You can read my latest on an exercise, a meditation, some insights on “Stuff” for free if you follow this link to my post on Medium.com. Hope you will read and enjoy. Jane
You can read my latest on an exercise, a meditation, some insights on “Stuff” for free if you follow this link to my post on Medium.com. Hope you will read and enjoy. Jane
Wanted: New Earth, Please.
By Jane Tawel
April 29, 2020
The abrupt crash between idealists and opportunists, that has occurred at the intersection of the Corona Virus Pandemic meeting the onrushing onslaught of our climate and planet abuse should wake us all up. It’s rather a shock to me, who grew up in a very different kind of American Christianity, that so many who still claim that faith, are like lazy servants, putting their heads under the covers, and pointing their crooked fingers at PNLU (People NOT Like Us). Like bridesmaids in Jesus’ story who don’t think they have enough oil in their lamps to spread light, or the complacent servant who has told himself convenient falsehoods for so long about his Master that he no longer knows what his real job is, or what The Master is like, we who would claim to have the corner on Religious Truth have gotten used to sleeping-in or taking a break from our labors, hoarding our resources, and shirking our duty. For more on what our “duty” is, one could start by meditating on Christ’s summation of the commandments of Moses’ YHWH, or conversely, taking to heart the prophets of old who foretold what a real Savior of the whole world would be like.
It is difficult for some of us to do anything more than choose to survive another day, especially for those throughout the world who are suffering in unparalleled ways during this 2020 Plague, with the sure knowledge that more suffering lies ahead. I have been quite ill, probably with the Virus, and because so far, I have survived, I have been granted another chance to stare at my imminent death (everyone’s death, actually, is imminent from birth, if you think of the length of your own life in terms of the life of the world and the planet). I know I am not alone, in considering this current World-Event, to be much like other catastrophic and reality-bending historical occurrences. And these types of events are for many tragic and sobering, and strangely, for some with “eyes to see and ears to hear”, fortuitously salvific, reviving, and energizing. Or they can be, if we let the tragedies, uncertainties, and fearfulness at this crossroads we all have arrived at, to become each individual’s and our communal renewed determination to make new and better paths forward to a new way of living into our new lives. This can all seem like a revelatory nightmare if we awake to much healthier and Goodness-oriented physical, relational, planetary, and spiritual realities. We have to stop hoping and dreaming for a better world, we have to make and create a better world.
Like lying half asleep, and hearing outside the safety of my own home, an horrific accident, a loud and near car crash, with grinding brakes, blown-out tires, engines exploding, glass and metal smashing into cacophonous, roaring explosion, I have been startled into wakefulness. I have been forced to be more aware of what is “going on out there”, outside of my small reality, the very real clashes and collisions of values, morals, and needs of our human species. And like many other wee warriors in the daily battle to make sense of the world, I have struggled to interpret what is really happening out there. Although the destructive forces of human beings wrecking their very own living space, the Earth, has been a more quiet, less recognized, but more insidious catastrophe; compared to the dropped atom bomb of the Corona Virus, the destruction and dismantling of our planet for personal gain, like an advancing army of drones who wreak havoc across the world, seemingly with a will and mind of their own dronish-selves, has caused throughout the world, a mindless vacuum of virtue, and a soulless species of what might have once been human beings. But now that people have relegated our culpability to others, and our own responsibility, in the Earth’s destruction to people we can label, “them”; some of us suddenly wake-up in time to understand that “them” is really, in the end “us”. If this Corona Virus lockdown has revealed anything, it has revealed the truth that “we have finally met the enemy, and the enemy is Us”. This quote originally about the War of 1812 was rewritten by the cartoonist, Walt Kelly, and used on the very first Earth Day in 1970 to with tragic irony, describe what humanity had become to itself in terms of how we were treating the Earth. We had become our own worst enemy. Fifty years later, and most of us have not only not learned anything about our own destructive enmity towards the Earth and our species, we have stopped caring.
One of the things, I have had time to think about during this strange season, is what in the world Jesus meant, when he said a bunch of stuff about God and the Earth, and about human beings and about death and about the future of the world and about His different sort of “Kingdom”. I call that only “One-thing” to think about, because everything, in the end, is part of a Whole, or, it isn’t. We have found during this Corona Virus and the crazy abilities of small cells to defeat our greatest minds, and we have found during the economic depressions and repressions looming once more and throwing off balance some systems that we thought could survive it alone, and we have seen during this time of enforced sheltering in, how the world’s interplanetary eco-systems, and everything including dependent human beings, are connected. None of us can go it alone, and all of us will eventually meet the same fate, and all of us need each other to make things right again, and everyone is connected to everything, and nothing will stand alone for long, and what will be left standing in the end, is up to all of us.
With more than enough time to be restful and perhaps paradoxically, during this period which has turned into a very tiring, and somewhat sleepy time, in some profound ways, my “eyes” have been jerked open, and my eyelids which often function as blinders, have been propped wide with the pain of having to look at Really, Real Reality. My vision has been cleared, with the pandemic functioning on one side, as a sharp toothpick propping open one eye, and the planet’s dire condition as a log propping open the other eyelid. In this way, one thing that the wise Teacher said that has taken on new meaning for me is, “why do you try to remove the toothpick in your neighbor’s eye, when you have that giant sequoia tree propping up your own eye, dearie?” The Visine of platitudes won’t get the red out of eyes opened by a frightening pandemic. Vaccines against our willful blindness won’t save us from eye-popping Truth.
This morning I began my day much as usual. First, I pray my “praising psalms”, which are often third-rate words of praise sent out blithely to Someone Out There, thanking Him for all my “stuff” and achievements, otherwise known to some people as “blessings”. These days, after Someone Out There has wacked me upside the head with thoughts about what’s really going- down in the World, and I have noted another day with an increased heartrate thinking about what happens after the day that I die; my praising prayer is set to the tune of “Being Alive” from the Steven Sondheim prayer book in his musical, “Company”. I am truly finally, just so peachy keen happy to be breathing and aware, that I have to believe there is Someone Out There I should thank for that.
