Guest Author #12
Sunday Dec. 18th, 2011 The Little White Church
The Sleepless Ones
What if all the people
who could not sleep
at two or three or four
in the morning
left their houses
and went to the parks
what if hundreds, thousands,
went in their solitude
like a stream
and each told their story
what if there were
fearful if they slept
they would die
and young women
unable to conceive
fearful of failing
worried about paying bills
having business troubles
and women unlucky in love
and those that were in physical
and those who were guilty
what if they all left their houses
like a stream
and the moon
illuminated their way and
they came, each one
to tell their stories
would these be the more troubled
or would these be
the more passionate of this world
or those who need to create to live
or would these be
and I ask you
if they all came to the parks
and told their stories
would the sun on rising
be more radiant and
again I ask you
would they embrace
~ Lawrence Tirnauer
As I pondered what I wanted to say to you this evening, to extend to you as gift as we close the year, I found this poem to be one of the most moving and evocative of our entire time together and our listening together to poems. It took me back to one of the lines of the first poem I shared with you last April, from David Whyte in “Faces at Braga,” where he says, “when we fight with our failings, we ignore the entrance to the shrine itself.”
As I listened to these words, and contemplated the fact that we all have a story, as we have said, that lives behind the face of each of us, I realized how this poem, the sleepless ones, meets the story of Christmas – the story of the baby Jesus in a manger, a story that with each passing year, carries the possibility of something fresh, if we look for it. So I want to see if I can make that bridge, from that which is stirred in us, as we recognize ourselves in this poem – our sometimes veiled common ground, our humanity and vulnerability, our collective restlessness, our failings – to the themes and images found in this story we hear every year. A story we know so well, that we might cease to really hear it, and if it is not our tradition or we’ve been hurt or disgusted by what has been made of it, we might even try not to hear it, to shut it out. Someone said to me that they had a friend who felt that Christmas was just something to get through, to get past. And this saddened me, and yet I get it. For many people it is not all about joy and light and family and cheer. At all. I hope that some of what I say might speak to that reality. Perhaps unlatch a lock, open a window.
What is somehow mirrored for me in the poem, points to what was really going on behind the soft lit, cozy little manger scene where Jesus was resting – a sort of human messiness – and all that had gone before the event of the birth – the ordinariness of Mary as the one who is chosen, her fear, her status as an unmarried, pregnant woman, their destitution and poverty and lack of sufficient space for the impending birth...the utter vulnerability and humility that surrounded this birth, yet marked by a star the wise men sought, and shepherds followed.....the sheer earthiness of the hay and the manger and the proximity to the animals as important participants, the smells, the cold, the rawness of it all. And yet, the little Lord Jesus is asleep on the hay – the offer of rest, in the midst of strife. Stillness at the core of the swirl.
oh hush the noise and cease the strife and hear the angels sing
A humble manger scene, and yet this is hailed as the beginning of a new covenant, a new way, the meeting point of the Creator and created, the Light coming freshly into human form. The powerful words – repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy.....wonders of this love.....and wonders of this love – this little child, who would grow to be a passionate man, who would heal the sick and commune with the broken ones, who would drive out the money changers, one who would embody and look for radical authenticity, and who would ultimately be broken and killed himself for just that, for not fitting in with the status quo, for shaking it up, for showing what is possible . . . a human person, fully alive, on fire, Love incarnate – one who would pray that we would be ONE as he and his source who he called Father were ONE. At the same time that he was vigilant and fiery, he was also acquainted with grief; and he was gentle and tender...those amazing lines from Handel’s Messiah how he would “gather the lambs in his arms and gently lead those that were with young......come ....all you that labor and are heavy laden, and you will find rest.”
