A Valentine’s Note from JCC: Songs and poems about different kinds of love: for people, for the world, for each other (hopeful, sad, reflective, rowdy)

SONGS about LOVE:

Blessing for the Brokenhearted  — Jan Richardson
There is no remedy for love but to love more. – Henry David Thoreau

Let us agree
for now
that we will not say
the breaking
makes us stronger
or that it is better
to have this pain
than to have done
without this love.

Let us promise
we will not
tell ourselves
time will heal
the wound,
when every day
our waking
opens it anew.

Perhaps for now
it can be enough
to simply marvel
at the mystery
of how a heart
so broken
can go on beating,
as if it were made
for precisely this—

as if it knows
the only cure for love
is more of it,

as if it sees
the heart’s sole remedy
for breaking
is to love still,

as if it trusts
that its own
persistent pulse
is the rhythm
of a blessing
we cannot
begin to fathom
but will save us
nonetheless.From The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief
© Jan Richardson (Wanton Gospeller Press, 2016). janrichardson.com


Beatitudes for Those Who Love
This prayer-poem is by Rev. Maren Tirabassi.

For Valentine’s Eve, Luke’s Beatitudes

Blessed are you who are poor
with no pink greeting cards or chocolate,
because you love someone with dementia –
for God remembers enough for both of you.

Blessed are you who are hungry for a love
forbidden by family or culture,
by law or religion,
by damage sustained in heart or spirit,
or by anyone who tears your family apart at a border–
because God promises you the taste of kisses.

Blessed are you who are shunned or bullied
in person and online for your body or your abilities,
for you will have a day  
when you will see yourself in a mirror
and laugh with joy at how God made you beautiful.

Blessed are you when someone
assumes the fact that you didn’t marry
means you don’t know about love,
or when they call a child you cherish –
“just a foster kid,”
or bar the way of the therapy dog
who holds your heart together,
because your wounds do not fit
their definitions,
or turn you away in tears
from an ex-spouse’s visiting hours.

Re-joy in that day, for you understand
far more than most ever will.

But woe to you who hoard a loving family,
rather than sharing it with the lonely,
for you are consoled now.

Woe to you who expect life
to be all honeymoon,
for you won’t be resilient to disappointment.

Woe to you who laugh at anyone
who is unloved,
or whose love is dismissed –
for you will never be able to take it back
when the tears in your life teach you wisdom.

Woe to you when all congratulate
your penmanship or tech savvy in life,
but you forget the teacher
who once told you to make
a Valentine, not just for those like you,
but for everyone in class,

no, not the teacher in second grade –
the one two thousand years ago.

+++

Rev. Maren C. Tirabassi

POEM  — Maya Angelou

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.
Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.
We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.

The Dance— Wendell Berry

I would have each couple turn,
join and unjoin, be lost
in the greater turning
of other couples, woven
in the circle of a dance,
the song of long time flowing

over them, so they may return,
turn again in to themselves
out of desire greater than their own,
belonging to all, to each,
to the dance, and to the song
that moves them through the night.

What is fidelity? To what
does it hold? The point
of departure, or the turning road
that is departure and absence
and the way home? What we are
and what we were once

are far estranged. For those
who would not change, time
is infidelity. But we are married
until death, and are betrothed
to change. By silence, so,
I learn my song. I earn

my sunny fields by absence, once
and to come. And I love you
as I love the dance that brings you
out of the multitude
in which you come and go.
Love changes, and in change is true.

Reflections on journeys that involve struggles with demons: Part 2 – Facing fears, naming hurt and healing ourselves, our loved ones and strangers (sometimes through forgiveness)

We are not responsible for what breaks us, but we can be responsible for what puts us back together again. Naming the hurt is how we begin to repair our broken parts ― Desmond Tutu

Awareness is the first step in healing. — Dean Ornish

The wound is the place where the Light enters you. ― Rumi

The place of true healing is a fierce place. It’s a giant place. It’s a place of monstrous beauty and endless dark and glimmering light. And you have to work really, really, really hard to get there, but you can do it. — Cheryl Strayed

Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it. —  Helen Keller

Being brave isn’t the absence of fear. Being brave is having that fear but finding a way through it. —Bear Grylls

SONGS about HEALING:

The JOURNEY — Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life you could save.
 


THE HEALING THAT COMES — Jan Richardson
I know how long you have been waiting
for your story to take a different turn,
how far you have gone
in search of what will mend you and make you whole.
I bear no remedy, no cure,
no miracle for the easing of your pain.
But I know the medicine
that lives in a story that has been broken open.
I know the healing that comes
in ceasing to hide ourselves away
with fingers clutched around the fragments
we think are none but ours.
See how they fit together,
these shards we have been carrying—
how in their meeting
they make a way
we could not find alone.

FACING OUR FEARS (Demons)
 
Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it. — Judy Blume
 
Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. — Dale Carnegie
 
You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do. — Eleanor Roosevelt
 
The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. — Nelson Mandela
 
He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
 
Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones. — Thich Nhat Hanh
 
Have no fear of perfection–you’ll never reach it. — Salvador Dali
 
Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold. — Helen Keller
 
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. — Theodore Roosevelt

One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do. —Henry Ford

I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear. —Rosa Parks

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. —Nelson Mandela

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. —Marie Curie

Fear comes from uncertainty. When we are absolutely certain, whether of our worth or worthlessness, we are almost impervious to fear. — William Congreve

ON HEALING

These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them. ― Rumi

What about evil, you may ask? Aren’t some people just evil, just monsters, and aren’t such people just unforgivable? I do believe there are monstrous and evil acts, but I do not believe those who commit such acts are monsters or evil. To relegate someone to the level of monster is to deny that person’s ability to change and to take away that person’s accountability for his or her actions and behavior. ― Desmond Tutu

Through meditation and contemplation we can learn, for example, that patience is the most potent antidote for anger, satisfaction for greed, bravery for fear, and understanding for doubt. It is not very helpful to rage against others. Instead, we should strive to change ourselves. — Dalai Lama

These verses – and all those like them scattered throughout the Scriptures – are encouraging, inspiring, and revealing. But they can also be quite painful for those who are suffering and do not experience healing. Why then and not now, we might ask. Or, more poignantly, why them and not us? — David Lose

Our own life has to be our message. — Thich Nhat Hanh

Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude to the whole cosmos—the trees, the clouds, everything. — Thich Nhat Hanh

The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.—Marianne Williamson

Healing yourself is connected with healing others.— Yoko Ono

Healing may not be so much about getting better, as about letting go of everything that isn’t you – all of the expectations, all of the beliefs – and becoming who you are. — Rachel Naomi Remen