Then while waiting for the coffee to brew, this morning as I have had more time to do, now that I’m not rushing off somewhere every morning, I looked outside my back door, while the dog, Daisy, did her nose-led tour of the yard, and I prayed my “help my family and me” prayers. These prayers are tuneless mewls, and at 5:00 AM are silent for the neighbors’ benefit, done with the sound turned off everywhere but in my own head. Because in fact, the Help Me Prayers, that I pray to God, sound like two feral cats in heat – all screeching desire and mindless animal-need. “Gimmeeee, gimmmeeee, gimmmeeee, helphelphelp!” Finally, as Daisy saunters in, never having had anywhere to rush off to in the first place, and I give her a treat for not needing toilet paper to do her business. I have that delicious, first sip of the elixir of the gods, laced amply with milk and honey (as all Promised Land drinks should be) and I move on in my habits of seeking spiritual connection or at least a kind of solace. Now, as I think about what is going on in the world outside my kitchen, I begin the final round of my life-long attempt at “thoughts and prayers” to a God Who Hears. I begin the Cursing Psalms.
I confess, I have had many days of speaking cursing psalms to God about people I actually know. Don’t deny it, I may have done it – but you thought it. These days my Cursing Psalms are almost exclusively reserved for the World’s titans of industry and kings of nations – in other words, the Pharaohs, Herods and Pilates of our Times. I am not often as extremely violent as the Hebrew Cursing Psalmists were, being weak of stomach and low on horror fiction images. I have a hard time praying, as the ancient Jew did in Psalm 137, that the current political Darth Vaders and religious Sarumans will have their “children’s heads dashed on rocks”. However, I have found a deeply felt connection with the revenge motif in Psalm 109:8 “may his days be few; may another seize his position”. I mean, c’mon, the cursing prayers in The Bible far outweigh one misinterpreted line by a biblical Paul-wannabe who wants us to “obey un-named authorities” because then we won’t “get in trouble” and we can keep tithing and being taxed.
Like the Psalmist, the prophets, like Jeremiah and Nehemiah, also have quite a lot to say about what they would like Providence to do to the wicked, or to those people who, even if they aren’t downright evil world-players, that God would do to anyone, even the little no-named soldiers and spouses, who are connected in wrong-doings (or by their silence?) to the “powers of this world”. Cursing prayers were prayed often by saints who saw the harm done by those who instigate or just allow “bad things to happen to good people”, and by those who deny direct involvement but are implicit by their profiteering silence.
For any one who is apt to think of this idea as too Old Testament, too “old style God”, best to read the curses of that currently trendy commentator, St. Paul himself, who says of his fellow “Christians” who are foisting their legalism and religious false interpretations on others, “I just wish that those troublemakers, who want to mutilate you by circumcision would emasculate themselves” (Galatians 5:12). Yowza! Something for those who want to rush their paying audiences back into death-trap churches and temples and mosques to think about. Or for the Biblically so inclined, read John in Revelations 6:10 or Peter in Acts 8:20. Of course, people today who want to claim some kind of belief in what is called Holy Scripture, or Torah, or the Bible, people who want to claim a kind of belief especially in that human/god we call The Son of God, Jesus, The Christ, have only to look at the words of Christ himself in Matthew 23 about the greedy and proud religious and political leaders of His time, and prophetically of ours. And of all time. To put Jesus’ words into a handy Spark-notes version, Jesus asks for and foretells “Woe”; which means Jesus requests and foretells a litany of bad consequences, for these people who were leaders and authorities in Jesus’ religion and of both of his countries. Jesus prays they will actually incur and experience a judgement and real future of “great sorrow and distress”. Woe to those humans among us who are enemies to Truth and Love. As I think about these things, I feel a personal type of uncleanness that far surpasses the way I feel having not taken a shower for the past few quarantined days. I still feel a righteous anger looking at the people I want to curse, but I also feel like a leprous dark cloud of disease, in the presence of a Holy God and a Perfect Savior. And all I want to do, is pretend I don’t know what any of it means, and that I can’t be responsible for the whole world, let alone, somehow judged for my own insignificant actions, and I just want to go back to watching a comedy on Netflix or eating my way through what remains in my freezer.
This morning, as I was winding up (or was it winding down?) my daily devotions of reading The Guardian, The Washington Post, the Bible, and some readings in mildly radical social, theological, prophetic works on spiritual realities, in other words things written by those who have explored Meaning throughout our human history, and people wiser than I who discuss “what in the name of earth and heaven does everything mean? And what is the answer to Why?”; I was once more beginning my rounds of prayers.
Let’s try again, I told myself. Okay. First — Praises for a growing understanding of God’s presence in the Universe. Praises for new insights into what it means to follow The Way. Next– some more conscience-stricken, gentle, humbled “help me” prayers. Prayer asking for the grace and health for me and mine, inside and out, to live through just this one more granted day. Prayers of asking for help that admit that though I do not know what is best for those I love, I will pray that the Holy Spirit will guide and change them in the ways they need to be guided and changed. The Serenity Prayer fits nicely here, the one that Reinhold Niebuhr so beautifully wrote and as it always does, today it moved something in me, when I recited the whole thing, including the hard parts, like the line “taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is and not as I would wish it to be”. And because I meant it, it changed something incrementally important in my own heart and soul.
Finally, I was ready to move on in my prayers to the Cursing Psalms, with the intent of simply asking that those people out there who thought they were too important to wear masks around sick people or too rich to wait in line or too smart to listen to people much smarter than they, or too free to be servants of Christ—that they would all just get the real-life consequences for their choices. I was just going to pray as the Psalmists and Prophets did, “please just let what they allow to happen which can kill others, what they do without caring who suffers because of it, what they take when they don’t need more instead of giving to those who have so little – please just be fair, God and let those things kill them instead of others; and please, God, harm their lives instead of the lives of the least of us, and just let their hoarded storehouses be taken away from them and distributed to a world in need; and while You are at, get rid of all the nuclear stuff and end the wars and if possible, stop the nasty viruses. Please God, just give enemies what they have worked so hard to deserve.” Woe, woe, woe. And then of course, that “Good Friend Jesus” of mine had to remind me, that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and that God sent His only son into the world, not to condemn the world, but to die and live again, so we can all be cleansed from unrighteousness, and that what I think in my own heart, is what I really am, whether I act on it or not and that I am to go into every little corner of my own world and speak Good News of light, and hope, and love, and forgiveness, and faith — and once, more it all became One Thing, all the dots connected to the whole, and the whole thing of both evil and good, sin and righteousness, hate and love, cursing and praise – the whole thing led inexorably, unmovably, unignorably back to Me – the only “dot” that matters, the elephant in the room, the stone around my own neck dragging me down, the one “enemy” that has to lay down her weapons, and give in to The Unsearchable Goodness of A Good, Good God.
