Have you ever noticed that the simplest and most needful questions tend to be the ones we are most afraid to ask? We might shy away from asking them for fear of being regarded by others as not smart enough or ‘in the know’, for fear of being unsophisticated or lacking nuance, for fear of not fitting in, or for fear of not having the one right answer.
Or, what is perhaps worst of all, we might give up for fear that there might not be an answer at all.
Yes, it’s easier just to let go, and pick the low-hanging fruit, like the fox in the old Aesop’s fable, who convinced himself that he didn’t want the higher up ones anyway.
But if we can’t even muster the courage to begin asking these basic questions at the roots of our life, then how will we ever get an answer? More to the point, if we can’t get at those questions properly, how will we ever find lasting nourishment for a life well-lived? This is not abstract, not ‘academic’. We feel the presence of such unasked questions as a lead weight on our tongues and hearts.
As I continue to send each of you a monthly lunar letter, I am committed in my own writing and teaching to point to sources and resources that can help remove that weight, or rather to transform it into feather or gold for all of us. I want to help foster a place for the simple and needful questions and for each of you, my courageous soulful seekers. I believe each and every one us has what it takes to reach higher and go deeper than we ever have before, to re-conceive and forge better ways of life for ourselves and our loved ones.
No, we can’t be satisfied with the low hanging fruit, especially those of us practicing the Sacred Arts. The sacro-magical work we do everyday is rooted in those perennial questions, the ones common to human beings, human voices and human action at all times and places. What else are we responding to in the work we do?
Our work and even our whole life is an answer to the questions we either did or did not have the courage to ask.
If we want to discover the sacred in everyday life, then we must ask the real questions, the authentic ones, the hard ones and we must live their answers, refusing to turn away even when it is easier to do so. So let us take courage, remembering that to have courage is literally to be heartened and of good heart. Let us ask, listen, and live.
Unfairness and injustice: Who doesn’t experience in different ways situations that are unfair and unjust? So what is the best way to respond to these situations?
Much ink and much blood has been spilled in the attempt to ascribe praise and blame in issues concerning injustice, a procedure that typically avoids confronting the deeper and more elusive problem about what justice is. But instead of saying it, for now, let’s try to show it. When I seek to understand justice, I am asked to look at the lives of people I know and love, together with the lives of people I have learned about and the stories I have heard. (For we learn so much from stories, yes?) These are stories about people who have encountered unfairness in their own lives, but who did not let it destroy or embitter them.
Let me share one such story from my own family:
A young boy from East Texas, forced to quit school and the education that he loved in order to help out on the family farm, grows into a man who teaches himself Greek and teaches his granddaughters to let nothing and no one come between them and receiving an education.
Here is another, just as true, about one of my beloved teachers:
A poor immigrant child who learned English as a second or third language becomes the precious storyteller and poet inspiring thousands to say beautiful and true things in as many languages and as many ways as possible.
And here is a third, again from my own people:
A businessman who loses an eye develops a deeper way of seeing so that he can see the young ones who want more and who are willing to work hard, and who can find the old ones who have been told that there is no place for them any longer, and in seeing them creates work, making possible a life that could not be otherwise.
Finally, here is one we have all heard told by now:
The daughters, sisters, mothers, aunties and uncles, fathers, brothers, and sons of those nine beautiful souls gunned down in Charleston can greet the evil they experienced, looking it in the eye and saying in the words of their faith and their tradition, “we can forgive and we can know mercy even when you do not.”
What are we seeing here? We are seeing the footprints of justice. Just behavior and right action have come to life. In each story, these people, perfect in their imperfections, were able to let injustice become a part of them, a brutal scar turned into blessed adornment. They let adversity make them better, stronger and braver human beings. In their lives, we see examples and guides, ones that we can follow each in our own ways, in our own situations. For these people are much like us. Their stories so similar to our own.
We are told, by the way, that this is not true. That one’s personal suffering and story is for one alone, that it cannot, perhaps even should not, be shared. But I say and see differently. I see that where two people have suffered, whatever the story and whatever the situation, they know one another, they recognize one another as kindred, and in so doing help each other heal.
When we ask the question and listen to the stories we find the answers. There IS an appropriate response to injustice, and people down the ages in many different walks of life have shown us this. It is one that carries much medicine, and one that speaks far and wide. And that response is to own it, call it like it is, and then to take upon our selves the great task of bringing justice to life.
As we make better choices, and love one another more deeply, and act with integrity, we bring justice to life, we bring fairness into the very places and the very times it is most needed. We find the blessings exactly in the most broken places, and we share them freely with one another, holding them in our beautiful, work-worn, hands, holding them up to our courageous, scarred and ever-blessed hearts.
(Listen to this lunar letter by clicking here).
Photo Credit: I cannot find the proper credit for this photo, but it is that of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, pierced, as all sacred hearts are by suffering and sorrow and all that is hard. Made stronger, as all lives are by those very same qualities.