There are so many ways to heal. Arrogance may have a place in technology, but not in healing. I need to get out of my own way if I am to heal. — Anne Wilson Schaef

The greatest healing therapy is friendship and love. — Hubert H. Humphrey

Love one another and help others to rise to the higher levels, simply by pouring out love. Love is infectious and the greatest healing energy. — Sai Baba

I’m touched by the idea that when we do things that are useful and helpful – collecting these shards of spirituality – that we may be helping to bring about a healing. — Leonard Nimoy

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. — Proverbs 16:23-25

To me, forgiveness is the cornerstone of healing. — Sylvia Fraser

The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician. Therefore, the physician must start from nature, with an open mind. —  Paracelsus

The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind. —Caroline Myss

All healing is first a healing of the heart.—  Carl Townsend

Eventually you will come to understand that love heals everything, and love is all there is. — Gary Zukav

Everybody has losses – it’s unavoidable in life. Sharing our pain is very healing. —  Isabel Allende

When I stand before thee at the day’s end, thou shalt see my scars and know that I had my wounds and also my healing. — Rabindranath Tagore

ON HEALING ― Richard Rohr

To finally surrender ourselves to healing, we have to have three spaces opened up within us – and all at the same time: our opinionated head, our closed-down heart, and our defensive and defended body. That is the summary work of spirituality – and it is indeed work. Yes, it is also the work of “a Power greater than ourselves,” and it will lead to a great luminosity and depth of seeing. That is why true faith is one of the most holistic and free actions a human can perform. It leads to such broad and deep perception that most traditions would just call it “light.”

Remember, Jesus said that we also are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14), as well as saying it about himself (John 8:12). Strange that we see light in him but do not imitate him in seeing the same light in ourselves. Such luminous seeing is quite the opposite of the closed-minded, dead-hearted, body-denying thing that much religion has been allowed to become. As you surely have heard before, “Religion is lived by people who are afraid of hell. Spirituality is lived by people who have been through hell and come out enlightened.”

The innocuous mental belief systems of much religion are probably the major cause of atheism in the world today, because people see that religion has not generally created people who are that different, more caring, or less prejudiced than other people. In fact, they are often worse because they think they have God on their small side. I wish I did not have to say this, but religion either produces the very best people or the very worst. Jesus makes this point in many settings and stories. Mere mental belief systems split people apart, whereas actual faith puts all our parts (body, heart, and head) on notice and on call. Honestly, it takes major surgery and much of one’s life to get head, heart, and body to put down their defenses, their false programs for happiness, and their many forms of resistance to what is right in front of them. This is the meat and muscle of the whole conversion process.

Dogfish Mary Oliver

Some kind of relaxed and beautiful thing
kept flickering in with the tide
and looking around.
Black as a fisherman’s boot,
with a white belly.

If you asked for a picture I would have to draw a smile
under the perfectly round eyes and above the chin,
which was rough
as a thousand sharpened nails.

And you know
what a smile means,
don’t you?

*

I wanted the past to go away, I wanted
to leave it, like another country; I wanted
my life to close, and open
like a hinge, like a wing, like the part of the song
where it falls
down over the rocks: an explosion, a discovery;
I wanted
to hurry into the work of my life; I wanted to know,

whoever I was, I was

alive
for a little while.

*

It was evening, and no longer summer.
Three small fish, I don’t know what they were,
huddled in the highest ripples
as it came swimming in again, effortless, the whole body
one gesture, one black sleeve
that could fit easily around
the bodies of three small fish.

*

Also I wanted
to be able to love. And we all know
how that one goes,
don’t we?

Slowly

*

the dogfish tore open the soft basins of water.

*

You don’t want to hear the story
of my life, and anyway
I don’t want to tell it, I want to listen

to the enormous waterfalls of the sun.

And anyway it’s the same old story – – –
a few people just trying,
one way or another,
to survive.

Mostly, I want to be kind.
And nobody, of course, is kind,
or mean,
for a simple reason.

And nobody gets out of it, having to
swim through the fires to stay in
this world.

*

And look! look! look! I think those little fish
better wake up and dash themselves away
from the hopeless future that is
bulging toward them.

*

And probably,
if they don’t waste time
looking for an easier world,

they can do it.

FORGIVE — Wendell Berry

I was your rebellious child,
do you remember? Sometimes
I wonder if you do remember,
so complete has your forgiveness been.

So complete has your forgiveness been
I wonder sometimes if it did not
precede my wrong, and I erred,
safe found, within your love,

prepared ahead of me, the way home,
or my bed at night, so that almost
I should forgive you, who perhaps
foresaw the worst that I might do,

and forgave before I could act,
causing me to smile now, looking back,
to see how paltry was my worst,
compared to your forgiveness of it

already given. And this, then,
is the vision of that Heaven of which
we have heard, where those who love
each other have forgiven each other,

where, for that, the leaves are green,
the light a music in the air,
and all is unentangled,
and all is undismayed.

On Healing with Christ  — Nadia Bolz-Weber (excerpts)

He just touched him, looked to heaven, sighed and said “BE OPEN.”

It’s a wonderful statement for healing isn’t it? Be open.

It’s an image that’s stuck with me all week.  This might sound weird but all week I kept picturing Jesus sticking his fingers in each of your ears and saying “BE OPENED.”  And then in the same daydream, before I could stop it, I pictured Jesus’ Holy and unwashed fingers in my own ears. He sighed he looked to heaven and he said, “Be opened.”  To which I said, “No thanks.”

See, It’s painful to be open.  There’s no control in it. No self-determination. But Jesus is like that, taking us away from whatever the THEY thinks about us, getting all up in our business and insisting on our wholeness.

Be opened, he says.

Be opened to a life where you aren’t the broken one anymore.

Be opened to the possibility that there is healing in the world and it might not look like you think it should.

Be opened to knowing that your own brokenness doesn’t need to be hidden behind someone else’s brokenness.

Be opened to the idea that you are stronger than you think.

Be opened to the idea that you aren’t as strong as you think.

Be opened to the fact that you may not ever get what you want and that you will actually be OK anyway.

Be opened to finally being happy.

Be opened to your own need for healing especially if you yourself are a healer.

Be opened to life and life abundant.

Maybe that’s what healing really is.

We think it’s about identifying what’s wrong with someone else or with ourselves and then having that thing cured, but I wonder if spiritual healing has more to do with being opened than being cured…

But it’s not easy. Healing can hurt.  It can feel like a loss as much as it can feel like a gain.

