We have fallen out of belonging. Consequently, when we stand before crucial thresholds in our lives we have not rituals to protect, encourage, and guide is as we cross over into the unknown. For such crossings we need to find new words. What is nearest to the heart if often farthest from the word.**
When your mind is filled with love, send it in one direction, then a second, a third, and a fourth, then above, then below. Identify with everything without hatred, resentment, anger or enmity. The mind of love is very wide. It grows immeasurably and eventually is able to embrace the whole world.**
We can find ourselves caught in the harshness of our words, soapboxing in tweets and soundbites, on the far side of debate from conversation.
At such a time as we find ourselves in Britain, John O’Donohue’s words on “blessing the space between us” make for intriguing and hopeful reading:
Blessing as powerful and positive intention can transform situations and people.*
O’Donohue died in 2008 and so would have no idea about the timeliness of his thoughts for us. Although hopeful in the power of blessing, he was not naive, blessings are not akin to sprinkling pixie dust over a person or problem:
A blessing does not erase the difficult nor abolish it; but it does reach deeper to draw out the hidden fruit of the negative.*
From this we can deduce that blessing requires time and proximity. To go deeper rather than skimming off the surface requires that we put down our tweets and see the inadequacies of debate and find the necessary container or vessel for blessing being a conversation.
More than ever before I find myself challenged to explore conversation with others as an urgency for our times.
On my bookshelf at the moment, I have two books I’ll be choosing between for my main read in October: Susan Pinker’s The Village Effect and Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation. You may have other titles in mind and also be interested in exploring some way of rediscovering conversation. Let me know if you are.
John Steinbeck wrote:
In every bit of honest writing in the world… there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. ^
Where to begin? We perhaps need to become more like writers; these words from Steinbeck caught my eye:
As a writer you should not judge. You should understand.^
We begin when we move from judgement to openness.
O’Donohue wrote about how a blessing is an expression of the quiet inner light that is found in each person:
This shy inner light is what enables us to recognise and receive our very presence here as blessing. […] The gift of the world is our first blessing.*
O’Donohue opens his blessing For Love in a Time of Conflict with these words:
When the gentleness between you hardens
And you fall out of your belonging with each other,
May the depths you have reached hold you still.*
Moving from judgement to openness is not only about how we respond to the Other but also how we see and understand ourselves. We all are more than harsh words, more than judgement.
No pixie dust, this is the most courageous place to be.
(*From John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us.)
(**The Buddha Siddhartha Gautama, quoted in Karen Armstrong’s Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.)
(^From Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: The Only Story in the World.)