Wednesday Speed of Soul Conversation
Be kind to one another, for everyone is carrying more than you might see at first glance. Have you ever noticed that when someone is acting unkindly, it seems that the person just wants someone else to feel as badly as they do in that moment? It doesn’t make the unkind action right, but it does make it human. So many people walk around with the weight of worthlessness, or despair or fear - they act on these things as if it would help to have company. But, usually it goes nowhere. Darkness and shadow in our lives and heart cannot be lifted by adding more darkness and shadow. The only way shadows are dispelled is by the introduction of light. Light comes with small kindness, bright moments - choosing and practicing (practice being the keyword-since it implies intention and faithfulness and not perfection).
Question: So what do you think? Have you ever had a human moment of striking out, because you personally feel bad? Have you ever noticed a tangible shift when you’ve extended an unadorned, and perhaps unexpected kindness?
What do you thinking about the idea of “practicing?”
Or the more you know…the more you don’t know.
I was listening to a radio program the other day the described the life of a caterpillar and its transformation into a butterfly or moth. Essentially, the caterpillar snuffles along its lumpy way
eating its fill, extending itself little by little bit. Because, well, because it is a caterpillar’s nature to rumple the world and to be rumpled by it. But eventually, the caterpillar has snuffled and eaten enough for one caterpillar life, and so it wraps itself into a solitary womb called the cocoon or chrysalis. As soon as it is settled into this secret place, it immediately breaks down into its gooey elements. Really. I’m not kidding. I always thought the caterpillar must go through a process similar to the B-movie version of human to werewolf, with the parts of the moth erupting and elongating from the body. But the truth is even stranger than B-movie fiction. Between the life of the bumbly, caterpillar and the elegant butterfly or moth there is a middle time when the caterpillar becomes a middle thing that is unrecognizable as critter or even critterish. In that middle time, the caterpillar goes back into all the elements from which it came. It breaks down to a cellular, atomic level. From dust it came and to dust it returns. Then, and only then, when it has let go of everything wonderful and fine and hard and toilsome about its rumpled caterpillar days, it grows into its new self, rearranging all those liquid elements into the paper thin wings, delicate antennae, and graceful long legs of its moth or butterfly form.
But wait, there’s more miracles and magic. Scientists have determined that the moth or butterfly, that entirely new creation, remembers what it was before its transformation. A moth or butterfly will react to significant experiences remembered from its earthbound former life. The scientists described exposing a caterpillar to an unpleasant smell, which they linked to an unpleasant feeling. Eventually the caterpillar would reacted adversely when it encountered the smell again. When the newly transformed moth was reintroduced to the same unpleasant smell, the moth reacted. Yes, the memories, events, and experiences of that caterpillar’s days carried forward. Something of the caterpillar’s first self survived through the middle unformed, elemental, unrecognizable-as-a-critter phase. But wait, there’s still more. Science folk have also found that if you look carefully through a microscope into the body of a caterpillar, there are teeny tiny elemental bits of the foreshadowed wings and butterfly body parts. Somehow, when the caterpillar becomes goo, those precious bits are safely tucked aside through all the melting and breaking down, and brought into the process when reassembling and reforming.
So here’s the thing that has been following me since hearing that podcast - there is something of the future butterfly or moth patiently waiting in the caterpillar’s deepest secret places. It is carried like a promise, like a question, ok…like a soul. And there is also something of the caterpillar’s knowledge, wisdom, and rumpled caterpillar life that is carried forward into its new and transformed moth or butterfly self.
The persistence of the caterpillars memory after it’s break down and reforming, and the small secret presence of the moth or butterfly foreshadowed wings within the body of the caterpillar, leads me to ponder. What wisdom or image of my future self do I carry now within my secret heart? What promise or question or spirit within me is waiting for the right moment to fly? When I transform, and I will transform throughout my life (and perhaps even after this life), what of my former self will carry through? Perhaps those experience that have broken me down to my barest self are not ends but means to a new becoming. Perhaps the caterpillar and the moth are not either/or propositions, and in turn, perhaps I am not….nor are we.
A little poem about something that happened to me yesterday.
On the bitter winter ground
I found a small grey titmouse
with a broken wing.
As I stopped to consider
How I might help her,
It became apparent
That something else,
Was also broken inside her,
And, that she was dying.