Over the years, I have perfected the ability to pray to myself and call it praying to a God. I have honed a sort of sing-song prayer life which is mostly like one person trying to sing a musical-round by oneself. Sometimes, though from the back seat of the Life-Car I am driving, I hear the Holy Spirit pipe-up. So, now and then, when I am praying at God or whining at the world in the Name of God, I let God or Jesus get a line or two in. It can be quite unnerving to suddenly realize that I am finally having an actual dialogue with Otherness. It is quite different than having a monologue with the various personalities that inhabit my mind from day to day. Back to this morning. Once I recognized my own need for forgiveness and change, I was able to listen to something outside of myself. And this morning was one of those times that prayer suddenly became conversation and not soliloquy.
Like a whisper across an ocean, like a butterfly appearing out of a tempestuous tornado, came the words of Jesus: “love your enemies”, and then the footnote –”because they do not live in reality”. In this barely discernable moment, shot like an arrow through the permeable membrane of my brain/heart, The Real World, of life, of myself, of other people, of the planet, and of God, was for a brief, but very sense-able moment, completely seen by something inside me that I can only call “soul-vision”.
That moment when The Presence was real, was like looking at one of those ambiguous images that at first look like a vase and then, when you squinch your eyes a certain way, is suddenly revealed to be a woman’s silhouette. The dire forecast of what I knew would be the consequences of humanity’s actions and inactions was completely turned inside out. Like the Upside Down Kingdom of Christ always does, suddenly the pandemic and all cancers and diseases, and the abusive, greedy, corrosive powers throughout history and currently running the world; and the rot of religious hypocrisies used for personal gain; and the communal ignorant destruction of our planetary home; and all the sins great and small, done and left undone; all of these were for just for an instant revealed as one big smoke-screen, one giant chimera of lies about what was and is and will be in The Kingdom of Meant to Be. My point of view – and it was just a tiny point on a long, long line of crooked and miscalculated points in my own life and worldview—that tiny momentary point was Trued, was like a little creaky craft sailing due North, was the small speck in a traced circle of new life. That moment became, not the end of the line but a chance at beginning all over again.
What I connected that little point to, was the small dot in a swirling mass of human life-thought-dots of what Jesus Christ meant when he said, “My Kingdom is not of this World.” And what true followers of Christ mean when we pray to God the Father, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. On earth. This earth. The one we have almost – but not quite– destroyed. With these people. The godlike imago Dei in humanity, that we have almost – but not quite – destroyed. His Will be done, not theirs, not ours, not mine. There is a spark of that reality still ember-ing throughout the world. We just need to stoke it back to life.
We are meant to recognize beyond the pollution and rape of our resources, beyond the racism and violence, beyond the greed and pride, beyond the carelessness and uncaring, that we live in a place like we imagine a heavenly one to be — not somewhere else, but here, available if re-created, restored with the help of other human beings – not some other kind of species, just human ones like us. We are meant to look around and get to work making a reality of our longings for a good, heaven-like place here, now, with normal people, who if we look close enough, reveal themselves as angels, who have abilities for goodness and recreation and healing, miraculous works beyond our wildest dreams. We don’t need “them” to change, we need “Us” to change, and when we all work together for a truthfully Good life, “they” won’t have any choice but to join us. When in this moment, we choose God’s Kingdom on earth as His Reality is Everywhere Else, we will live as we were meant to live eternally. Because that is what Jesus Christ did. That is what Jesus Christ does. That is what Jesus Christ will do.
Because, thankfully, other human beings throughout history, have been much more attuned to moments like that butterfly moment of mine this morning, we have the examples of certain people throughout the world’s history who have been able to live lives connecting the dots of a different sort of Kingdom, a different sort of reborn life, a different reality in a world of justice, peace, sharing, health, miracles, love, and care for something bigger and more lasting than temporal and fleeting treasures. It is to my shame, that I so easily focus on those sad, mistaken, misguided ones whose lives are lived in the false doctrines of humanistic, individualistic self-centered Team-Me-ness. Because of some small communities throughout history, and some very special women and men, there have been bold, brave, fantastical, “Heavenly” forays into the enemy camp of the illusory world of false treasures, and there have been brash takeovers of the predatory, prejudiced profiteering of the temporal wannabes, and the building blocks have been laid in the construction of that which is worthwhile because it is eternal. Some of these heroes of the world, and communities of faithfulness to The Way, are in fact, people who have given Jesus Christ the credit for their world-changing vision and actions, and others weren’t and don’t. That, though, in the end, won’t matter one bit, because what any of us really believe, will be revealed when our hearts are laid open to God.
This time of a world laid open, like a patient on an operating table whose chest is opened up for the Doctor’s exploratory, surgical intervention, will allow us to open our eyes and minds and hearts to the reality of our actions and the consequences of our choices. It is painful and scary; it is also, the way forward, if we keep our eyes focused on the flickering of a hopeful light at the end of another dark tunnel in our history.
We can choose to focus on the crashes and cacophony outside, or we can tune our ears to the calm assurance that is found in the quiet, still voice of The God of Second Chances-Jehovah, and The Creator Who Loves Her Created World – Our Parent, and the Son Who Lived and Died as One With Us- Emmanuel. That God will not leave us alone. But of course, if we keep insisting to have it our way, He will get out of our way. And despite our Enemy’s best tries, there is A Way, there is The Way, there is only One Way for us to survive, to live, to prevent the death of our planet, and if not our physical, at least prevent our spiritual death. There is One Reality.
This morning, I realized for a small moment, that I should feel sorry for people who live a fiction, a false life, a continual version of themselves as the protagonist of a show that they think of as Real, in the same way they think that what they see on Reality TV is real. I should feel pity for those who do not live the right kind of life, as I have so often not lived the right kind of life myself. I understood that I am asked to forgive what seems unforgivable, because that is how I am forgiven. This is the miracle of repentance and restoration of my own soul, that by praying for the souls of others, I am healed.