Because sometimes healing feels more like death and resurrection than getting a warm cookie and glass of milk.

Maybe you are someone who has for so long been the one who suffers depression or illness or dysfunction that you are simply more comfortable that way, because frankly, when you stay sick no one expects much from you. And that’s easier.

Maybe you are someone who deals so much with the brokenness and sickness of others in your work that you forget that you are in need of healing too.

Maybe you are someone who has experienced healing of hospitality here in this community and you have yet to be healed through offer the same thing to others.

Maybe you, like myself, would rather not admit to needing anything form anyone. Including Jesus…

FORGIVENESS as a HEALING PROCESS 

From article by Religious News Service — Jonathan Merritt: As the former Archbishop of Cape Town, Tutu became a leading human rights advocate who has championed causes such as poverty, racism, homophobia, sexism, HIV/AIDS and war. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 and the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. In his … work, The Book of Forgiving (co-authored with his daughter, Mpho Tutu), he offers four steps to forgiving and healing:

  1. Telling the Story
  2. Naming the Hurt
  3. Granting Forgiveness
  4. Renewing or Releasing the Relationship

Transformation begins in you, wherever you are, whatever has happened, however you are suffering. Transformation is always possible. We do not heal in isolation. When we reach out and connect with one another—when we tell the story, name the hurt, grant forgiveness, and renew or release the relationship—our suffering begins to transform.
― Desmond Tutu


7 SKILLS for FORGIVING

1- Understanding
The skills of making sense of one’s suffering, researching & learning phase
Nothing is easier than to condemn the evildoer, nothing is harder than to understand him.Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Before we can forgive one another, we have to understand one another. — Emma Goldman

Broaden perspective through history.
A potentially useful way to seek an understanding of one’s suffering is by considering the bigger historical context in which the harm took place. Such consideration may help uncover the links between one’s suffering and the adversary group’s suffering. An understanding of one’s suffering in relation to the past or current suffering of the ‘other’ may reveal insights into the adversary group’s basic psychological needs (e.g. security, autonomy, avert existential threats). A threat to these needs may have given rise to the motivation to use aggression to protect them.

Relinquish rigidity.
For some, it may be possible to make sense of their suffering by viewing the roles of victims and perpetrators as reversible. Such flexibility can result from considerations that a degree of victimhood and hopelessness must have lied within the perpetrator to motivate him/her to cause suffering in others. The inter-changeability of roles between victims and perpetrators may further be encouraged by beliefs that human beings are fallible and that they all share a potential to harm each other. This skill may also require one’s acceptance that one’s views of justice and truth may not be shared by others, especially by the adversary party.

Move beyond understanding.
Sometimes victims become too preoccupied with their search for understanding the causes of the harm they’ve experienced and consequently may neglect to harvest the benefits of the above researching & learning skills phase. In other words, understanding becomes the only and ultimate goal. The above skills are not intended solely to accumulate knowledge but also to utilize that acquired knowledge to stimulate shifts in one’s static, uncompromising attitudes and positions.

2- Building bridges born out of suffering:
The skills of relating to another person’s pain
If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we would find in each person’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Build bonds of suffering.
A tendency that maintains the cycle of revenge is to compete over one’s share of suffering (akin to Dr Noor’s concept of Competitive Victimhood: We have suffered more than the other group!). However, it is also possible to use one’s suffering as a bridge to connect to someone else’s suffering, their ‘imperfect’ humanity. Thus despite political, economic, religious and other types of divides, the victims of two conflicting groups can use their suffering (e.g. loss of loved ones and other traumatic losses) to establish a strong, emotional and psychological bond (akin to Dr Vollhardt’s concept of Inclusive Victim Consciousness). They can find it possible to agree that the conflict has brought about adverse consequences for both groups, albeit in perhaps different ways. A focus on common suffering can result in unexpected discoveries of intimate bonds based on shared pain and it can trigger generosity in attitudes and actions between counterparts.

Grasp the concept of Ubuntu.
My humanity is caught up in yours. This ethic which originated in South Africa is a critical skill. Archbishop Desmond Tutu describes this perspective as, ‘Ubuntu’ is not, “I think therefore I am.” It says rather: “I am a human because I belong. I participate. I share.” In essence, I am only because you are.

3- Empathy
The skill of putting oneself into someone else’s shoes without judgement.   You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it. — Atticus in To Kill A Mocking BirdTry on dirty, uncomfortable, new shoes.
Attempts to understand how the world is viewed by the adversary party might shed further light on what motivated them to cause the suffering. For example, the adversary party’s attacks on one’s child who serves in the military may be incomprehensible to the bereaved mother/father, especially because of the child’s best intentions and limited choice to avoid compulsory conscription. However, after taking the perspective of the adversary group, from which the military is viewed as a force of oppression, and thus their child as a symbol of that oppression, the hostile behaviour towards soldiers may become more understandable. Thus the skill of putting oneself into someone else’s shoes enables one to acknowledge that the world can be viewed and understood in ways that may be very different from one’s own worldview. To do this, it is required to first become aware that these other types of perspectives and worldviews exist and then to develop the desire to relate to them. Healing work is about acquiring a new pair of spectacles. Practising this skill in relation to someone who has inflicted harm can result in insights into the person’s thoughts, feelings and actions that motivated him/her to cause the suffering. Such empathy is void of moral judgement and thus can move the person beyond simple understanding. Yet, it does not necessarily contain condoning of the suffering.
4- Curiosity & Courage The skills of looking beyond yourself.
You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. — Andre GideGenerate curiosity to correct stereotypes.The benefits of the other skills in the tool-box can be honed partly by developing the skills of curiosity. To develop a sense of wanting to find out more about the ‘enemy’ requires one to go beyond oneself and one’s existing knowledge. It also requires an acceptance that one’s knowledge of the world as well as its sources are imperfect, limited and in need of expansion. Such expansion can be implemented by developing a desire to reach out and add to or revise one’s existing knowledge. It is also possible to gain further understanding of one’s own suffering and the circumstances that led to it by generating curiosity to find out who the enemy group really is. Such curiosity often generates a motivation to engage with the other group, which in turn creates opportunities to correct one’s stereotypes of the other group.
Be courageous.
In tandem with the skills associated with curiosity, the skills of developing courage to engage and potentially meet with the person who is responsible for one’s suffering may be required. One way of developing courage is to become aware that the adversary might have to go through a similar courage-generating process full of its own challenges and that they could have opted for ‘easier’ options (e.g. avoidance, offers of pseudo-apologies).   5-Accepting personal and collective responsibility:
The skill of locating the ‘I’ and the ‘We’ in the suffering
The gunman and his family are victims too. Perhaps victims of the society we have responsibility for. — Andrea LeBlanc, (lost husband in 9/11) commenting on Boston bombings
Rediscover agency without shame or guilt.
Acknowledgement and apology are important factors in the healing journey but they may not be available and therefore can put the power in the wrong hands, keeping the harmed stuck in a place of disappointment and expectation. Instead, rediscovering one’ personal and group-based agency is a more fruitful approach to healing. The skill of reviving one’s agency requires that one does not separate oneself as a passive recipient from the harmful event, but instead one acknowledges that as human beings we have agency. At the time of the harm such an agency may have been perceived as non-existent or strictly diminished. Acknowledging personal and collective responsibility is to concede that even at the time of the difficult harmful situation one had a degree of agency. Such insights may produce feelings of guilt and shame. However, the above skill is intended to direct individuals towards empowerment such that it helps them to rediscover their agency after the harm has been done. Whether erroneous decisions (miscalculation, missed opportunities, etc.) were made by one’s group leaders or by one’s own inaction to challenge short-sighted leaders, accepting personal and collective responsibility requires the development of a critical awareness of how oneself and one’s group have contributed to the situation that led to the suffering. Such insights into own contributions to one’s suffering can in turn enable one to act in order to change the course of action from further harming to healing.
6- Resisting conformity The skills of finding your own path
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that has ever happened. — Margaret Mead

