I’ve chosen that double-dip name for my blog (Sophy-wisdom), first because Sophy is my Christened name, spelt like that, with a “y,” and then because all my life I’ve been straining and struggling to find wisdom.
There is a saying in the 12-step Alcoholic Anonymous program that “You will not regret the past, nor wish to close the door on it.” And mostly this is true, except when I find myself awake in the darkest hours of a morning night defenseless against the Inner Judge who prowls the corridors of my mind, slashing the heads off any blooming optimism with his savage cane. Why am I so helpless at that dark hour? Are all the angels sleeping still?
It has set me thinking: Where did I learn that although lesser mortals may make mistakes I’m not allowed to? Of course, we were taught so many axioms as children that are downright wrong. For example: Opportunity Knocks But Once. NONSENSE! I shout. Observation and experience have shown me that so generous is Providence, so loving, so adventurous, that She offers opportunities over and over and over again; and never does She feel annoyed by our refusal to accept. “You don’t like that opportunity? She cries out tenderly, Here! Try this one instead.”
Here’s another thing that I was taught at my elders’ perfectionist knees: that mistakes are bad. Yet how many times have I made a mistake, tripped off in a completely wrong direction, only to discover the misstep was a blessing. Continue reading
May is Osteoporosis Month, whatever that means. It’s also, as most people in the USA know by now, Mother’s Day on the second Sunday of the month, when I phone my children to remind them that they have a loving mother without whom (plus chance, God, a father and doctors) they would not be doing whatever they are doing right now.
It’s also the month when I remember longingly my own mother. I waken in the balmy dark, the stars still swinging gallantly overhead, and squirm with regrets made harsher by my defenselessness in these black hours. Did I tell my mother I loved her? Certainly I never sent a card. My mother was a woman of strong convictions. When she told us, voice dripping with scorn, of her disdain for a Hallmark day—created by Business to make people drop their well-earned money on soppy cards for the benefit of some unknown Business—none of us would have dreamt of sending her a card.
But lying anguished in bed at 4:00 a.m. with the bats of remorse battering at my brainpan, I wonder if her scorn was not a defense, to ensure that she would not be disappointed when she didn’t receive a card. Why did I never send my mother a Mother’s Day card in spite of her disapproval? Or phone. Did I ever phone? Continue reading
“Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: That the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issue from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. ”
W. H. Murray The Scottish Himalayan Expedition
If you get lost in life, put your ear to the ground and listen to its pounding heart.
Old Sami saying
As I write this one cold and windy March, I find myself longing for April springtime, with the flowers blooming yellow, pink, and blue against green grass and the trees stretch and come awake. By April, here in the mid-Atlantic states, the little leaves of trees uncurl so fast that in only hours they are waving their little paws in delight. The squirrels dash up and down the wrinkled bark, and birds raise a chorus of alleluias to the equinoxian light.
“If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life,”wrote the novelist George Eliot, “it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of the roar which lies on the other side of silence.”
Surely if we had ears keen enough, we would hear the thunder of the tulips as they thrust violently up through the soil, unfurling leaves and blooms, or we’d hear the low bass of the petrichoring rocks, lifting dusty faces to be washed. This is the time when we are called to go out “forest bathing,” as the Japanese call it, though most of us, living in cities, have to make an effort to be in the presence of tall trees. So, let us talk, now, about trees—and of the only vicious tree I’ve ever met. Continue reading
My blog is infected with ads. Does anyone know how to get rid of them? If not, I may shut it down rather than submit my readers (if there are any) to the bullying intrusion of ads. I am furious. It’s expression of the demonic; and I’m not teasing, for don’t most examples of the Dark Side come as minor irritating insignificant malicious little interventions, and not the dramatic fire and fury that we associate with a fork-tailed, goat-footed, grinning, hairy, evil Satan. What do I do (apart from praying)? Does anyone out there know?
And now for stories, two new and happy ones. Because, especially during trying times, we need the hopeful stories. We need to remember that the Universe is always reaching out to us, loving and laughing. The question is, Can we hear? Someone once wrote, “Pain is the touchstone of the spiritual life.” But I think joy is the touchstone to the spiritual. So, here comes joy.
Thirteen years ago I bought my beautiful half-Arab mare. I met her when she was only three years old, and riding her that day in New Mexico, I (an experienced rider since childhood) thought how unusual she was. I had never met a horse so attuned to me, so willing, so trusting, so courageous. And so kind! Yet she was still a baby. I remember Continue reading
In dark December, when everyone was harking to angels and the return of the Light, the Atlantic Monthlypublished a story about demonic possession. (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/arcive/2018/23/catholic-exorcisms-on-the-rise/573943.) An acquaintance made sure I saw it: “I know you write about angels,” he wrote. “What do you think of demons?”