I realized that the “biggies” and the movers and shakers of the world are never going to be convinced to give up their “stuff” so that the planet will survive. But I can. I realized some people will never understand how demeaning it is to the very basis of what being human is all about when they care only about themselves. But I can. I realized that the only reason to vent cursing prayers to God, is to cleanse myself from all unrighteousness, so I can finally be still and peaceful and centered enough to hear what God has to say to me.
And someday, when the Real Kingdom comes for good, we who have tried to be like Christ, Will Be. When only the little Davids are left, and not the Goliaths; and when only those who care for Creation as their Creator does are left, and when only those who have loved others as Jesus did are left, then they will inherit the New Earth. When we love our neighbor as ourselves and love God with every morsel of our being, every moment of our day, every dot on our life-line, then there will be no more pandemics, no more war, no more sorrow, no more suffering – no more death. When the world is made right as God intended it to be, then even death will have been conquered.
So, rather than praying for an end to the lives of the bad people and an end to all the bad stuff destroying us, I had best get started on being alive. I had best spend however many moments I have left, becoming one of the Whole, part of the community of good people, and taking care of whatever I have of the stuff that will last.
I should pray for the enemies of my own silly self, and those enemies of the world, not because I think they will change, but because by praying for them, I will change. I should love the enemies of God who take His name in vain, and whose pride has led them into a raging current of hypocrisy, because I am also, hypocritical and abusive of God’s intended purposes for this world. Loving doesn’t mean being silent in the face of lies. Loving doesn’t mean not speaking the Truth boldly, even angrily, when we must. Loving does not mean I think there is no such thing as bad people or sin or sinfulness. Loving means I recognize daily that I am part of both the problem and the solution. By loving even those whom I can see for what they sadly actually are, I can see my own egregious sins more frankly. I can repent and change who I am and pray for grace for those people who are yet unchanged, and ask for a bit of God’s grace for me as well. I can focus on the “YET” not the “never”. I can live as a truly grateful servant of Christ, and as a humble, dependent child of God.
In my dialogue of prayer this morning, this is an interpretation of some of what I understood God to be saying. I let God get in a few words edgewise in my thoughts and prayers this morning, and My Parent-God said something like this:
Child, feel pity for those people who are intent on destroying the Earth– they will not inherit it. Remember that only the meek will live to see a restored creation, so be meek and learn with those who are learning how to care for the planet I entrusted your species with. Child, you must try to learn more about caring for your planet, and love those who are too foolish to know that when they die, they will receive only what they have planted- dust.
Child, feel sorrow for those who claim they know my Son, Jesus who stretched out his arms on a cross for the whole world. Feel sorrow for them, for they do not see Him in the outstretched hands of the needy, as Christ commanded them to do. But you, my child, have another day to seek My Kingdom. Remember that only if you begin to love others as you have long loved yourself, will you enter into My Kingdom. Know that only if men and women are poor in spirit, will they have the Kingdom of Heaven forever.
Child, you see the Truth when you understand that the world is full of soul-less ones, of zombies, who think they are alive when they are really dead or dying inside. You too, have spent far too many days, trying to gain the world, and losing your soul. Be humbled, and be on guard, against the Devil and his hungry wolves who prowl the earth looking for easy prey. Do not let your heart be hardened against those other people, but love them, not for their sake, but for the sake of the New Earth, and the New Heaven, that I have in store for all those who follow The Way of The Light. To be persecuted for seeking righteousness, is the Way of my Son, and if you die to yourself, my child, you will be resurrected, now, and in the future, to a glorious Reality.
Child, you must not despair, but also, you must not hate. Despair and hatred are mere illusions of something, and are in fact, only the absence of something. This reality that is full of fear and suffering, wrongs done and left undone, of anger and violence and disease and, yes even death, are no more real to God, than any evil ever could be. These things, created by us, and not God, have been passing away from God’s Created Universes, since Adam’s Fall. They will pass away from the earth, as blades of grass blown by A Sovereign Wind. All that will remain for those who will inherit a restored and healthy world, in a reborn humanity, and in the Kingdom of Christ, God’s Son, will be all that has ever been truly real. All that will remain will be “faith, hope, and love.”
And, My Child, the most powerful, lasting, eternal, overcoming, over-whelming, greatest thing that will remain – is Love. So, my Child, focus your life on Flourishing in The Way, just as Christ lived out The Way for you. Seek to Love as We Love you. My foolish Child, so full of self-righteousness and desire — Today, love Me like a small child loves her Mommy. And work harder at loving others, even when they are destructive and evil, because that kind of Love will someday destroy all the evil in the world, even that which is in yourself. Forgive people who are naughty, in the same way you want to be forgiven. And always Remember– Love Will Win. So, Love other humans, especially the ones that no one else seems to care about, in the same way you love your own children.
And then, dear Little One, Leave the rest to Me. I’ve got this. I’ve got you. In fact, I’ve got the whole world in My Hands.
And so, my morning has ended with a pause in my cursing of my enemies. And as I try to figure out what loving enemies has to do with the rebirth of our world and the future of our souls, I end my prayers and start my day, by admitting, I have no idea what it all means, but I can trust that there is a God Who does. And as the Psalmist in Psalm 139 did after he cursed the bad guys, I can pray for God’s help to be one of the good guys:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my concerns.
See if there is any offensive, wicked way in me;
And lead me in The Way that is everlasting.”
This May Never Be Over, But It Could Be a Good Start
By Jane Tawel
April 25, 2020
A friend of mine wrote today about crying, laughing, eating and drinking, and then crying and laughing some more, and feeling alone, and feeling overwhelmed by the few family members she was stuck with at home for the past forty days. She wrote about how “40” is a symbol in numerology and is the number of “completion” in Hebrew mythology, and how she woke up distressed that this whole sheltering in, pandemic, quarantine, is not by a long stretch “completed” after forty days (or more depending on where you live).
This friend of mine is one of the truly great “livers”, in my opinion. Just to give you an idea — She and her husband plant a thriving garden of veggies and flowers that they enjoy all year long and share generously with others, they raise bees and sell honey, and make products from the honey and other natural sources grown in their yard, all while running two thriving small businesses in the Middle of American, and while caring with honesty, panache and deep love for an adult child with special needs who will always need their care. I wish I were half as amazing as the woman my friend is. And to top it off, what she writes and journals and then shares, especially during this time of Corona Virus, is so much all around just better than what I have ever written. So, when she wrote this one thing today, in the middle of another delightful, meaningful, moving post, I was rather stunned by it. What she wrote was:
“Maybe I have been looking at it all wrong. I have been looking at the outcome, and not the journey”.