You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist. — Friedrich Nietzsche
Defy what others may have in mind for you.
Traditionally, there is a piece of cautionary advice not to overburden individuals who have experienced major painful events in life, for example, by encouraging them to re-adjust too quickly or to engage with the person who caused the pain. However, as useful as this advice may be, it is equally important to bear in mind that at times these individuals may be trapped within their victimhood, not because they want to remain victims but rather because of the expectations by their families, community, society, etc. to conform to their victim role. Thus, in order to counter these expectations individuals may be required to develop the skills involved in resisting such expectations, namely, deviance. The kind of deviance referred to here involves two sets of skills:   Be a small black sheep The first set presents a number of challenges at the personal level and encourages the individual to acquire skills that were described earlier (e.g. challenges to the self to empathize with the adversary, to consider the non-static nature of victim and perpetrator roles, to acknowledge personal responsibility, to be curious and brave, and to engage with the person causing the pain).
Be a big black sheep This set of skills presents challenges at the group-based level and requires critical thinking about one’s own group, their assumptions, norms, values and worldview. It further requires a genuine understanding of the adversary group’s concerns and psychological needs (e.g. need for safety). These skills will help develop awareness that one’s own group may have contributed to the conflict and suffering as well, be it through provocation, poor negotiation skills or missed opportunities for a peaceful co-existence. The above sets of skills essentially enable the individuals to discover the ‘full story’ and to move beyond the ‘always guilty other’ and the ‘always innocent me/us’.   7- Recovering from resentment: The skill of letting go of anger and bitterness

Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies. — Anon
Return to being human.
No-one is born angry, resentful or evil. However, our hearts and minds can easily be filled with strong and persistent negative emotions and intentions due to a victimhood experience. The more that resentment plants the desire in one to exact a wrong, the further one moves away from our humanness with which we are gifted at birth. The skill of letting go of anger and bitterness requires the realisation that resentment has the potential to undermine our humanity, its integrity and its capacity for compassion, as well as the potential to eat away at our peace of mind and well-being. Holding onto resentment has a cost. This skill is the ability to transform the impulse for revenge into a search for something larger; it is about broadening one’s perspective to encompass a sense of the ‘other’.
This skill invites the act of forgiving.
Forgiveness is not a pancake movement. Feelings cannot just be flipped, but you can tilt the balance in the direction towards the discovery of a new way of operating in the world. Hatred and resentment have a tight grip in the same way that the more one focuses on a problem the more engrained it becomes. Forgiveness results in a loosening of that tight grip. It generates  space and creates capacity to doubt, modify and think anew.

Meditations on love for the fourth Sunday of Advent

Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!— Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Love is the bridge between you and everything. ~ Rumi

The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is to love and be loved in return. – Natalie Cole

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. – Lao Tzu

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable. – C.S. Lewis

SONGS about LOVE:

PRAYER
Be for them, Lord, a defense in emergency, a harbor in shipwreck, a refuge in the journey, shade in the heat, light in the darkness, as staff on the slippery slope, joy amidst suffering, consolation in sadness, safety in adversity, caution in prosperity, so that these your servants, under your leadership, may arrive unharmed … — Christian prayer from a liturgy for those setting off on pilgrimage, — The Missal of Vich, A.D. 1038


BLESSING Kundalini Yoga farewell blessing  
May the long time sun
Shine upon you,
All love surround you,
And the pure light within you
Guide your way on.


FIVE PRECEPTS (Reiki principles)

  1. Just for today, I will not be angry.
  2. Just for today, I will not worry.
  3. Just for today, I will be grateful.
  4. Just for today, I will do my work honestly.
  5. Just for today, I will be kind to every living thing.

INVITATION— Mary Oliver

Oh do you have time
to linger for just a little while
out of your busy
and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles
for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest,
or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air
as they strive
melodiously
not for your sake
and not for mine
and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude –
believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world.
I beg of you,
do not walk by
without pausing
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.
It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.

COMMENTARY ABOUT LOVE

Where there is love there is life. – Mahatma Gandhi

The greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. – Dalai Lama

Love is more than a noun – it is a verb; it is more than a feeling – it is caring, sharing, helping, sacrificing. – William Arthur Ward

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. ~ Rumi

… But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it! ― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Nothing God ever does, or ever did, or ever will do, is separate from the love of God. — A.W.Tozer

… the action and behavior produced by love is distinctly countercultural. In a society where so much is presented in terms of “self”—self-awareness, self-esteem, self-acceptance, self-image, self-realization—to present a way of existence in which a person lives for the other in a life of loving self-sacrifice will be highly provocative. Following the one who gave his life as a sacrifice for us will be humbling and undoubtedly costly in terms of human recognition and progress in life as secular society defines it.— zondervanacademic.com

DANCE— Wendell Berry
… And I love you
as I love the dance that brings you
out of the multitude
in which you come and go.
Love changes, and in change is true.


I Did Think,
Let’s Go About This Slowly

— Mary Oliver
I did think, let’s go about this slowly.
This is important. This should take
some really deep thought.
We should take
small thoughtful steps.
But, bless us, we didn’t.

