A Message to Friends, September 2008
Finally, nine days after Hurricane Ike ripped through East Texas, the electricity is back on at Earthsprings, so that I again have water, phone, and this computer. For days I have been outside giving thanks for the blessings of survival and for the energy to deal with the aftermath. I know that countless other people are in the same situation, or worse, such as those in the coastal areas like Galveston, Bolivar, and the Houston area. My prayers are with them all, and my gratitude goes out to all the workers who are called into overtime, round-the-clock service, often at risk to themselves.
One such fellow walked the path under my electric line just before the coop turned back on my electricity; the logo on his shirt showed that he came from many miles away, from an area west of San Antonio, to walk the woods and swamps in rural East Texas.
My daughter, a doctor working in a Houston clinic, saw 60 patients in one day, most of them workmen dealing with the hurricane recovery; one of them had fallen from a light pole.
On and on it goes, the weather damage, first here, then into the Midwest, now on the East Coast, as Mother Nature storms over climate change, and Mother Earth suffers under the blast of it.
And now we have a ‘storm’ in the financial markets, the economy in chaos, people in fear and outrage. Many individuals who normally are calm and reasonable are now in a state of anxiety and confusion, even paranoia.
We live in a critical time, and all our spiritual resources are being called forth and tested. Those of us who “feel everything” that goes on out there are especially vulnerable right now, and we need to remember the ways that we take care of ourselves to stay centered on what sustains us all.
Therefore, I felt it important to take a few minutes out from hauling limbs to speak to you, not just as Glenda, but as the director of the Fellowship of Comparative Religion, a spiritual community. In times like these, we all need to touch each other with our collective love and hope and prayers.
I picked up a book this morning that someone had left open to a page that I began to read. Here is some of what it said, under the heading of “The Discerning Voice” from John O’Donohue’s book Beauty.
“Human identity is complex. Nothing is ever given simply or immediately. Even the simplest act of perception has many layers. ..Time and memory often reveal things later that were staring us in the eye, but we never noticed them. The quest for the truth of things is never ending. To be human is to be ambivalent. Every experience is open to countless readings and interpretations. We never see a thing completely. In sure anticipation, our eyes have always already altered what awaits our gaze. The search for truth is difficult and uncomfortable. Because the mystery is too much for us, we may opt to settle for the surface of things. Comfort becomes more important than true presence. This is precisely why we need to hear the discerning voice.
“Somewhere in every heart there is a discerning voice. This voice distrusts the status quo. It sounds out the falsity in things and encourages dissent from the images things tend to assume. It underlines the secret crevices where the surface has become strained. It advises distance and opens up a new perspective through which the concealed meaning of a situation might emerge. …
“Its intention is to keep the heart clean and clear. This voice is an inner whisper not obvious or known to others outside…Yet much depends on that small voice. The truth of its whisper marks the line between honor and egoism, kindness and chaos. In extreme situations, which have been emptied of all shelter and tenderness, that small voice whispers from somewhere beyond and encourages the heart to hold out for dignity, respect, beauty and love. That whisper brings forgotten nobility into an arena where violence has traduced everything.
“This faithful voice can illuminate the dark lands of despair. It becomes both the sign and presence of a transcendence that no force or horror can extinguish. Each day in the world, in the prisons, hospitals and killing fields, against all the odds, this still, small voice continues to echo the beauty of the human being. In haunted places this voice carries the light of beauty like a magical lantern to transform desolation, to remind us that regardless of what may be wrenched from us, there is a dignity and hope that we do not have to lose. This voice brings us directly into contact with the inalienable presence of beauty in the soul.”
That reading strengthened me and reminded of the statement by an Eskimo medicine man, who answered the questions of an anthropologist who was trying to understand the native concept of spirituality. The shaman said, “The voice of the universe is a still small voice, and it says, ‘Be not afraid.’”
That is the best advice I have received for these times. Be not afraid. Deep in the heart and soul of each human, however stressed, anxious, angry, hurt, or outraged, there is a small voice, discerning, clear and pure, waiting to be heard, and it points us to a deeper truth than meets the eye on the surface of things.
It is beauty, not in the “cosmetic” sense of the word, but in the way the word is used by the Navajo, for example, who speak of beauty as the intrinsic rightness, the essential power of a thing, situation, or person. To call forth such beauty and rightness of power in times of crisis, to see the good and holy core within and beyond whatever “offness” may seem to be happening, to rely upon that beauty and power and wisdom within ourselves and to seek it in others—this is our calling today in these turbulent times.
So, I wanted to send you these simple words of my love and devotion, to you and to spirit and to the world itself.
Diverting my eyes from the tangle of a downed treetop ripped off by the storm winds and cast 30 feet away, I see instead the beauty of a hawk soaring on the wind, singing, singing.
Allowing the “discerning voice” that O’Donohue refers to above, I hear past so many strident, frightened, hostile voices, to hear instead, straight from their anguished hearts , the truth that so many people suffer in so many ways—mental, physical, spiritual.
And then, if I can make still my own immediate and surface reaction, I can hear the “still, small voice” of ultimate discernment, saying “Be Not Afraid.”
In the deepest heart of things, all is well, and we are all well in the heart of hearts that is Love Itself, Love Eternal, undeterred by chaos or storm, by finances or politics, by hope or by fear. Love will see us through.
Listen to that discerning voice, turn your eyes and attention to Beauty in its deepest form, be calm, be still, be well. We are one body of people, profoundly connected, prayerful, powerful. We are sustained as we life to serve to Life.
You are, more than ever, in my thoughts and prayers.
For more abut John O’Donohue see https://www.johnodonohue.com/