And I was stunned, because if this A+ friend has been “looking at it all wrong”, then I must have been getting worse grades in living than the C + I was grading myself!
What I realized when I read her words, is that this should not be some new idea to me, but it always seems to blindside me, just like this viral pandemic seems to have blindsided the world. I keep thinking, I have taken pretty good care of my spiritual health, in the same way I keep thinking I have taken good care of my physical health, and then something happens like my amazing friend saying this about herself, or I start suffering extreme physical pain, (or a worldwide quarantine could do it), and I realize – “Well, drat! I really wasn’t doing such a great job at either the spiritual or the physical. Darn it!”
And the thing is, you can’t go back and change any of it. As much as I wish I could, I don’t get do-overs. But my fear is that, I won’t take the past seriously enough, to change the present. Because the Present, at least to a large extent, is the only thing that we ever truly can change. If we can’t change the circumstances of the Past or Present, we can certainly change our attitude towards them and our decisions that we can make in the Now in order to have a better Future. My fear for our world is that we will try to change things only in order to protect the Future to remain the same as the Past. And surely we will realize after this, that the Past is unsustainable as it was, both spiritually and physically, individually and world-wide. I fear that we will keep trying to move too quickly forward, forgetting what we have learned when this is the Past, and that we won’t make different decisions that can profoundly change things because we will rush willfully and blindly toward an un-different, indifferent Tomorrow. My fear is that we will try to keep looking for the same outcomes, and we will not have learned that we must look at the journey instead.
And so, the fear is that because we can’t seem to recognize the journey’s importance, we will once more mess everything all up, all over again. We are so anxious to move on, keep moving, move life along, that we keep forgetting that we can only ever live in this very moment. So we should try to do the best we can with it and in it. We also forget, that we can as humans be so much better than we think we can be, if we think we must be. I want to remember the feeling of accomplishment lived into the “Must” of this momentary time.
The problem is that I still spend too much time wishing something would be over or conversely, that something would arrive. Like hoping for an ending to an illness or counting the minutes until I will receive a Next-Day Package, I waste a lot of my life in “Not Nows”. Today, throughout my part of the world, people are “chomping at the bit”, as we used to say. They are ready to have this be over, and the world to “return to normal”. And it is hard not to want to rush out there and pretend it was all just a glitch, a nightmare to wake up from, a time of sleep, not action; a time of pause from life, not life. As the weather warms, and the birds sing more sweetly, and the bulbs planted last fall rise to show their glorious blooms, and we miss more and more the hugs and smiles and meetings at coffee places– it feels like we should be past this time and on our way back to accomplishing our goals, getting on with our lives, rising to the new challenges. We are in danger of thinking this is a pause, but it’s not a pause. This is the where and when of the real action. This is the real life we are meant to live. This is in fact, the only life we can live. Right Now.
And maybe only a very few of us will realize it, but we can try to encourage each other as friends, as survivors, to believe that for this time of confinement, of sheltering in, of enforced care of others, and healing rest and being alone in a reformulated communion with oneself and those we cherish most– that this is exactly and fully how life was meant to be lived. Always. Every day.
Maybe a few of us will hold on to what we have begun to learn during this season of learning. Maybe some of us will finally remember what it is to actually just “Be”; to just “Live”. Not just being as a self-satisfying panacea, but just being as a life provoked into purpose. Being alive in the journey of one more lovely step, in the allotment of one more chance, one more moment, one more “now”.
The true tragedy that may finally either destroy our species or the whole planet will be that not enough people come out of this time of repentance and renewal changed enough to change the world. The vastly more horrible thing will be if we come out of the time too soon, and that people we love will have died in vain, served in the health and food supply front-lines in vain, remembered what love and life really feel like in the joy of being alive – all in vain–and we not only start up another pandemic, but end a time of reflection about what we need to do – must do! — that will radically change not only our own course but the course of the world. What will be the very worse outcome of this Corona Virus will be if we all continue to live as if each of us is only worth what we accomplish for ourselves or the outcomes we seek only in terms of the fleeting importance of money. What will kill us in the end, is if we continue to squander our very lives today, by living for what we can never own – tomorrow. What will be the end of true physical and spiritual forward motion, is if we think we only had to temporarily love others as we would have them love us; that this was merely a “war-time” measure that was inflicted only in order to protect our bodies from a pandemic, and not the more important “peace-time” measure needed to keep acting in determined commitment to loving others and caring for the world in order to protect our planet, our neighbors, and our own very souls.
I have been “emerging” slowly for the past years into this same, profound idea that my friend wrote in her post — “It is not about the outcome, it is about the journey”. But this pandemic and the quarantine and safety rules, should help me understand more deeply, not only that each moment is precious, but that the journey was never meant to be about “ME”. It is not a journey of “self-actualization” or “self-realization” or “personal salvation” or any of the other self-centered religions we have created. Surely some of us will realize that the religions who claim that by saving myself I will have a good “outcome”, are based on deeply and immorally flawed theology. Surely some people may have a eureka moment and realize that it is pure foolishness to continue to act on the political systems that base success on the idea that more money will solve all our problems. Hopefully many of us will make new and better decisions by seeking only that which we truly need, and maybe we can then save the planet and other struggling communities from our greed in “going after”, all that we think we want.
Surely some of us will be willing to keep living after we are back to our “normals” by deciding that “normal” is better when we are changed by the past, and committed to a future world for our children, by living more wisely, graciously, honorably, nobly, and lovingly, in this precious moment.
This latest experience in this Journey of Life, makes me realize that I have far too often tried to heal myself and still hang onto my profound misunderstanding of what life is about. I have believed the Big Lie and continued to lie to myself about the importance of outcomes. I have not committed wholeheartedly to the Strong Medicine of Being, and the Paradoxical Natural Cure of Joying in the Journey. I have instead numbed myself with spiritual palliatives, emotional over -the -counter medicines, and a life-time of self-medication of false hopes, selfish pride, and anxious strivings. Then, with the ramifications of the Corona Virus Worldwide Pandemic, it is as if, suddenly, I am rushed into the emergency room for surgery.
