Bake bits of fresh breads for you
Here, in the oven of my heart
– Cesar Vallejo (Peruvian Poet)
For more years than I can remember, I have collected quotes from a variety of sources. Some I record in my journal, others in a book reserved for such treasures, while others are stored in my laptop. I regularly dip into this rich storehouse of treasures, to encourage me on my journey. These quotes are like mentors who still speak from beyond the veil.
For this month’s Informer, I would like to share with you a few of these quotes, and offer a few thoughts were appropriate to complement the treasures themselves. Wherever you are on your journey, take what you need, leave the rest for another time.
How we commence the day is important, this insight from Mary Angelou invites us to see expectantly:
‘This is a wonderful day, I have never seen this one before.’
How we view each day, will determine what we see. To commence our day, with openness to being surprised, will bring its own rewards in the most unlikely ways, through the most unlikely of people. Edward De Bono reminds us, how we see, is what we see:
‘We are not able to see things,
unless we are prepared to see them.’
Life is mysterious. I am more and more accepting this, howbeit, at times; I forget and want to know, that which I will never know.
A quote that has assisted me on my journey is from Nietzsche:
‘Life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived’
There are different versions of this; a similar one is from
‘Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced’
Both are pointing us in the same direction, that of accepting ultimately that life is a mystery, which leaves us with many unanswered questions, these need not paralyse us, rather, as Tennessee Williams reminds us:
‘Life is an unanswered question, but let’s still believe in the dignity and importance of that question.’
It takes courage and dignity to keep living, despite not having the answers we crave. What sustains me in living the questions is the gift of poetry. Stephanie Dowrick suggests:
‘Poetry must be unafraid to sit with mystery, or to be mystery’
Poetry may offer different things at different moments; in particular, it offers a way of living within the swirling mists of uncertainty. This four-line poem from John O’Donohue offers that element of mystery:
I would love to live
Like a river flows,
Carried by the surprise
Of its own unfolding
Poetry invites me to shift my focus from objective (what’s outside) to subjective (what inside). Jorge Luis Borges expresses this change of mind-set:
‘I fear I was reading the books of the astronomers
never really looked at the stars’
In looking at the questions in our lives, it is very easy to fall back into a default position, of guilt, or regret, or blaming ones-self for perceived mistakes made. I remind you and myself, that to make mistakes is to be human. The author James Joyce offers this wise counsel:
‘Mistakes are the portal to discovery.’
That is very wise, but to actually live with our mistakes, requires courage and moments of being able to nurture our soul and discover a new strength and peace within. May the following offer you a moment of tranquillity on your journey:
A river of peace,
under bridges of silence,
that came from nowhere
and flowed from nowhere.
- Arthur Koestler
Here the invitation is being offered, so we may pause in silence and let that river of peace flow in and through us. Here of course we are being invited into the interior life. Thomas Merton describes this very clearly:
‘Our real journey in life is interior: it is a matter of growth, deepening and an ever-great surrender to the creative action of love and grace in our hearts.’
Wendell Berry suggests, the interior spiritual journey is the key to how we see the world.
‘And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,
no matter how long,
but only by a spiritual journey,
a journey of one inch,
very arduous and humbling and joyful,
by which we arrive at the ground at our feet,
and learn to be at home.’
Sometimes, we find the physical journey of life taking us through unpredictable weather and through dark valleys. In those moments, I readily admit; there are times when we feel life is so unfair, we ask our questions and no satisfactory answers arrive. At times we doubt ourselves, our ability to cope or make positive and healthy responses. This sense of uncertainty may at times become a communal response to serious challenges, like the Community of St Aidans is now experiencing following the Earthquake Seismic Report. The following quotes may or may not be helpful for you on your journey over the following months:
‘Focus is about saying NO’ – Steve Jobs
No is a complete sentence, it does not require justification or explanation.’
– Anne Lamott
To say NO at times requires courage, especially when there is pressure to conform, along with an expectation to say yes.
It is very easy when the communal challenges arrive, to forget, the ‘Raison d’etre’ (reason for being) of a community. Coretta Scott King reminds us:
‘The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members, a heart of grace and a soul generated by love.’
I like to think; this describes our Community of St Aidans.
Pause, for a moment and offer your gratitude for this place of belong called St Aidans, what it offers and what that may mean for you.
I am aware, as I write this, I have to decide which quotes to include and what to omit. For I have hundreds available to me.
This is a reminder that life always includes, making decisions. Making decisions will always involve a mix of wisdom and experience which we bring to the decision making table. I find this from Marcel Proust, quite profound:
‘We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.’
For many years on my journey, I thought I would collect wisdom from the many books I have read, alas, it was not so, rather, it is through my own life journey, one step at a time, I have collected droplets of wisdom, which have slowly sustained me along the way. Elizabeth Gilbert has a wonderful quote:
‘Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are
hidden within you?’
This idea of travelling inward for wisdom on the journey is expressed in beautiful poetic language by Henry David Thoreau:
‘Direct your eye right inward, and you’ll find, a thousand regions in your mind, yet undiscovered, travel them and be an expert in home cosmography.’
So I am nearly at the end of this article which I have enjoyed writing. The question I ask is how do I conclude? Maybe, there is no conclusion, for a conclusion speaks of arriving, and the journey of life continues on, we never actually arrive. The Persian Poet Jelalludin Rumi offers these words:
‘Keep walking, though there’s no place to get to. Don’t try to see through
the distances. That’s not for human beings. Move within,
but don’t move the way fear makes you move.’
Fear arrives in heart in many guises and when it does, we become, closed hearted, instead of being open to what the rich tapestry of life may offer. Donald Miller describes it this way:
I want to keep my soul fertile for changes, so things keep getting born in me, so things keep dying when it’s time for them to die. I want to keep walking away from the person I was a moment ago, because a mind was made to figure things out, not read the same page recurrently.
However, we may see ourselves, I want to affirm, that we are held within the mystery of God’s love. Henri Nouwen describes it so beautifully:
‘ The great mystery of God’s love is that we are not asked to live as if we are not hurting, as if we are not broken. In fact, we are invited to recognize our brokenness as a brokenness in which we can come in touch with the unique way that God loves us. The great invitation is to live your brokenness under the blessing. I cannot take people’s brokenness away and people cannot take my brokenness away. But how do you live in your brokenness? Do you live your brokenness under the blessing or under the curse? The great call of Jesus is to put your brokenness under the blessing.’
After reading the above, what more is to be said, so I leave the final words to Dorothy Day:
‘The final word is love.’