Like so many, I have given too much energy this life to being everything but who I am, because who and what I am seemed useless and valueless to the world.
I have come to know that who and what I am is valuable, even when “useless”
Though part of me still doubts… and calls out
“Help me. Help me know again who and what I am, so that I may let go of all this falsity.”
My father once said to me –
in a quiet exclamation of dismay that rang through time like an accusation—
“You don’t know who you are.”
He was right, but did he know any better?
Did he know who he was? …Who I was?
What did he see that I was not seeing?
Some years on, during a tense discussion, I paraphrased back to him what I was hearing: “You mean, I am what I do?”
“Yes, “ he said, even as I felt him shaken awake and reconsidering,
silently sifting the layers of truth and untruth there.
And then, more years later, as he was losing the ability to speak,
he told me he was proud of me, of my spiritual diligence.
We had now both glimpsed who we were, who the other was and who we both are.
The knowing brought us closer, though we did not speak of it.
Speaking fell away. There was only falling into it.
…until he fell through.
…And I am left here,
Still knowing, and yet ever trying to remember,
Calling “Help me. Help me. Let it be enough.”
On the day after the election, I managed to get through the day without hearing a sound from Donald Trump. Granted, I spent nearly an hour and a half insulated by a tube of sonic barrage and headphones.
Some might think that an extreme form of avoidance, but I had to be there anyway; and truth be told, as trying as it got after the first hour, those 90 minutes of MRI bazooka drills still seemed preferable to the prospect of listening to Donald Trump for four years.
The images from the scan are mysteriously beautiful and evocative, part Rorschach blot, part x-ray, and as beckoning as those adult mandala coloring books in fashion now. I wanted to blow up, print and fill them them with sumptuous color and whimsy. It strikes me that could be a powerful healing tool, a sort of chromatic massage on one’s own neglected middle realms.
Although I have viewed these glimpses inside, I confess I can’t interpret them expertly; from what I could see, it’s quite possible I might have something more compelling to concern myself with about them soon enough, but, meanwhile…
I amused myself with the observation that, although these were images of the other end of me, some of the images seemed redolent of that constipated pout I’ve seen upon the face of the Donald.
* * *
The technician apologized to me about 15 minutes into my procedure, when he realized that the protocol for my particular scan would be an especially long one. My feet had been taped together and positioned– perhaps for optimal viewing, but definitely not for optimal comfort– upon a bolster. My hands were placed high on my heart– as if to impersonate a dead pope or pharaoh– where they tried to fall asleep, but eventually woke up again—who wouldn’t? And as the magic barrage of vibration settled sacrum and soft tissues into the hard table, the sciatic nerve began to mewl like lone tomcat contributing to general mayhem of a blitzkrieg.
I really didn’t mind it so much…
…although as we wore on toward the hour mark, I became increasingly grateful for all my yogic tools for breathing and meditation. Admonished to be very still, and aware of how the breath moves every part of the body, I meditatively focused breath into the middle and upper quadrants of the torso and encouraged a fluid, relaxed transparency in the tissues and other faculties that might subtly contract against the strafing stimulation.
I’ve long known myself to be made of sound, and I keenly felt my kinship with it. So, I did not feel so much under attack as under visitation, by alien, yet purposeful, sound-intelligences, there to help. There was no duplicity or ambiguity of meaning in the sounds, no emotional or mental content but my own. It is those distorted realms that so accost and confuse me as I move about among human sounds. So, here, amid the din, I was peaceful, mostly, and “safe.”
At times I felt like Gulliver swarmed by dozens of vocal, curious, invisible androids (…or performance artists, like Blue Man Group with voices). My body just went neutral and settled back for the show, as if it were a Pink Floyd planetarium spectacle (without the visuals).
There was the allegro movement of the concerto for six DA-DAs: DaDaDaDaDaDaDaDa complexly woven in call and response rounds…
…and there was the percussive robotic spit-off: Poit Poit Poit Poit Poit, Poit….