This metaphor of the world’s population being in a spiritual hospital is paradoxically all too real for a world with loved ones being hospitalized in frightening numbers, and loved ones risking their own lives serving as medical professionals, support staff, and emergency personnel. But metaphorically, for each of us in a very real way, living in the Time of Corona Virus, is like being in an emergency room at a hospital. The World is our Hospital, and the stories we tell make all of us into characters in the unfolding plot. You may be the child, who has to wear a mask to “sit next to” your ill relative, or you might be the family member in the “waiting room”, who is still able to go to the “hospital canteen” for food for the others waiting it out. You may be the person who works to supply the food for the people in “the World’s Hospital”. You may be the exhausted “hospital” worker, still able and willing to care for our World Family by supplying the “Hospital’s” needs or by saving the lives of the patients. You may be the surviving mourner, grieving in a world that is unable or that has forgotten how to mourn with one another other.
You may even be, the antagonist, the fool, the enemy, who spreads or derides the consequences of the World’s illnesses, the World’s evils; the character who wants his rights and own success and selfish ideas of personal freedom, over the triumph of Goodness; the one who doesn’t care about others’ suffering, and who will stand up for his own rights even when it will eventually be the thing that kills him too. You may be the one who lives for yourself or your beliefs against the good of the whole world, in order to gain – what? Are we not able to finally look at the antagonists of the World’s Story for what they are? Pathetic excuses for what humans were created to be.
But we mustn’t be too proud. For we all play the fool and the antagonist at various points in our life’s story, whether we like to admit it or not. But today, we are faced with a paradigm shifting new story – the action rising has reached a climax we did not anticipate – there has been a foreshadowing of this Time of Corona Virus, but we missed what the signs meant; and now the Climax is here, and we as the only protagonist we have in the writing of our own Life Story get to decide – what path, what story-line, will I choose? What will this catalyst of change do to my story? Will I be the hero in The Journey’s great Quest? When I finally get to leave this time of “symbolic hospitalization by fiat”, will I continue to seek a purpose in my journey and meaningful opportunities to give healing and love to others? Will I live with a sense of joy in the journey, only “on the page” I can live in today, without cheating and flipping Life’s Pages ahead to rush the end? Will I live as if the only outcome that matters, is that Love wins?
Each of our homes, during this pandemic, has become a “waiting room”, and each of us characters in the unfolding drama. In another sense, each of us is the person who has been “rushed to the hospital”. We have been trying to live a life where we treat our spiritual ailments on our own, and now, we are “forced” to face the fact that we need outside expertise and serious intervention, and we need each other, in order to live. We have to finally make the tough decision to “operate” on what ails us. What is wrong with us, won’t get better without some serious professional intervention and tough decisions and sacrificial love of people whose names we may not know or those we may never meet.
We must commit to incising the bad stuff, surgically, painfully even, removing the diseased parts of our souls and of our world. And then, with equal parts skillful study and hopeful faith, we must replace the bad stuff, with some good organs, like a heart of love, or good blood, like a throbbing, flowing zest for living in the Now, or a good something that we might simply call a Second Chance or a New Life. And this New Life or Second Chance, we have discovered, has to be available for everyone, everywhere, if we want a healthy life for ourselves; and it has to be applied to the Planet of Natural things and of animals if we want this Renewed Life to continue in the World and in a viable future world for the children.
We are all a part of one Big Story. Except for those trying to rush to the end, who keep living into some kind of on-demand commercial break. Tragically, some people still believe that they are the only character in the World’s Story who matter and so the outcome for them becomes more important than the plot line of the World’s Story. And they will continue to think and behave this way, to the World’s great loss. But I don’t have to choose to continue that way. Although I cannot choose the outcomes, as long as I am so privileged to live one more moment, I can choose the way I will journey.
I hope I can come out of this surgical necessity, this time of “extreme measures”, with more understanding and acceptance of what life is meant to be in the Now, and more joy in the journey of the moment. I hope I can sacrifice for others and therein find what Love truly is. I hope I can be a daily “organ donor” of my heart, for others in this world who are in need. I hope I can donate my Life’s blood to the flowing course of The Tao. I don’t think I will be completely healed; there will still need to be a lot of my drinking of the bitter medicine of humility and suffering, and of the palliative care of struggling to put others before myself. I will need to remind myself that happiness is fleeting, but joy in the journey is profoundly and truly found in some mysterious way, in the Forever of the moment.
In all moments, with enough wisdom and love, life is good. And yes, paradoxically that means an acceptance that Life must continue to include tears and mourning, sorrow and pain, confusion and feeling alone, doubt and fear; for these also are the things that make us more human, more a part of what happens to each individual part of the whole, and more in recovery and restored health, along with all of those others who lie in a sort of Spiritual ICU Time, waiting to be transformed to a New Normal Life and released back into the World’s Wondrous Story.
I will have scars large and small left from the surgical intervention of Corona Virus Time; but I will be remiss if I cover those over with business as usual and self-medicating measures. I will feel all the things I have felt for the past forty days, and not have a quarantine to blame it on, and it will be tempting to find a scapegoat or to vent my boredom or sorrow or anger on someone else. I will find happiness in the small things, but I will be tempted to not let that be enough. I will be tempted to use the excuse that I am only human, without remembering that a human being is capable of great and glorious things, sacrificial things, lovely and true things, and yes, even Godlike things. I have seen humans do those Godlike things during this frightening, worldwide-suffering time, and though it will be easy to forget, I must make metaphoric plaques on my soul’s memory walls of all that occurred in the name of Love during this “Hospital Time”.
I must determine today and every day that as long as I still have life, I must remember that there are great human beings in the world, doing amazingly great things; and it also true that there is the enduring reality that in this moment, I and each of us, can do small things, with great love.
So today, on this day of “completion”, which even after the complete number of forty days that my friend noted, still is so very incomplete, we can, if you like, make a sort of “ending”. We can make this the day we end our ultimately hopeless, purely self-centered care, and begin to see our lives as so much more important than that. We have a whole “Hospital of a World” to care for, to be part of, and to do our part for. We must each of us accept that there is little we have ever truly been in control of in terms of our unknowable futures, so it is best to live well and in loving-wellness with ourselves and others. It is best to live this small life, with great love in the only thing we have for sure — this very, single, precious moment.
