Tired of Speaking Sweetly
Love wants to reach out and manhandle us,
Break all our teacup talk of God.
If you had the courage and
Could give the Beloved His choice, some nights,
He would just drag you around the room
By your hair,
Ripping from your grip all those toys in the world
That bring you no joy.
Love sometimes gets tired of speaking sweetly
And wants to rip to shreds
All your erroneous notions of truth
That make you fight within yourself, dear one,
And with others,
Causing the world to weep
On too many fine days.
God wants to manhandle us,
Lock us inside of a tiny room with Himself
And practice His dropkick.
The Beloved sometimes wants
To do us a great favor:
Hold us upside down
And shake all the nonsense out.
But when we hear
He is in such a “playful drunken mood”
Most everyone I know
Quickly packs their bags and hightails it
Out of town.
Do you remember a time when the very framework of your world collapsed? When all the moral, religious, political and social verities that had sustained you tasted like ashes in your mouth? In my case, the deaths of my parents and of my first marriage dismantled the world I thought I knew. It felt as though the sun had gone out. St. John of the Cross speaks of going forth into the dark night without a lamp or a guide, save for the light that burned in his own heart (sin otra luz y guía, sino la que en el corazón ardía). For a long while, that light in my heart was hardly a sputtering ember. Dorothy Hunt describes the feeling of being ” left alone in all the world,without a map, without a path, without a point of view.” I remember standing alone in an alley in the rain, absolutely bereft, spiritually naked. I felt so many tears inside that I was sure I sloshed when I walked.
I find it difficult to express the grace of that time without lapsing into cliches. It is perhaps fashionable to talk of the trials of life, the dark nights, as being a passage into warmer light, but those of us who have been there know that those tears were showers of grace. The waters of my melting heart were leaking through my eyes, and that dark and luminous alley became a sacred place of turning. It was time to build a new world, less certain and more wildly adventurous, less giddy and more joyful, less taken for granted and more precious, less ‘nice’ and more loving.
I have been traveling from that alley for forty years now, discovering that there is no given path to follow, but one that is created as we walk. Maps might be helpful for beginning steps, but the labyrinthian ways of life defy the cartographer’s geometry. I have been blessed to be a teacher, and therefore able to live a life of learning. I have a considered point of view, a faith in life, but it is tentative and open daily to question and a deeper understanding. Zen teachers stress the interplay of great faith and great doubt, that keeps the mind and heart open and always ready to embrace the wonders and mysteries of life as it unfolds. And so I have a great faith that we are never, ever alone, and that loving kindness is not only possible but far more evident than it might seem. Still, I know all the while that there will be some nonsense in my mind that needs to be shaken out. So it will not be a great surprise when the next unexpected visitor knocks at my door. It is my hope, as Rumi urges, that I will have the grace to welcome this holy messenger with a grateful smile. These are Rumi’s words:
THIS HUMAN BODY IS A GUEST HOUSE.
EVERY MORNING A NEW ARRIVAL.
A JOY, A DEPRESSION, A MEANNESS
SOME MOMENTARY AWARENESS COMES
AS AN UNEXPECTED VISITOR.
WELCOME AND ENTERTAIN THEM ALL
EVEN IF THEY´RE A CROWD OF SORROWS
WHO VIOLENTLY SWEEP YOUR HOUSE
EMPTY OF ITS FURNITURE.
STILL TREAT YOUR GUEST HONORABLY;
HE MAY BE CLEARING YOU OUT
FOR SOME NEW DELIGHT.
THE DARK THOUGHT, THE SHAME, THE MALICE,
MEET THEM AT THE DOOR LAUGHING
AND INVITE THEM IN.
BE GRATEFUL FOR WHOEVER COMES,
BECAUSE EACH HAS BEEN SENT
AS A GUIDE FROM BEYOND.