trying to make sense of it all
blaming the media hype or
psychotropic drugs or
broken homes or
religious extremists or
violent toys and games or
easy access to guns
to New York City
to Oklahoma City
we are shocked by sudden and random acts of violence
we want to do something, so we
read more about it
talk about it
watch the news about it
call for gun control
pray for peace
recall prophecies about “end times”
and still we feel hollow. These actions, well intended though they may be, will never be enough. They are too shallow, too reactionary. I do not criticize these attempts to respond and to fix the problem. Nor do I condone the violence Nor do I advocate do nothing passivity. I suggest that we must go deeper.
Many spiritual traditions in essence teach that every event, all behavior is either
--- an act of love or a call for love ---
Wise spiritual guides direct us to ask, Where is God in the midst of this?
We may be tempted to think that question is too obscure or irrelevant to this situation, whatever the situation may be, or even impertinent and flippant. But the centrality of religious teaching reminds us that out of the heart proceeds all manner of thought. This is where we must go for answers.
We cannot know what is in the heart of another nor can we fix the brokenness that lives there. There is only one heart that each of us can know intimately. It is our own. We can only inhabit the interior of our own heart and there uncover the broken places, the wounds. And there be willing to be healed. Here is where we may reduce the violence. Here we may discover authentic lasting solutions. Here we may find the capacity to respond to calls for love with acts of love. Here is where we find God in the midst. And here, to this sanctuary, we must return and from here, alone, must we act.
* * * * * * * * * *
I wrote this yesterday morning and set it aside. Last night I attended our annual Solstice Spiral Walk. Thirty five children are enrolled in our small rural alternative school in grades kindergarten through eight. My daughter and son-in-law created the Solstice ceremony as their gift to the community. It is based upon ancient practices found all over the world on every continent. Every culture honors going within and finding the light at the darkest time of the year. Our Solstice Spiral Walk ceremony is held at our local community hall. The room is dark save for the evergreen branches sparkling with tiny white lights that form the spiral on the floor. My son-in-law tells all the children that we, the entire community of children, parents, neighbors, grandparents, will sing to them as a way of telling them how much we love them and how we will take care of them. Each child, from the oldest to the youngest, comes forward to receive an apple that holds a small white candle. My daughter lights each child’s candle and one by one, each child walks alone to the center of the spiral. Last night former students aged 17 and 15 and 14, down to younger brothers and sisters, toddlers, even tiny babies just a few weeks old, made the journey. We sing to each child as he or she receives their candle and walks to the center, places the candle beside the evergreen boughs, and walks back out again. These are the beautiful words that my daughter wrote, that we sing every year (sing your name in place of mine, to know how this feels). I receive my lit candle and begin the journey within and we sing a slow and lovely chant:
Phyllis holds the light now
Walking through the night now
Stars are shining bright
To guide her way tonight
I place my lit candle on the floor next to the one the child before me set down, and turn to walk back out and we sing:
Phyllis is the Light now
Phyllis is the Light now
Phyllis is the Light now . . . .
slowly, over and over again, as long as it takes to return. And then the next child begins. At the end we all join hands around the outside of the spiral to chant another lovely song:
In our hearts no fear
In our hearts deep peace
In our hearts great happiness
In our hearts safety
The verses that follow replace “our hearts” with “our homes,” “our town,” “our schools.”
This profound, moving ceremony tells me what I can do when nothing makes sense, when I search for the Light. I extend to you the peace and love shared in our tiny community gathering last night. You are the Light now.