OF LOVE

I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you. I love you not only for what you have made of yourself, but for what you are making of me. I love you for the part of me that you bring out.  – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

In the end we discover that to love and let go can be the same thing.— Jack Kornfield

Let the beauty of what you love be what you do. – Rumi


You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching, Love like you’ll never be hurt, Sing like there’s nobody listening, And live like it’s heaven on earth. – William W. Purkey


Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. – Martin Luther King Jr.


Love is never lost. If not reciprocated, it will flow back and soften and purify the heart.  – Washington Irving


Life is the first gift, love is the second, and understanding the third. – Marge Piercy

Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place. – Zora Neale Hurston

The chance to love and be loved exists no matter where you are. – Oprah Winfrey

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another. – Charles Dickens, Dr. Marigold

Meditations on building houses (and lives) on sand vs stones: stumbling blocks, cornerstones, keystones, living stones

MATTHEW 7: 24-28 – Hearers and Doers – “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”

How … bring forth a garden on hard stone? Become earth, that you may grow flowers of many colors. For you have been heart-breaking rock. Once, for the sake of experiment, be earth! — Rumi

Poet to Bigot — Langston Hughes
I have done so little / For you,
And you have done so little / For me,
That we have good reason / Never to agree.
I, however, / Have such meagre / Power,
Clutching at a / Moment,
While you control / An hour.
But your hour is / A stone.
My moment is / A flower.

And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer. — Psalm 78:35

SONGS about Sand and Stones:


To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour. — William Blake


Very little grows on jagged rock. Be ground.
Be crumbled, so wildflowers will come up where you are.
― Rumi


The Stones – Wendell Berry
I owned a slope full of stones.
Like buried pianos they lay in the ground,
shards of old sea-ledges, stumbling blocks
where the earth caught and kept them
dark, an old music mute in them
that my head keeps now I have dug them out.
I broke them where they slugged in the dark
cells, and lifted them up in pieces.
As I piled them in the light
I began their music. I heard their old lime
rouse in breath of song that had not left me.
I gave pain and weariness to their bearing out.
What bond have I made with the earth,
having worn myself against it? It is a fatal singing
I have carried with me out of that day.
The stones have given me music
that figures for me their holes in the earth
and their long lying in them dark.
They have taught me the weariness that loves the ground,
and I must prepare a fitting silence.


Do Stones Feel?  — Mary Oliver

Do stones feel? Do they love their life?
Or does their patience drown out everything else?

When I walk on the beach I gather a few
white ones, dark ones, the multiple colors.
Don’t worry, I say, I’ll bring you back, and I do.

Is the tree as it rises delighted with its many
branches, each one like a poem?
Are the clouds glad to unburden their bundles of rain?

Most of the world says no, no, it’s not possible.
I refuse to think to such a conclusion.
Too terrible it would be, to be wrong.



The Book of Camp Branch (excerpt) — Wendell Berry

How much delight I’ve known
in navigating down the flow
by stepping stones, by sounding
stones, by words that are
stepping and sounding stones.

Going down stone by stone,
the song of the water changes,
changing the way I walk
which changes my thought
as I go. Stone to stone
the stream flows. Stone to stone
the walker goes. The words
stand stone still until
the flow moves them, changing
the sound – a new word –
a new place to step or stand.

COMMENTARY on PARABLE of BUILDING a HOUSE on ROCK vs SAND

The picture is not of two men deliberately selecting foundations, but it contrasts one who carefully chooses and prepares his foundation with one who builds at hap-hazard. This is more strongly brought out by Luke (Luke 6:48): “Who digged and went deep, and laid a foundation upon the rock” … — Vincent’s Word Studies (full artilcle)


In the practical order, we find our Original Goodness, the image of God that we are, when we can discover and own the faith, hope, and love deeply planted within us:

  • A trust in inner coherence itself. “It all means something!” (Faith)
  • A trust that this coherence is positive and going somewhere good. (Hope)
  • A trust that this coherence includes me and even defines me. (Love)

… Being created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) gives everyone an equal and inherent dignity. However, in every age and culture, we have seen regressions toward racism, sexism, homophobia, militarism, ableism, and classism. This pattern tells me that unless we see dignity as being given universally, objectively, and from the beginning by God, we humans will constantly think it is up to us to decide… For the planet and for all living beings to move forward, we can rely on nothing less than an inherent original goodness and a universally shared dignity. Only then can we build, because the foundation is strong, and is itself good. Surely this is what Jesus meant when he told us to “dig and dig deep, and build your house on rock” (Luke 6:48). When we start with yes (or a positive vision), we are more likely to proceed with generosity and hope, and we have a much greater chance of ending with an even bigger yes, which we would call “resurrection.” — Fr Richard Rohr (full article)


… what Jesus himself taught and spent most of his time doing: healing people, doing acts of justice and inclusion, embodying compassionate and nonviolent ways of living… Jesus was teaching an alternative wisdom that shakes the social order instead of upholding the conventional wisdom that maintains it. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is not about preserving the status quo! It’s about living here on earth as if the Reign of God has already begun (see Luke 17:21). In this Reign, the Sermon tells us, the poor are blessed, the hungry are filled, the grieving are filled with joy, and enemies are loved. — Fr Richard Rohr (full article)


As in all hilly countries, the streams of Galilee rush down the torrent-beds during the winter and early spring, sweep all before them, overflow their banks, and leave beds of alluvial deposit on either side. When summer comes their waters fail (comp. Jeremiah 15:18; Job 6:15), and what had seemed a goodly river is then a tract covered with debris of stones and sand. A stranger coming to build might be attracted by the ready-prepared level surface of the sand. It would be easier to build there instead of working upon the hard and rugged rock. But the people of the land would know and mock the folly of such a builder, and he would pass (our Lord’s words may possibly refer to something that had actually occurred) into a by-word of reproach. On such a house the winter torrent had swept down in its fury, and the storms had raged, and then the fair fabric, on which time and money had been expended, had given way, and fallen into a heap of ruins. Interpreting the parable in the connection in which our Lord has placed it, it is clear that the house is the general fabric of an outwardly religious life. “The rock” can be nothing else than the firm foundation of repentance and obedience, the assent of the will and affections as well as of the lips. The “sand” answers to the shifting, uncertain feelings which are with some men (the “foolish” ones of the parable) the only ground on which they act—love of praise, respect for custom, and the like. The “wind,” the “rain,” the “floods” hardly admit, unless by an unreal minuteness, of individual interpretation, but represent collectively the violence of persecution, of suffering, of temptations from without, beneath which all but the life which rests on the true foundation necessarily gives way. Such is obviously the primary meaning of the parable here, but, like most other parables, it has other meanings, which, though secondary, are yet suggestive and instructive, and are not unsanctioned by the analogy of our Lord’s teaching. (1.) Already He had bestowed upon one of His disciples the name of Cephas, Peter, the Rock, and in so doing had at least indicated the type of character represented by the “rock” upon which the wise man built. When He afterwards said, “Upon this rock will I build my Church,” He was speaking in the character of a wise Master-builder who saw in fervent faith and unhesitating obedience the ground-work on which the Christian society, which He designated as His kingdom, was to rest. — Ellicott’s Commentary (full artilcle)


