In last week’s reflection, we noted the weariness that afflicts so many of us as a result of a prolonged pandemic which leaves an uncertain future. We also referred to many sources which maintain that out of this form of death new life may emerge.
A story I read many years ago, Hope for the Flowers, by Trina Paulus, echoes a similar theme. It uses the image of the lowly caterpillar who creeps upon the ground only to emerges as a beautiful butterfly who soars in the air. It is a story of hope, in which life moves through a seeming death to a new and fuller life.
A fascinating review of this book is offered by author, Deepak Chopra. In part, he writes. “In Trina Paulus’ book, Hope for the Flowers, two caterpillars get caught up in the fallacy of competition and struggle to reach the top of a caterpillars pile. By journey’s end, however, they learn that their true nature, and that of every other caterpillar is not one of winning and being at the top, but of going within and emerging as beautiful butterflies who were born to soar. Like the caterpillars in that tale, very early on in our lives, we may have received messages that we must compete in order to succeed. … There seemingly must always emerge winners and losers, … with only so much glory, love, money and other resources to go around. …This response creates separation which pulls us away from the natural flow of the universe.
“The truth is that abundance exists all around us, in nature, in our local grocery stores, in the deep love of our friends and family – everywhere in the universe. In going within and connecting with the true self, we find it easier to understand this and appreciate what we already have. … From this place of gratitude, we invite our egos to step aside and we feel a greater kinship with everyone and everything around us. … We experience a new way of being, choosing to see the world as an abundant place with room enough for all to express their unique talents and succeed. Here, we step into, and embrace unity, peace and infinite abundance.”
Theologian and sociologist, Gregory Baum, expresses a similar view. He writes vividly that human life can be shattered–by failures, sickness, disappointments, accidents, and the like. “It is possible, “ he observes, “to have one’s life shattered like a precious vase and despair over ever being able to rebuild it. … These deaths in the midst of life are what we are most afraid of. “ Yet, he continues, even in these conditions there remains a summons to new life, that out of the fragments left to us after the storm, there remains the possibility of becoming more human.
In two films, one a fictionalized account, Awakenings, and the other a documentary, Alive Inside, people who have been withdrawn for a long time, suddenly awaken to who they have been, one through a drug and the other through familiar music. While the emergence is brief, it is an illustration of a constant theme in the arts, spirituality, and religion, that new life is possible, even out of situations of great loss and suffering.
The theme for our times is one of gratitude for the past and hope for the future, while living as fully, creatively, and responsibly in the present. None of the heaviness of feelings is denied but they are not given the final word on our story, they do not become the dominant theme in our life script. The theme becomes a hope for life even out of the many deaths in the midst of life. Inseparable from this underlying attitude is a sense of gratitude for the gift of life, a sense of the sacred worth of our own life, and a responsibility for honouring that life within ourselves, and gradually extending our compassion for others, and to our participation in whatever way possible in the fashioning of a more just society.
May every experience of inner sorrow or loss you experience become the birthplace of new life and hope which issue in a renewed gratitude for life and a deepening compassion for ourselves and one another.
Norman King, April 18, 2021