The Hebrews have a good word for that sense we long for, of completion or “wellness”. It is called “Shalom”, and to me, it is a shorthand word for something like “a bigger than life, bigger than just my life, bigger than all of our lives, a great and good and Godlike kind of Peace-giving, soul-satisfying Wholeness”. Shalom means a completed circle of one’s life in this moment. All the dots connected. The circle’s center protected. Shalom.
I can come full circle in this very moment at least, and make a pact with myself, not to forget. Not to leave this time with a broken circle. To remember to keep connecting all the dots, one journey’s step at a time.
Just as after forty days of wondering in the wilderness, the ancient Hebrews committed to “Remember”. Just as the Native Tribes after the colonial genocides, and the persecuted Jews after the Holocaust, and the Armenians after the War of 1920, and the Rwandan Genocide of the 1990’s and on and on and tragically, historically on – we can determine, that the deaths as well as the surviving lives of this Corona Virus Pandemic will not be in vain. We can determine to Never Forget. And although humans seem determined to foolishly, selfishly put behind them history’s lessons in atrocities and pandemics alike, as if somehow by forgetting, we can “move on” to different outcomes; we can help each other to remember what we’ve learned. Because though we can not change the past, we should learn from it. History proves that the Outcome will always be tragically the same, if we continue to forget and dismiss our best Teachers and Most Important Lessons. But we are given a chance today, to remember The Way, to live in Good Health spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and willfully. We are given the opportunity to step forward and to walk rightly and righteously in the Great Journey. I can do all I need to do for now. I just need to take the first step.
We can determine, today, this time around, when this metaphoric Hospital World is a thing of the past, and the Story of the Corona Virus has ended this chapter, to Not Forget; to Remember how we should have been living all along. We who get a new chapter to live in, after this one is over, must not take lightly our continual and precious presence in The Big Story.
Even if I am merely a rather unimportant, bit character in the World’s Big Story, I am responsible for the plot line and character development of my own little life and tiny soul. It would be a horrible shame if after my time on the “operating table” of this Time of World Sorrow and Loss, I would survive only to go back to not caring for myself as I must and not loving others as I should. It would be such a waste of “good medicine” if I don’t change even further by living physically rightly, and spiritually righteously.
I can determine that this time I have spent during the lock-down, will not be something I want to “get through”, like a pause in my life, but something I want to “go through”, like a passageway in my life’s journey. This unique chapter in the World’s Story may complete the cycle, that metaphoric “forty days” or forty months or forty years; but no matter how long this troubling, difficult chapter in our lives lasts, it will not be a “completion”, unless we build truthfully and lovingly on the story line. The true troubles of this time, will never end, unless we make a new start. Many of us will choose to let this chapter end and we will force ourselves to move on by forgetting the lessons we should have learned. We will all be tempted to make the next chapter of our own plot-lines, and of our planetary setting, into an ultimately unsatisfying selfish progression of our own hubris-fueled desires, and it will end up as just one more tragedy in a long endless tale of the tragic outcomes of history. But some of us, can hopefully, let this time in our lives be the beginning, not the end.
The World is ready, is desperate, for a New Story with new adventures and new journeys and determinedly brave and spiritually healthy heroes that all combine to lead up to a new final outcome, and a satisfyingly, almost heavenly, one might say, ending. Are we ready to start right now, in this moment, to live like we want to be a part of that Story?
When I was a child, I read the world like a child’s book, to be entertained, and to be careless with, dog-earing the pages, and not caring whether I lost borrowed stories or even remembered them. But now that I am an adult, I must read the World’s Story as an adult should. The World’s Story — and my neighbor’s story — and my neighbor’s neighbor’s story, and even my supposed enemy’s story — should not be some fiction I put away blithely while I remain unchanged. Every story of the world, every tale of the planet, every memory of a life, should help to change me to be spiritually healthier and more committed to a Good End.
Every day should be read like the label of a life-saving medicine, and each moment I am so privileged to live, must be treasured as a precious blip on my soul’s heart rate monitor.
Are we ready to let our Time in Spiritual Surgery, convince us to take this new chance at life, this new step on our Life-journey, this new chapter with all the gratitude and a deepened desire to “play it forward”; all the love that this very, precious moment of Now deserves?
When we get out of “Hospital” will we let Providence guide our moments to help create in our Beloved World and for our fellow journeyers, a New Beginning at Life?
Ironically, this may be the best Earth Day Celebration in a long time. I am sure that the Earth is celebrating, anyway, as perhaps the one “upside” to this whole horrible Corona Virus pandemic, is that we can finally see that with drastic measures on humans’ part, the Earth can actually begin to heal from all we have done to Her.
Let’s hope we can keep some of the good stuff for the planet when this all ends. It won’t be easy, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a healthy planet again? Let’s hope the “new normal” includes a lot more focus on humanity’s health and happiness, but also some serious and intentional living for the health and happiness of our Planet Home. Happy Earth Day!
#3 In My Room – A Sonnet
By Jane Tawel
April 22, 2020
For those of you who may have forgotten your Middle School English Class, A Shakespearean Sonnet has 14 lines written in iambic pentameter, and rhymes every other line until the last two which will form a couplet. (You’re Welcome. haha! ) Every once in a while it can be rather a fun thing to try to put form right up there with function, and I thought I’d try it in my series of In My Room Poems.
In My Room -#3
By Jane Tawel
April 22, 2020
Smells of sage, mint, lavender seep white walls.
Though not for fighting, there is one sharp knife.
Aprons hang like church or temple prayer shawls,
In this room I’ve served in– glad days, good life.
Colors much too bright for rooms more mellow,
Impart an ambiance both bold and right.
Vegetables and fruits recline –red, yellow;
Oven’s warmth melds with sensual delights.
There’s salty, bitter, sweet, and savory,
There’s cool and heat and hot and mild and cold.
This room has hosted mealtimes flavory,
And laughs and sorrows here have all been told.
I need no place but this to be rich in,
Ambrosial with memories — kitchen.
The Second Poem in the Series of “In My Room”
By Jane Tawel
In My Bed Room
By Jane Tawel
April 20, 2020
Prone, with geese remnants and cotton fields’ dross to prop my head,
I gaze out the small, square pane,
the portal to other territories than mine
and I watch the Lacebark Elm.
She moves her green limbs like ribbons blown by breezy-tunes.
The previous nights’ bacchanalia of books,
lie like drunken guests,
with spines outstretched or curled-in upon themselves.
They wait for another night of revelry,
For the party of like-minds to begin.
