When I was in college I remember making a “Great Discovery.” I was so pleased with myself! I don’t remember what it was anymore, but I remember being thrilled by my own wisdom, and proud of myself— until I found that Plato had said it first. Such a letdown. I remember a few years later during my Junior Year Abroad in Italy, going skiing with my cousin over Christmas break at a place he’d found called Cervinia. I arrived in dead of night and the next morning, when I looked out the window the mountain, so majestic with its high crags and peaks, took my breath away. “Why has no one ever talked about Cervinia? This place ought to be famous! “ I was all set to report on it. Then I discovered that on the far side, in Switzerland, the mountain was called the Matterhorn!
Everything I’ve ever learnt or seen in my long and interesting life, has already been discovered, usually millennia before I was born. And nothing that I know is unusual. Do you know what I mean? Do you remember the first time you fell in love? Do you remember thinking, “No one has ever felt like this before!” And of course it is true; no one had felt it before because no one had been you before, and therefore the experience you were feeling was the first for you, for the first time ever. We are all like Eve in Eden opening her marvelling eyes on the first day of her life. Again and again in our lives we get to experience what others have discovered before, and in no way is the experience diminished by use: each time new, each time fresh. Each time Eve, stepping out on the dew-shining grass, marvelling, in awe.
Today, instead of some illusion of insight, I point to other people’s sayings and lovely thoughts. Thank God for the rest of you! Thank god for the beauty and bounty of this earth, and the wisdom dropping generation after generation.
As in this Inuit song:
I think over again my small adventures,
… My fears,
Those small ones that seemed so big.
For all the vital things I had to get and to reach.
And yet there is only one great thing,
The only thing.
To live to see … the great day that dawns
And the light that fills the world.
Or this, from the beautiful spiritual teacher Ticht Naht Hahn: “We have to walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the Earth. Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.”
Listen to the media and it’s dog-eat-dog out there, and we’d best cower under the covers and never get out of bed. While all the time, the planet is revolving round our sun and all over the globe mothers are cooing to their babies, and fathers are helping their neighbors or protecting and playing with their families. Goodness surrounds us all the long day, if we can only recognize it. Thousands of spiritual essays and personal posts sweep the internet, encouraging us.
Earlier I mentioned the spoken-word “Blabs” of Margaret Dulaney’s Listenwell.com. Look also for the postings of the author and Franciscan friar, Richard Rohr from Albuquerque, who was called by PBS, “one of the most popular spirituality authors and speakers in the world.” Look for his daily meditations from the Center for Action and Contemplation.
“Once we know that the entire physical world around us,[he writes] all of creation, is both the hiding place and the revelation place for God, this world becomes home, safe, enchanted, offering grace to any who look
deeply. I call that kind of deep and calm seeing “contemplation.”
Or check out FaithShapes, in Alabama, at Faithshapes.com/new/category/words-of-wisdom, which is the site of a lovely spiritual woman just wanting to send out encouragement and love. Or Zencrunch by Christina. Or one of my favorite organizations, Silent Unity, based in Unity Village Missouri, whose sole purpose for 150 years has been to teach, heal, comfort and pray. Anyone can call (800-Now-PRAY) and ask for prayers, some which are answered before I have even put down the phone. Or simply go on the internet and type in “wisdom.” You find such quotes: “Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom” by Francis Bacon.
I’m amazed at the numbers of inspiriting and inspiring videos on U-Tube. It is good to remember that the Universe is pouring blessings onto us, anointing us with goodness, even in the midst of sorrow and fear and grief. It is good to recognize that gratitude and humility bring serenity beyond our wildest dreams; that angels surround us, with nourishment, warmth, comfort, caring; and that love springs up like the grass in springtime, even in our old age, and nothing we can do can keep out love. We are loved, loved, loved. At the very core of our being, the cells of our body, we are made of love, and we love, love, therefore, throbbing and radiating out of us even when we don’t feel it, even in the midst of fear and grief.
The poets are there to tell us, like this by Adrienne Rich:
“My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,
with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.”
Or this much beloved piece by Mary Oliver:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
As for myself, in the face of such wisdom, generation after generation, what can I do but move into silence, hoping as Francis Bacon promises, that “Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom.” Read, pray, watch.