Palestine was to a considerable extent a land of hills and mountains. Like other countries of that description, it was subject to sudden and violent rains. The Jordan, the principal stream, was annually swollen to a great extent, and became rapid and furious in its course. The streams which ran among the hills, whose channels might have been dry during some months of the year, became suddenly swollen with the rain, and would pour down impetuously into the plains below. Everything in the way of these torrents would be swept off. Even houses, erected within the reach of these sudden inundations, and especially if founded on sand or on any unsolid basis, would not stand before them. The rising, bursting stream would shake it to its foundation; the rapid torrent would gradually wash away its base; it would totter and fall. Rocks in that country were common, and it was easy to secure for their houses a solid foundation. No comparison could, to a Jew, have been more striking. So tempests, and storms of affliction and persecution, beat around the soul. Suddenly, when we think we are in safety, the heavens may be overcast, the storm may lower, and calamity may beat upon us. In a moment, health, friends, comforts may be gone. How desirable, then, to be possessed of something that the tempest cannot reach! Such is an interest in Christ, reliance on his promises, confidence in his protection, and a hope of heaven through his blood. Earthly calamities do not reach these; and, possessed of religion, all the storms and tempests of life may beat harmlessly around us. — Matthew Henry’s commentary (full artilcle)


The teacher explained how each thing in the lesson had a much deeper meaning …— Gwen Schnell

  • The house is much more than just a house! It is like our life and what we do with it.
  • The storm-wind, rain, and floods are like troubles or problems that come into our lives, maybe like temptations.
  • The strong rock is like Jesus. He helps us when we are having troubles, like the storm. Jesus helps stay strong and do the right thing and trust in Him.
  • The soft sand is like worldly things. It’s whatever you may trust in INSTEAD of Jesus. It’s not strong or reliable. You will not find the help you need to be strong and do the right thing if you trust in anything or anyone but Jesus.
  • The wise man was someone who listened to Jesus and obeyed Him, the foolish man was someone who did not.

LIVING STONES: Definition, Context, Commentary

The term living stones … is used as a metaphor to illustrate the secure and intimate relationship … with Jesus … — Gotquestions.org (full article)

The lively stone is us — all who belong to Jesus — and the Living Stone is Jesus. — Shari Abbott

Wherever, in any world, a soul, by free-willed obedience, catches the fire of God’s likeness, it is set into the growing walls, a living stone. — Phillips Brooks

As we come together, each of us a living stone, we are built into something greater through the power of Jesus Christ. We are special and important and Christ is alive in us and waiting for us to actually be a living stone. To take risks and live and breath everything through the power of Jesus Christ. — Ministry Matters (full article)

The “rock-stone” image imagery is common in Scripture. As Hillyer says, “There is, for example, the stumbling stone of Isaiah 8:14, the foundation stone of Isaiah 28:16, the parental rock of Isaiah 51:1f., the rejected but vindicated building stone of Psalm 118:22, the supernatural stone of Daniel 2:34 and the burdensome stone of Zechariah 12:3” (Norman Hillyer, “Rock-Stone Imagery in 1 Peter”, The Tyndale Bulletin, 22 [1971] 58). There is fair evidence that “Rock/Stone” was a messianic title among the Jews as well as among the Christians…  — Edwin Blum

Four Stones — Mary Oliver

On the beach, at dawn:
Four small stones clearly
Hugging each other.

How many kinds of love
Might there be in the world,
And how many formations might they make

And who am I ever
To imagine I could know
Such a marvelous business?

When the sun broke
It poured willingly its light
Over the stones

That did not move, not at all,
Just as, to its always generous term,
It shed its light on me,

My own body that loves,
Equally, to hug another body.

SAND: Definition, Context, Commentary

… a loose granular material that results from the disintegration of rocks, consists of particles smaller than gravel but coarser than silt, and is used in mortar, glass, abrasives, and foundry molds. — Merriam-Webster definition

Sand is a granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles. Sand has various compositions but is defined by its grain size. Sand grains are smaller than gravel and coarser than silt… Sand is a non-renewable resource over human timescales …— Wikipedia

We see God separating that which is holy apart, and setting it aside for himself in many places in Scripture. But conversely, the Hebrew word for sand, חול (chol), is the same as the word for “secular” or “ordinary” – that which is not set aside or holy… The dense dusty sand that hung over Israel was a good reminder of how sin and worldliness works:

  • It clouds our vision and brings short-sightedness
  • It chokes and suffocates life
  • It makes it difficult to move up and out

— One for Israel (full article)

  … sand and gravel resources are the second-largest resource extracted and traded by volume after water.  — United Nations (full article)

CORNERSTONE: Definition, Context, Commentary

The cornerstone of something is the basic part of it on which its existence, success, or truth depends. — Collins Dictionary

In relation to architecture, a cornerstone is traditionally the first stone laid for a structure, with all other stones laid in reference. A cornerstone marks the geographical location by orienting a building in a specific direction.Over the years, cornerstones have served a variety of purposes. As a means to preserve time, buildings have been marked with a numerical representation to remind people when the building was erected. This has given correlation to architecture and the design of the time. Additionally, cornerstones have become a strong symbol of a new era. They have indicated prosperity and opportunity—showing a sense of pride for what is possible at the time of construction. Cornerstones have also been turned into pieces of memorabilia, marking present buildings or denoting previously standing buildings. …
As the commemorative qualities of cornerstones have become recognized, the locations of craftsmanship have expanded to stones near or above the front door of a building. — New Studio Architecture (full article)