They have long to wait on me, their host,
The alarm clock light reads 5:45.
For now, I lie between leaves and leafs,
Trees and the products of trees,
Both creations of Imaginations
Far greater than mine.
The alarm clock sits useless by my right hand,
I have no where to go, but up, as the idiom proclaims.
Time has lost His hold on me,
And sometimes I miss the deathly grasp of His strong hands,
Time, The Steersman of our fate,
has let me plant my deep roots here,
For a while.
I lie and contemplate the timelessness
of leisure and past due-dates in usefulness.
There’s an old painting on the wall across the room.
It was carelessly gifted to me, and
Given by someone who loved me
and then passed on but didn’t die.
My unpaid dressers of wood and iron
Wait attendance in the dusk.
They stand upright, not like trees, like butlers at attention;
they only sway in earthquakes.
Their wooden faces have completely forgotten
Their arboreal parentage;
The things in my room are not tree-like at all,
No longer alive, like the Lacebark Elm,
not malleable like nature.
The things in my room have no power over any one but me.
They are nice – perhaps even friendly—
But they do not touch or inspire anything but the past.
And how can anything change the past, realistically speaking?
The things in my room are useful,
But we are not stirring,
or moving like a good story,
We are staid like dreams,
and stagnant like memories.
And so too, the photographs propped-up like corpses in bier-like frames,
Their bodies trapped in decayed lands, here, there and everywhere,
Never moving, never changing,
living only to keep my memories on life-support.
I still love gazing though, at their faces, frozen
in the rigor mortis of confused and confusing smiles,
I can’t remember what we smiled at then.
The people in the photographs look like poorly trimmed trees,
With their limbs caught in motion,
Held high in the old winds of the past.
The bodies in the pictures are spiritless here,
Like broken eggs, whose chicks
Have flown the coop, have left the nest,
Have departed for Ports Unknown,
Only the shells remain.
I see the spirits pass this room, from time to time,
Soaring like sparrows, cocky like crows,
As other-like and unlike as eagles.
They wing towards their own suns,
elsewhere, somewhere else, somewhere else.
I joy in that they have left me some crumbs to lead me back,
and wrinkled feathers to assure me that they were once here.
And I re-read their stories,
Over and over and over again,
hoping for futures in a place of pasts,
in this room.
Books are all about the people who,
just like those in photographs,
are available to tell you what is on their minds,
but not for mutual conversation.
You have to be a good listener
If you want to keep books and memories alive.
In all these years I have lived the start of each new day,
Like a new chapter,
Waiting for resolution,
Hoping the story will not end too soon.
Hoping when the story is good that it will not end,
that it will not end,
that it will never end . . .
I look around, still supine, caught between finishing the chapter I am in,
(it’s a boring one, with me still lying here like a drowned worm, but I like it);
And the next chapter,
(I’ve read this type of day a thousand times or more,
so, I’m pretty sure how the story goes).
I think about people caught in books
or trapped, unbeknownst to them, in someone else’s past.
I think about characters that I love,
but whose life stories sit on shelves,
covered in memory’s dust motes.
And I think, how lucky to have a room,
Where stories still have life.
How lucky to have a setting,
Of Place and Time,
Where characters are loved
And given root, and then
I lie like a small grey bird in my bed-nest.
And I look for something outside this room
Hidden in the branches of the Lacebark Elm;
and the window pane is clear,
but I can only see my own reflection in the pain.
And yet, I know, that out there are the living stories
in which my reflection mirrors me with meaning.
Perhaps it is now the time to rise;
for me to protagonize my life?
Perhaps it is the hour for me to stirrup-up
With tattered wings, but able to still chirrup-up?
Unencumbered by tossed and turned bedclothes,
Or dog-eared corners,
Or alternative endings,
I raise my limbs to
dance my own life,
not like a young seedling anymore
not like a sapling, or a limber birch,
but like a sturdy old Elm,
who has learned to sway to withstand the earthquakes,
in a forest of possibilities.
I salute the Lacebark Elm
for sheltering me through the night,
And tug a metaphoric forelock in deference
to this space I fleetingly call mine.
I am like, yet not like, that ancient tree outside.
I think the Lacebark Elm
will live forever.
I curtsy to replace the book that fell in the night,
And the ancient hardwood of my joints creak,
as I cross myself at the thought of
the power and unbearable lightness of being
that stories have.
In this room,
I am Scheherazade.
I am a storyteller spinning stories from truth and fiction,
telling tales to live.
A story is a fiercely loving thing
in the arms of a place that belongs to you.
In My Room #1
By Jane Tawel
April 16, 2020
In my room,
that I painted by my own hand
in muted shades of green and coral and tan,
In a year when I was young and trending colors intrigued me,
And my shoulders didn’t ache until evening fell
And I stirred at the stove for the children’s hour.
In my room
that has been nestled in this old house for a hundred years and more,
Even before my birth somewhere due east from here;
In this room
Were lives that mattered to someone else
and still sometimes seem to ghost the air here.
Whose faint lines are traced in long-gone breathed circles
Whispering still upon the windows here?
I long to kiss those tiny mouths that fogged the glass,
And grasp damp, sticky fingers, that mother once did chide,
For etching fleeting messages of love.
I breathe deeply in and look
from left to right and up and down
at what will never be tomorrow,
but only now and now and now
creeping in this petty pace from day to day.
My room invites the shades of sunlight in,
allowing light to tap and pat upon
the limbs of substance hardened around my soul.
In this room,
Like bread kneaded,
I sit on the hard couch that once belonged to Grandma, hoping
To still be needed,
and I rise.
In my room,
My thoughts dance in moods that play like musical chair contestants.
The room is piled with books and piled-up memories;
Things I cleaned only yesterday (or maybe it was last year?).
I entertain the thought that I should
Fluff the pillows on the window seat
And look inside the lid that no one opens any more
to search for games or puzzles.
How many pieces would I find missing?
In my room, I hide,
Like a child who isn’t sure it’s all been just a game
— a little scared, a little giddy —
And no one can see her,
hiding behind the coats in the closet
away from the gods controlling her life.
And dreamlike all day long are those
who rush by my front yard, obscured
by the big, brooding camphor tree, that stands outside my room,
like a sentinel, like a goddess of ancient woods,
protecting my bunkered thoughts
and sheltering my memories,
in my room.