialogue with an adversary; however, knowledge and acceptance of our entrapments create openness and opportunity for dialogue. Paradoxically, this is a very strong place from which to do justice. When we are committed to disarming the heart, we are truly “walking the talk.”
Although the practice of disarming the heart is difficult, we can do it in simple and practical ways. Foremost, the process necessitates a degree of solitude and silence in which we have the space to allow peace to germinate. Without peace we cannot bore through the clamor of ego enough to see and recognize the needs of one another, much less the needs of the world. We unconsciously allow the clamor to persist because it throws a safe cloak around our inner core. We fear the power of our deepest self because if that gift is acknowledged, life becomes dangerous and demanding. It’s easier to hide the prophet in us. But we must do the work, and expose the prophet, because unconscious “peace” only plays at doing justice.
Within the moments of silence and solitude which we carve out, saying mantras can be a powerful spiritual tool. For four years I leafleted weekly at a nuclear submarine base in Puget Sound. To stay alert and focused at 6:00 A.M. I recited, “Come Lord Jesus, set us free.” It was a plea to let go of the fear and prejudice which blocked leafleters and workers from honest dialogue. Sometimes preoccupied by angry challenges, or still half asleep, I forgot to say the mantra. A frequent traveler into the base came in a pickup truck with a rifle on a rack. I would think, “Oh, does this guy hate me.” One day I was able to pay attention when the truck came through. The driver looked depressed, and from some place in me I blurted, “How are you this morning?” He responded, “How am I? I’m terrible. How else would I be, having to go in there every day and do the work I have to do?” We were connected from that moment on, because We both had allowed the Spirit to disarm our egos.
We are sometimes unable to dialogue peacefully because we cache resentment and blame, finger tip-ready to call up on queue. Such arming of the heart causes violence and blocks progress toward achieving justice. Buddhists have a practice of forgiveness in which they pray to forgive self and others for all conscious and unconscious harmful acts. I think this prayer should be a part of every training for nonviolent action, and a daily practice for anyone serious about falling in love with God, self, and others.
Finally, I want to say something on behalf of ego. I embrace it, because it’s in the mix of being human. Like the petals which surround the heart of the flower, it has a purpose. When strong and focused, it keeps us safe and gives us the courage to love. The goal is to harness the ego, not annihilate it. We want to have a sense of humor about it all, lest we become zealots to whom no one wants to listen. Meister Eckhart says that “God laughs and plays,” and that works for me! The more fear we have of exposing our own complicity in injustice, the more inclined we are to set up protective barriers; however, if we hold our own flawed natures lightly, we are less likely to attack our adversaries for their flawed natures. Disarming in this way doesn’t mean we have to condone the unjust action. It simply means that we accept our commonality as human beings.
In his poem, “Peace,” Gerard Manley Hopkins offers a unique description of heart-disarmament: “And when peace here does house, he comes with work to do. He does not come to coo, he comes to brood and sit.” May our brooding create a peace which births justice.
“Disarmament of the Heart” was first published in AMOS, a journal of the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center, Seattle: ipjc.org