It is the way of the world,
Will eat another animal,
And all animals
(Including the human kind)
Eventually go back into the earth.
I could not leave her there,
To die alone in the snow.
I cradled her in my mittened hands
And warmed her with my breath,
Trying to make her
As comfortable as possible.
I hummed to her
And breathed a silent prayer
To the god of snow and spring
and small birds.
After a while, its eyes drifted closed.
She did not struggle or appear afraid
She was beyond that now,
She was just infinitely tired
In the way that things
Approaching a great mystery
Are often wise.
by Carrie Newcomer
Someone asked me yesterday about the images in a song called “Stones in the River”. What I told him was this…
The song is about a way of being in the world. Everyday we do our small part, in our work, with our families, in our community. We faithfully choose hope and love when it would be easier not to. We drop a stone in the water, knowing that enough stones will change the shape of the river. AND in choosing to live in such a manner, we open our selves to the risk of disappointment. But we also open ourselves to the possibility of wonder. To see miracles happen (and isn’t every act of kindness a miracle). We are transformed and different people because we have chosen to try to live with what we love at the center of our lives.
There is a creek that wanders through the woods near my home. Over the years I have watched this creek and the land around it change. Sometimes the change is fast and hard. A storm comes through, rocks and stones create new banks, old banks are washed away, tree roots exposed. Sometimes in July it goes completely dry. The stones and rocks wait in the heat. They move imperceptibly (if at all). But, after years of watching this creek, I’ve seen it change, expand and turn in new and surprising directions.
It is like that in our lives, sometimes there is a great storm and the world cannot help but change. Sometimes the water rolls along as it will, and we drop our stones one by one, becoming a part of what moves things over time. Sometime it is dry, and we faithfully wait. We wait and are ready, whether or not you can see it happening right at that particular moment.
So I take great hope watching that little creek, as a visible reminder of faithfulness and change.
In a season that often feels overwhelmingly busy, what do you do to feel more grounded and centered? What helps you remember what is most important? What helps you discern what may be unreasonable expectation (by others or yourself)?
One thing that helps me, is thinking about what keeps me grounded and to do those things (even when I feel like I should skip it for holiday tasks) - taking that walk with the dogs, an unhurried conversation over dinner, a cup of tea in the middle of the day, prayers and meditation.
This culture implies we should perfectly create the “perfect” holiday. But, maybe the perfect holiday is the one in which we say “yes” to all that is healthy and whole…and maybe “no” to what is not so healthy.
I’m not so good at being perfect …My friend have come to know that I may not get my holiday cards out until sometime in january, I only make one kind of cookie, I wrap my packages in the comic pages or little sacks that I draw on with markers. I often give items I canned during the summer, knitted on airplanes, or picked up along the way through out the year. It’s not flashy, its about love…and love is usually not so flashy, but daily and grateful and wide.
So today, as we head into this busy season, what helps you feel less stressed and more in touch with what a season of love is really about?
By Carrie Newcomer
This world would have you think
That A leads to B leads to C
And then equals D.
But the path of being human is not direct
And certainly, never so tidy.
Memories wash over us throughout the day,
That I saw,
This I loved,
What she said so long ago,
The thing that will not stay contained.
So why should it be that what we learn
Or what we create always follow logical lines?
Maybe we were always meant
To follow the threads forward,
Circle around and come back,
Untangle the knots.
And follow again.
By Carrie Newcomer
She said, “Did that really happen?
And I answered,
“Of course it did
or at least almost.
This the way it should have
or might have
or needed to have
And to the best of my knowledge
And by my most reliable memories
This is how I understand it
To have been
And still is.”
She looked at me askance
Not sure whether to follow the question
Further down an obvious rabbit hole
Or to simply believe me,
And leave it at that,
Not pressing to know
If the story was real
Or merely true.
Sometimes I wake up and my dog jumps in bed and rolls over next to me saying, “love love love love- the whole world and everything in it (especially my belly) is made of love.”
It’s going to be alright. It is good. Love is still the answer.
Listening creates an opening
With presence and pause,
A very nearly holy space.
When held in such a manner
Of quiet regard,
it becomes harder to avoid,
What is waiting and wide as a silent pool,
Deeper than I realized,
Truer then I’d allowed myself to know,
The words that have longed to be heard,
- Carrie Newcomer