We are given here in this poem, as well as in the trajectory of the Christ child and who he became, a juxtaposition – relevant, and worthy of our interest and inquiry – how it is that fire, vibrancy, and sorrow and grief, and tenderness and gentleness and rest can reside together as one whole – and how this bears upon the intersection between our own individual and unique journey, that in many ways can only be taken by us, and at times, by us alone – and the call to community – our inherent need to be seen and welcomed, to share our gifts with one another. And what it would mean for our communities, if instead of pointing to what is wrong out there, we took responsibility for this arduous journey into our full authenticity? If our communities were made of people who are not hiding, but fully, passionately present, would we have fewer communities, groups, factions who seem to require that everyone feel and believe as they do?
Would we celebrate more fully who we are, and how similar we are, and yet how remarkably different at the same time? And, would we find that our fears diminished, the fears that bind and separate us that keep us in a kind of solitude that cannot fully hold or support us? Would we find this both/and for which I am trying to find words ...that our fullest, most fiery participation in life, and the welcoming of that in one another, could also be what brings us rest, peace?
It seems that some of our most difficult, most pressing work is how to welcome ourselves, so that we can welcome each other, even those that are not easy to welcome.
And why do we care about any of this? Why do we see about the wrestling of opposites within us, that tear us asunder, wreak havoc, and drive us to drink and distraction upon distraction, to busy-ness, to small mindedness, to the brink? Why do we endeavor to look at what might be possible, the invitation to which is right here, right now?
We do it for ourselves, for our children, for each other, for our enemies. I resonated with what John Phillip Newell said, as quoted from the Huffington Post after Gaddafi had been brutally killed. “As Mahatma Gandhi said, "brute-force" is incapable of creating true transformation. Hate-force cannot do it. Only action that is based on a true regard for the other is capable of healing what has been torn apart. This is our true "soul-force," said Gandhi, to heal the world through the hard work of love. How do we access within ourselves this deep energy for transformation?
What has happened to our instinct for unity? And how shall we nurture it? Teilhard de Chardin, another prophet for peace in the 20th century, said that once humanity has harnessed the great energies of earth, sea and sky, we will then learn how to harness the greatest of energies, the energy of love. And on that day we will have discovered fire for the second time. I call on us as nations, as communities and as families to harness this greatest of energies. It alone can transform us.”
How do we do this, this harnessing of love.... We look again to the people in the poem, who are us. We risk. We come ‘as we are.’ We are willing to ‘not know’– willing to be a part of the vulnerable, weary world, rejoicing. Willing to step into the fire of truth telling. Willing to let it refine and empty us of what is no longer needed – that in that simplicity, we might rest.
Jesus said that his yoke was easy, and his burden was light. LIGHT. Take this upon you and learn of it, this lightness of being, this radiance the poet asks us about at the end, as truth is told, as we lay our burdens down together, as we come, all of us, faithful, to rise to the call of who we are, each one of us and all of us, together.
Sing O COME ALL YE FAITHFULL
In the Beginning by David Whyte
Sometimes simplicity rises
like a blossom of fire
from the white silk of your own skin.
You were there in the beginning
you heard the story, you heard the merciless
and tender words telling you where you had to go.
Exile is never easy and the journey
itself leaves a bitter taste. But then,
when you heard that voice, you had to go.
You couldn't sit by the fire, you couldn't live
so close to the live flame of that compassion
you had to go out in the world and make it your own
so you could come back with
that flame in your voice, saying listen...
this warmth, this unbearable light, this fearful love...
It is all here, it is all here.
This is an invitation for anyone and everyone to post an entry of their own on my journal, Vagabond Journeys http://vagabondjourneys.blogspot.com/.
The new year is upon us and since it is a time for celebrations, remembrances, resolutions and plans for the future I think people have things to say.
Not to take away from the postings on your own journals, but to add to the joy of my own is why I invite you to write for mine.
I want to read what your thoughts are about this magical time of the year. This invitation is open to everyone: Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Pagans, Agnostics, Atheists and the Uncertain.
Tell me your thoughts on Chanukah, Christmas, Ashura, Kwanzaa, the Winter Solstice, the New Year. or any subject you wish or associate with this holiday season.
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