So I’ve kept all the sparks to myself, which means they were never written down, never shared, never allowed to burst into the all-consuming flame that gives both heat and light to myself and others. As Anne Lamott says, “Perfectionism is like held breath.” The fire died for lack of oxygen.
The other reason I haven’t written is that I often find myself being bored with my thoughts, or at least less enamored with them. I’ve thought them too many times before.
I’ve read many wonderful quotes about thoughts recently. For example:
- Reality is so much more delicious than our thoughts about it – Judson Brewer
- Nothing can be more life changing than an escape from your own perceptions – Roger Housden
- The important thing is not to think much, but to love much – Teresa of Avila
My mind is a both a wondrous playground and a deep, dark, scary place of doom. My inner world is rich with whimsy. I love language, being able to convey subtle feelings and emotions with metaphor. I love reading the magical words that others have woven into stunning tapestries that now hang in my mind. I love thinking about how my brain works, how the crazy lines on a page get absorbed through my eyes into pulses of energy and neurochemicals that somehow result in meaning-making.
Many years ago, a teacher shared one of those pithy statements:
When the wanted and the unwanted are equally welcome, that’s enlightenment.
“Ah yes,” I nodded in what I hoped would appear as understanding. But I didn’t get it. In my gut I remained committed to trying harder to control my world so that it would only contain “the wanted.”
You don’t. So, once the labeling has taken place, how do you become comfortable what’s been labeled as “unwanted?” You don’t.
It isn’t a matter of becoming comfortable at all. It’s about being so totally “with” the discomfort that there’s no need to push it away. Huh?
Is it possible to inhabit both the wondrous playground and the deep dark scary place of doom with equal curiosity, with equal tenderness? Can I live in a world that is a continuous flow between meaning and chaos? Wanted and unwanted? Wondrous and scary? The word “paradox” seems to be showing up everywhere for me these days, and I guess that’s the simple label I’m going to use in order to not think too much about both/and.
Or better yet, “One-ing,” the term used by the 14thcentury Christian mystic, Julian of Norwich describes, the union of Soul with Divine, Self with Other, me and everything else. “By one-ing, it is made endlessly holy.” Holy, not comfortable. “One-ing” is whimsical, poetic. And as Krista Tippett says, “A poetic mindset is more useful than a fact-based or argument-based approach.”
And so I’ll call on the poet Rilke to have the last word:
I live my life in widening circles, orbiting around God. … Go to the limits of your longing, embody Me, flare up like flame and make big shadows I can move in. Let everything happen to you—beauty and terror. Just keep going—no feeling is final. Don’t let yourself lose Me.”