Well, I seen the demonic, and I guess I have to tell at least one story. So now I will walk with you into the darkness that I don’t like even to think about, for you cannot believe in the Light without recognizing the shadows that it casts. But first, some background:
The AtlanticMonthlyarticle is long and well researched. I recommend it. It tells of the ancient Babylonian priests who cast wax figurines of demons into a fire, of the Hindu Vedas, that date to 1500 BCE, and speak of supernatural beings that try to spread evil and malice in our lives. It describes one exorcism of 1831, in which the poor girl froths at the mouth and takes on a different screaming personality—until delivered. The article describes through the years the inspirations for Willliam Peter Blatty’s 1971 horror novel, the Exorcism, the 1973, film of which is considered one of the most frightening movies ever made.
Gallup Polls conducted in recent decades suggest that roughly half of Americans believe in demonic possession. Those who believe in the Devil, or Satan, rose from 55% in 1990 to 70% in 2007. Continue reading
Not long ago a Canadian wrote me about a mysterious encounter he’d had with a homeless man, Helmut, who always carried in his shopping bags spiritual books, herbs, treats and notebooks, and you could imagine that many people thought this ragged man was probably a little crazy. But curiously, he seemed to turn up whenever this man was facing a difficult situation, and then he would say something helpful One night they stood for nearly 40 minutes in the cold outside a Starbucks talking of spiritual matters. “And in a flash I saw the image of a bright Being behind and around him. He was filled with light, and I could see his light.”
At the same time, “I was filled with peace and joy. Was he an angel?” he asked, and then to my surprise: “Or was he simply a human evidencing the light we all emit—the light of love?”
That’s the question, isn’t it? Continue reading
Every October, with its falling leaves and brilliant colors, I’m reminded of my father’s death: October 30 the night before Halloween. My mother had died three years earlier, leaving our father, stroke-ridden, in our house. What was curious, whenever I visited Daddy, I could feel my mother in the house. Her spirit was so strong that it was all I could do to keep from calling out to her as I opened the door. I felt as if her spirit was waiting for him, hovering in the house, concerned for him and for his care by nurses, not wanting to “go over” until he, her lifelong partner, was ready to go with her too. It’s a great love story. And yet, when Daddy died, they were both immediately gone! You felt it. The house felt empty. This was so apparent that I remember asking my brother— “Did you call the limousine for the wedding–I mean the funeral?”
But that wasn’t what I wanted to tell you. I wanted to tell about his death. At the time I had a writer’s grant to live for three months at the Wurlitzer Foundation in New Mexico, and I remember that on that morning of October 30 I experienced a very clear “knowing” that I should call my father at 9:00 that night. Continue reading
My friend Janine who runs http://www.faithscapes.com is running a series on monthly gemstones. The stone for September is sapphire, who knows why? (For that matter who made up the order of any of the 12 monthly gemstones, or put another way—to whose financial benefit? ) Well, I’m not even going to go there. I want to talk about the color blue and then to tell about a miracle, a true miracle, though the miracle, like the color blue itself, might lie in the eye of the beholder. (Miracle: from Latin miraculum ‘object of wonder’, from mirari ‘to wonder’, from mirus ‘wonderful’.)
Blue is a playful, shape-shifting color. “I’m blue,” we say, when we feel low, or “happy as a bluebird,” for up. We speak of the “blue skies” of good fortune, and “flying into the blue” when we feel utterly ecstatic. And yet there are only a few shades of blue in nature—unlike green which has so many hues that you’d think, when walking in the woods, that God would have run out of paints for the palette.
Hold off on the miracle. We’ll come to that. First, I want to talk about blue. All of us who love the Greek classics, The Iliad and the Odyssey, notice the curious lack of color. So strange is this that some scholars wonder if the people of 1000 or 1200 BCE were color blind. The poet speaks of “the color of iron,” or “black blood” and “the wine-dark sea” — and this is so pervasive that when I went to Greece I searched that clear turquoise water in puzzlement, expecting the Aegean to be a stormy wine-red dark. True, the Iliad refers Continue reading
Perhaps because of my name and its derivation, wisdom (philo-sophy: the love of wisdom), I have a special relationship with wisdom. I remember when I was a teenager that my prayer — with heart-yearning anguish — was “To Understand.”
“Understand what?” someone might have asked, had I opened the secret tablets of my heart.
“All of it!” I would have cried dramatically, “Who am I?” “What is this Universe–and Why is it here, not there?” And these were only the simple questions. “Why do plants grow petals in odd numbers?” “What if something is faster than light?” And always, Einstein’s question: “Is the Universe a friendly place?” And then one day, sometime in my middle years, I realized with a burst of joy that Continue reading