…and then those periodic slow arpeggios of melodious machine gun fire….
…then the pleasantly stimulating trio of revving diesel engines, which, after a while, made my muscles twitch.
There were so many more wondrous sounds I tried to remember but simply didn’t have the diphthongs to notate in my English mind’s alphabet.
Occasionally all the voices would go silent—
…Except for that one machine in the suite—a rotating electro-magnet, I imagined—which kept perfect time (and other secrets) like a metronome:
A-CHOO A-CHOO A-CHOO A-CHOO A-CHOO
… sneezing when I entered the room, and still sneezing when I exited… with my fillings still rattling in my teeth.
We really do not know anything.
…Those of us convinced this could never happen. …Those of us who think this will solve anything. We know as little as the the man who will ascend to a throne that seems more meaningless in his ascension to it.
This is a time for humility. But not the false humility that leads to complacency or hopelessness. The true humility that reminds us that as human beings we are more alike than different, and we are all in this together… In this with all of creation. Together we know a great deal, yet individually and even together, we can never know it all. We need each other. Creation needs all of us for the ongoing, messy evolutionary labor.
Each of us holds the passport of divinity within us, waiting to be validated– and stamped often– as we travel. We, none of us, need a visa for either Hell or Heaven. Both are in God; both are in us, and every moment’s destination is a choice of the Greater One, the infinite traveller who seeks to know all countries through us.
As Hilary said, graciously and wisely, in her concession speech this morning, “We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.” We owe that to him, to those who saw reason to vote for him, and to ourselves.
This does to mean, nor has it ever meant, that we are to abdicate responsibility. In fact, this election should make it clearer than ever the price of cumulative complacency in a culture… on a planet. It is we–each of us– who lead our own hearts, who lead by example in our relationships and communities, small or large… Lead with thoughts, not just deeds. And most of us, if we are aware and honest, still struggle with primal impulses to blame, judge, exclude– no matter how subtle– in some realm of our life and psyche.
Our evolution as a species has long been three steps forward, two steps back; and so many of the redeemed have had to hit bottom first. Let us give thanks to rude awakenings for dusting off our priorities, focusing and simplifying them.
This is a call to all to lead from within, at the individual and community level, with Global and even Cosmological perspective.
Having suppressed building intuitive ill-ease with denial for a couple of days, this morning I was in no hurry to hear the news. But when the news tiptoed downstairs and insinuated itself to me and the friend I was with, my wisest self rose through the fog of intermingled numbness and sadness to meet it, with renewed lucidity, pragmatism, compassion.
We are not the first population to be faced with the oppressive momentum of primitive logic. But it is up to us to be one of the populations who respond with strength of heart, not reaction and pre-emptive judgement. This is another teaching in healing the world by healing ourselves. That’s right, it’s another F*%#ing growth opportunity, on a grand and urgent scale.
Can we make all this moment’s contrite talk of unity mean something? Can we be willing to be uncomfortable, and share the burden with the populations who already are, especially those whose anger frightens us and seems to give the planet back to the apes?
As my friend and I swallowed the morning’s news and set about digesting it, he re-read to me Thich Nhat Hanh’s timelessly relevant poem, Please Call Me By My True Names; I will let that be the final word…for now:
Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow—
even today I am still arriving.
Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.
I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
to fear and to hope,
the rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
of all that are alive.
I am the mayfly metamorphosing
on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when Spring comes,
arrives in time to eat the mayfly.
I am the frog swimming happily
in the clear water of a pond,
and I am the grass-snake
that silently feeds itself on the frog.
I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
And I am the arms merchant,
selling deadly weapons to Uganda.
I am the twelve-year-old girl,
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate.
And I am the pirate,
my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.
I am a member of the politburo,
with plenty of power in my hands.
And I am the man who has to pay his
“debt of blood” to my people
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.
My joy is like Spring, so warm
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast it fills the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.