Since ancient times, builders have used cornerstones in their construction projects. A cornerstone was the principal stone, usually placed at the corner of an edifice, to guide the workers in their course. The cornerstone was usually one of the largest, the most solid, and the most carefully constructed of any in the edifice. The Bible describes Jesus as the cornerstone that His church would be built upon. He is foundational. Once the cornerstone was set, it became the basis for determining every measurement in the remaining construction; everything was aligned to it. As the cornerstone of the building of the church, Jesus is our standard of measure and alignment. — Gotquestions.org (full article)

A cornerstone (Greek: Άκρογωνιεîς, Latin: Primarii Lapidis) will sometimes be referred to as a “foundation-stone”, and is symbolic of Christ, whom the Apostle Paul referred to as the “head of the corner” and is the “Chief Cornerstone of the Church” (Ephesians 2:20) — Wikipedia

CAPSTONE or KEYSTONE: Definition, Context, Commentary

… it was the Roman civilization (1000 B.C.E. – 500 C.E.) that first began using a keystone (also called a capstone) in their arches. The keystone is the topmost stone in the arch. The one in the illustration on the right is exaggerated in size from what a normal keystone would be. The keystone helped to distribute the weight down the side supporting blocks (voussoir blocks) of the columns. With this design, the keystone is the “key” to supporting the arch, because if you remove the stone, the arch would collapse. — Ask a Biologist (full article)

Jesus is the keystone of creation; bringing order from non-order and providing a resolution for the problem of disorder introduced by sin. — RJS summarizing Jonathan Walton’s argument, Patheos.com (full article)

God next speaks of the “capstone” or “headstone.” Some people have assumed that this was a foundation stone, but it is not. God is speaking about finishing the temple, not starting it. This is not the cornerstone, which is installed in the foundation, but the finishing stone—the very last one set. It can also be called the gable stone or even the keystone that would finish an archway. It is a symbol of completion. In this case, it represents the Temple being sufficiently ready for God’s habitation. This ought to be clear. He is alluding to the preparation of the church for God’s Kingdom... their job of measuring the Temple, the altar, and the worshippers will be successful. They will be successful by”grace, grace”—double grace. Their work will be accomplished only by an extra measure of God’s grace.— Richard Ritenbaugh

Do not look only for the beautiful, water-polished stones that represent Christ’s abundant gifts and graces that He’s given you in the happy, simple, and easy times.  Look also for the rough-edged rocks, and even the huge boulders, that represent Christ’s presence, provision, and protection in the most difficult, trying, and troubling times of life. — Shari Abbott

STUMBLING BLOCK: Definition, Context, Commentary

  1 : an obstacle to progress 2 : an impediment to belief or understanding — Dictionary

During our step-work, every time we got to the fourth step—Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves—the women gave me a lot of pushback… They felt that … “what they’d done wrong” was the focus of many of their classes. It felt exhausting to them… It was not a punitive action… What if we can identify the thing that keeps us from enjoying life to its fullest? Can we look at this exercise as a diagnostic tool? … Mark Thibodeaux, SJ, writes, “If we take an honest look at the mistakes we’ve made, we’ll see that many of them were a reaction to an unnamed fear within us.” Twelve-steppers agree with that statement. We are told that our character defects (sin) are our instincts run amok… Once those fears have been identified, we have something on which to work. The goal of this work is reconnection…. — Jean Heaton, Noticing My Stumbling Blocks (full article)

Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of anotherLet us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. — Paul’s Letter to Romans

Reflections on water, wellsprings, and milestones such as upcoming graduation

In a season of drought, let’s focus on water stewarsdhip and appreciation. Let’s also consider its spiritual resonances, and take time to savor upcoming milestones such as graduations.

Songs about water:

Water — Wendell Berry
I was born in a drought year.
That summer my mother waited in the house,
enclosed in the sun and the dry ceaseless wind,
for the men to come back in the evenings,
bringing water from a distant spring.
Weins of leaves ran dry, roots shrank.
And all my life I have dreaded
the return of that year,
sure that it still is somewhere,
like a dead enemy’s soul. 
Fear of dust in my mouth is always with me,
and I am the faithful husband of the rain,
I love the water of wells and springs
and the taste of roofs in the water of cisterns.
I am a dry man whose thirst is praise of clouds,
and whose mind is something of a cup.
My sweetness is to wake in the night
after days of dry heat, hearing the rain.


Blessing of the Well
— Jan Richardson
If you stand at the edge of this blessing
and call down into it,
you will hear your words return to you.
If you lean in and listen close,
you will hear this blessing
give the story of your life back to you.
Quiet your voice, quiet your judgment, quiet the way
you always tell your story to yourself.
Quiet all these and you will hear
the whole of it and the hollows of it:
the spaces in the telling,
the gaps where you hesitate to go.
Sit at the rim of this blessing.
Press your ear to its lip, its sides, its curves
that were carved out long ago
by those whose thirst drove them deep,
those who dug into the layers
with only their hands and hope.
Rest yourself beside this blessing
and you will begin to hear
the sound of water entering the gaps.
Still yourself and you will feel it
rising up within you, filling every hollow,
springing forth anew.

Life’s Milestones & Passages: Quotes

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. —Sun Tzu

That clock you hear is the sound of your own heart. Sink your teeth into this life, and don’t get let go. —Lin-Manuel Miranda

Remember this: You are awesome. I’m not suggesting you be boastful. No one likes that in men or women. But I am suggesting that believing in yourself is the first necessary step to coming even close to achieving your potential. —Sheryl Sandberg

It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up. —Babe Ruth

If I must give any of you advice it would be say yes. Say yes, and create your own destiny. — Maya Rudolph

The best remedy for those who are frightened, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be alone with the sky, nature, and God. For only then can you feel that everything is as it should be and that God wants people to be happy amid nature’s beauty and simplicity. —Anne Frank

I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. —Michael Jordan

You can’t do it alone. Be open to collaboration. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you. Spend a lot of time with them and it will change your life. — Amy Poehler

Now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. —Neil Gaiman

Change takes courage. —Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Woman at the Well: Buddhist and Christian Stories (excerpts from reflection by Jyoti Sahi, Indian-Christian artist)

… I find myself often returning to … the story of Jesus conversing with a Samaritan woman at the well. I feel that this dialogue between a Jewish Rabbi and a woman who was considered by orthodox Jews as an outcaste, is similar to the dialogue between Ananda, one of the main disciples of the Buddha, and a Dalit woman who he asked to give him some water to drink. Finally the issue was concerning the line between purity and pollution, between water which should be for all, and which is essential for life on this planet earth, and the ritual distinctions which are made between individuals and communities. … The story is in that sense not only about the relation of Jesus or Ananda, with a particular woman, but about the basis for dialogue itself. I have felt that the story could be the beginning of a dialogue between the Christian tradition, and the essence of Indian spirituality. It is about a meeting which takes place beyond boundaries. … The same theme is also represented by a Buddhist monk artist in Sri Lanka who is … actually depicting not the Buddhist story, but his understanding, as a Buddhist, of the story of Jesus with the woman at the well. What struck me about this picture was that the woman is not alone, and it is not just a dialogue between the Guru and the disciple, but the woman is part of a whole community. In the Biblical story, the woman who comes to the well is alone with him, and it is only later that the disciples find Jesus talking to a woman, and that too a Samaritan, and feel shocked. And then it is later that this woman goes and tells her other Samaritan villagers about Jesus, and wonders if he is in fact a Prophet. In my own paintings on this theme, I suggested that the Woman was not only the human person, but was the water itself. Jesus in this dialogue is addressing, like Francis who talked to the birds, the whole of Creation.

