Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.
‘A Brief For The Defense’
Honing my seeing means bringing all of me present before what it is I wish to look at. I want to bring all of me to this point of encounter, so that God’s revealing might reach inside and generate the ‘stubborn … gladness’ that Jack Gilbert talks about which I need to be compassionate to others, and to myself. This stubborn gladness is the spur I need to make acts of kingdom building. This is the stubborn gladness which requires me to ‘risk delight’ in the face of all the world’s sorrow (and my own not least).
There is a wonderful story that Hoopa Indian children are taught, retold by Sister Maria José Hobday:
When you get up in the morning … it is important for you to wait until you get your shadow home. When you go to sleep at night, part of you – your shadow – takes off. The part that you’ve held down all day, the part you wouldn’t let live. When you go to bed, your shadow says, “Now is my chance. I will go out and explore the world that you wouldn’t let me touch all day.” And off it goes. The shadow has the freedom to go as far away as it wants to, but it has one tie: You have a hum that only your shadow knows. And it can never disobey you … So when you get up, before you go out, give your own little hum, and your shadow will say, “Oh! I have to go home,” and it will come home. And you are never ready for the day unless you have taken time to sing the song of your own shadow … There is a land of wisdom in remembering to get yourself all here every day … “Hum your song, so your heart and spirit come together.”
Incorporating my shadow until all of me is at home with myself – until all of me is fully present with that is before me – is a daily task that takes a lifetime; but it is a task God longs for me to complete. Until that day of wholeness comes, I pay attention to the revelations of the Holy which may arise out of even my most shadowy places, delighting myself and others even in the midst of pain.
And the Great Mother said:
Come my child and give me all that you are.
I am not afraid of your strength and darkness, of your fear and pain.
Give me your tears.
They will be my rushing rivers and roaring oceans.
Give me your rage.
It will erupt into my molten volcanoes and rolling thunder.
Give me your tired spirit.
I will lay it to rest in my soft meadows.
Give me your hopes and dreams.
I will plant a field of sunflowers and arch rainbows in the sky.
You are not too much for me.
My arms and heart welcome your true fullness.
There is room in my world for all of you, all that you are.
I will cradle you in the boughs of my ancient redwoods
and the valleys of my gentle rolling hills.
My soft winds will sing you lullabies and soothe your burdened heart.
Release your deep pain.
You are not alone and you have never been alone.
stubborn gladness. iPhone image.