Wednesday, April 29, 2009

All the Gifts of Life

I borrowed two books from my church last week and read them both over the weekend (both were quick little books). The first was Notes to Myself: My struggle to become a person by Hugh Prather. It was so-so. In keeping with my previous post about identity, selfhood/selflessness, personality, etc., I marked several relevant quotes to share:

"While I am worrying about what you think of me I am not open to you, I am not letting you in; in fact, I am not letting you exist as a person--I am making you my mirror. While I am concerned with what you are thinking about me I am not even thinking about you."

"I learn most about myself by observing myself in relation to others. When I examine myself by myself I am actually examining the results of a previous encounter. Perceptions are not of things but of relationships. Nothing, including me, exists by itself--this is an illusion of words. I am a relationship, ever-expanding."

"People in cars passing by my car, people walking past me on the street, someone leaving a shop as I enter, Gayle coming through the door from work, Willie getting his mail as I get mine, and with each one of these little brushings-against, these encounters big and small, I leave something behind. If I can feel what I pick up from them, certainly on some level they can feel my state also. What, then, is the trail behind me composed of? Does not this 'gift to the world,' by its very enormity, outweigh all others?"

I have a particular interest (and a complicated partially written essay) about gratitude and "you're so lucky" type comments, so I also marked a quote about that:

"The thought, 'You're lucky, it could have been worse,' is the kind of gratitude I can do without. It also could have been better, or actually, it couldn't have been any other way than the way it was."

The second book was All the Gifts of Life. It was a collection of short essays/meditations by a couple of different UU authors. One was about "detachment" and whether it is desirable or not:

"It is only through our detachment that we are able to rend the ozone layer, poison the air and the seas, exterminate whole species of animals, and burn the rain forests. There are times when some detachment is appropriate and necessary. But the greatest source of evil in our time may be that we are too detached from people, and too detached from the earth. If we meet everything objectively, then there is no sacredness and no mystery."

I thought this was an interesting twist--people are often urged to "be objective" and it is interesting to consider what kind of detachment that promotes.

The second page I marked was kind of a take-off of the classic Ecclesiastes "for everything there is a season...":

The Light can represent the light of Spirit that ebbs and flows inside us as we feel sometimes drained and dusty, and other times energetic, enthusiastic, and supple. Some times in our lives are spirited times and others are dispirited times. As we contemplate the meanings of the dark times and the light times, the earth-based traditions would caution us against using The Dark as a symbol for all that is negative. If we use 'darkness' to speak about ignorance, depression, and evil, we speak as if it would be best to have no darkness at all, to have light all the time. That would be awful. there is a season for dark and a season for light.

Is it possible then that there is a time to feel energetic and a time to feel drained in the rhythm of life? A time to let life and energy flow outward from you, and a time for it to flow inward? Maybe the ebb and flow of Spirit is a rhythm that is good to feel. Maybe in our growing into wholeness there is a time to feel dusty and dry, 'hard as iron' like the winter ground, and stony as winter water. Maybe instead of worrying and suffering over those feelings we could settle into them, knowing that there is a time for cold and time for warmth, a time to be energetic and a time to rest, a time to grow and a time to stay where you are, a time for the light of reason and a time for other ways of knowing. Maybe we could walk in beauty and balance more easily if we could welcome the dark time, trusting that when it reaches its full strength, things will begin their tilt back in the other direction. Nothing stays the same in the flow of things. All things seek their balance and their rhythm. The wheel will always turn...


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