Rain (c) 2016 — Gail Doktor
 
Around me the earth
My little garden plot
My sweet spot of earth
The piece I own for now
Where seeds and hopes
Are sown
 
Oh, and everywhere else
The fields where our children play
The rivers in which we fish
The lakes in which we paddle and boat
The fresh wells on which we draw
Have been thirsty
And slow to refill
 
Parched
Deep and empty
Dry and dehydrated
Tapped out
Below any level of refreshing
 
And so
Unable to give back
When we turn the tap
Drop the bucket
Open the flow
 
Oh, we ask
For lots
Or a little more
Or just the essential quotient
That assures survival
Of green seedlings
And desperate beings
Seeking life
 
We hear a guarded maybe
A firm no
A resigned shrug
There isn’t anything to offer
When you ask
 
Until today
When water falls
Like an answer
Late in coming
Just enough to assure us
Some One is listening
Or there’s yet balance in creation
Sufficient to let loose
What we need
What our environment craves
What our homes require
What life itself must have
Or nothing else matters
 
As essential as breath: Water

In Praise of Water
— John O’Donohue
Let us bless the grace of water:
The imagination of the primeval ocean
Where the first forms of life stirred
And emerged to dress the vacant earth
With warm quilts of color.
The well whose liquid root worked
Through the long night of clay,
Trusting ahead of itself openings
That would yet yield to its yearning
Until at last it arises in the desire of light
To discover the pure quiver of itself
Flowing crystal clear and free
Through delighted emptiness.
The courage of a river to continue belief
In the slow fall of ground,
Always falling farther
Toward the unseen ocean.
The river does what words would love,
Keeping its appearance
By insisting on disappearance;
Its only life surrendered
To the event of pilgrimage,
Carrying the origin to the end,
Seldom pushing or straining,
Keeping itself to itself
Everywhere all along its flow,
All at one with its sinuous mind,
An utter rhythm, never awkward,
It continues to swirl
Through all unlikeness, With elegance:
A ceaseless traverse of presence
Soothing on each side
The stilled fields, Sounding out its journey,
Raising up a buried music
Where the silence of time
Becomes almost audible.
Tides stirred by the eros of the moon
Draw from that permanent restlessness
Perfect waves that languidly rise
And pleat in gradual forms of aquamarine
To offer every last tear of delight
At the altar of stillness inland.
And the rain in the night, driven
By the loneliness of the wind
To perforate the darkness,
As though some air pocket might open
To release the perfume of the lost day
And salvage some memory
From its forsaken turbulence
And drop its weight of longing
Into the earth, and anchor.
Let us bless the humility of water,
Always willing to take the shape
Of whatever otherness holds it,
The buoyancy of water
Stronger than the deadening,
Downward drag of gravity,
The innocence of water,
Flowing forth, without thought
Of what awaits it,
The refreshment of water,
Dissolving the crystals of thirst.
Water: voice of grief,
Cry of love, In the flowing tear.
Water: vehicle and idiom
Of all the inner voyaging
That keeps us alive.
Blessed be water,
Our first mother.
Like The Water — Wendell Berry
Like the water of a deep stream,
love is always too much.
We did not make it.
Though we drink till we burst,
we cannot have it all, or want it all.
In its abundance it survives our thirst.

In the evening we come down to the shore to drink our fill,
and sleep, while it flows
through the regions of the dark.
It does not hold us, except we keep returning to its rich waters
thirsty.

We enter, willing to die,
into the commonwealth of its joy.

PASSAGES REVISITED: Graduation Thoughts

Commencement Address (1982) excerpts to women of Wellesley College — Maya Angelou

… Since you have worked this hard, since you have also been greatly blessed, since you are here, you have developed a marvelous level of courage, and the question then which you must ask yourself , I think, is will you really do the job which is to be done: Make this country more than it is today, more than what James Baldwin called “these yet to be United States”…

…It takes a phenomenal amount of courage.  For around this world, your world, my world, there are conflicts, brutalities, humiliations, terrors, murders, around this world.  You can almost take any Rand McNally map and close your eyes and just point, and you will find there are injustices, but in your country, particularly in your country, young women, you have, as the old folks say, your work cut out for you.  For fascism is on the rise, and be assured of it, sexism, racism, ageism, every vulgarity against the human spirit is on the rise.  And this is what you have inherited.

It is upon you to increase your virtue, the virtue of courage—it is upon you.  You will be challenged mightily, and you will fall many times.

It is upon you to increase your virtue, the virtue of courage—it is upon you.  You will be challenged mightily, and you will fall many times.  But it is important to remember that it may be necessary to encounter defeat, I don’t know.  But I do know that a diamond, one of the most precious elements in this planet, certainly one in many ways the hardest, is the result of extreme pressure, and time.  Under less pressure, it’s crystal.  Less pressure than that, its coal, less than that, its fossilized leaves are just plain dirt.

You must encounter, confront life.  Life loves the liver of it, ladies.  It is for you to increase your virtues.  There is that in the human spirit which will not be gunned down even by death.  There is no person here who is over one year old who hasn’t slept with fear, or pain or loss or grief, or terror, and yet we have all arisen, have made whatever absolutions we were able to, or chose to, dressed, and said to other human beings, “Good morning.  How are you? Fine, thanks.”

Therein lies our chance toward nobleness—not nobility—but nobleness, the best of a human being is in that ability to overcome.


If Rudyard Kipling (written to his son)

If you can keep your head when all about you       
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,    
But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,    
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,    
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:  
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;       
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster    
And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken    
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,    
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:  
If you can make one heap of all your winnings    
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings    
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew    
To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you    
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’  
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,       
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,    
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute    
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,       
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

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