I spoke last week of life as a process of endings and beginnings. These can take many forms. Every day, new light emerges from the darkness of night. Every season, the flowers of spring rise out of the snows of winter. In our own lives, hopefully, new joy arises from previous sorrows, and healing emerges from the preceding pain. So too, compassion for others springs from compassion for self. A sense of our own sacredness flows into awareness of the sacredness of others and of all that exists. A healthy self-love frees us from the weight of self-preoccupation and allows for an awareness, caring, and love for others.
Along these lines, I recently rediscovered an article, written many years ago, by Carol Christ and Charlene Spretnak called “Images of Spiritual Power In Women’s Fiction.” The article stresses how, unless women’s stories are told, the depths of their souls will not be known. I think that this view is universally true. It ties in with our emphasis that we must be in touch with our deepest experiences, both of light and shadow. We then have the task of naming these experiences, in a way that is true to these experiences, and not imposed on them. As theologian Tad Guzie insists, storytelling is the most basic way of naming experiences.
In my early twenties, I had a very striking, rather prolonged experience, that everything I had been taught was not necessarily wrong, but was unreal. It had been inherited, and felt like a jacket that no longer fit. I felt that my awareness and conviction had now to emerge from within, and not simply be tacked on, so to speak, from without. The thoughts and convictions I arrived at, might end up being the same as before, but they had to become my own.
The article by Christ and Spretnak gives a remarkable outlining of the process involved. As we awaken to our own inner voice and the depth of our own soul, questions arise as to who we are, why we are here, and what is our place in the universe. As they arise, the conventional answers are no longer acceptable. We mentioned before the play, Death of a Salesman, and the novel, Something Happened. Both find the prevailing worldview that stresses possessions, external success, and dominating power, is inadequate and even self-destructive.
According to Christ and Spretnak, the process of awareness, and its personal and social expression, follow a certain pattern. It is one of initial emptiness, followed by an awakening, and then a new naming. The emptiness involves the falling away of conventional wisdom, the social script, that now seems hollow and untrue. Then follows an awakening ro a new and more authentic sense of self and of one’s place in the universe. Finally, there is a new naming rooted in one’s real experience, which, in turn affects how a person relates to self and others, and finds expression in society.
The challenge, it seems to me, is to get below the surface clichés to the depth of our own actual experience and to try to name that experience as honestly as possible. This process would seem to involve recognizing both the gift and wounds of life, our joys and sorrows, yet still discern our underlying sacred worth, which can never be lost.
The two authors also speak of our “grounding in the powers or forces of being.” They add: “These powers of being are best understood as forces or currents of energy, larger than the self, which operate in all natural and social processes. These forces are the energies of life, death and regeneration, of being, non-being and transformation.”
I might add that these could be interpreted as energies flowing into the gift and call to bring something to life, even out of the deaths in the midst of life. They could be experienced in a sense of gratitude for our life, and indeed for all life and being. This experience would flow into a sense of responsibility to cultivate and share that gift in a life-giving way. I might also suggest that the underlying impulse of the universe is to impel us to understand and trust the process of life as pushing toward wisdom, compassion, and justice.
One aspect of an emerging viewpoint is to move beyond a view of people as isolated individuals in competition with others, where all relationships involve domination. The alternative is to recognize an underlying equality of all persons, and their essential relational and interdependent character. Ideally, then, all relationships, especially friendships and other intimate relationships, will be marked by this equality, by mutuality, sharing of presence and gifts, respect for diversity, and an underlying trust.
May you lean to discern, trust, and follow, your inmost self. May you uncover your own and others’ authentic sacredness. And may your life unfold in a wisdom, compassion, and justice, that is life-giving for yourself and for all who enter in some way into the circle of your light.
Norman King, April 24, 2023