On some days, I wake up and I don’t know how to keep a mere semblance of peace, or to even begin making room for the joy of living–– when the world has fallen badly on its face, and I am to blame just as much as anyone who wakes up this morning.
On some days, I wake up and:
Japan has killed 300 whales in an Arctic Hunt ;
A quarter million tons of plastic are afloat at sea, suffocating whole families in the ocean;
The Man in the Office has reversed bans on oil fracking and lifted pollution limits;
100 girls have been taken hostage by militants...
How can I continue: Get up, make coffee, and take on the work I do, which, I flatter myself, is transformative, deeply needed, essential? How can I live another day without pledging my whole life to helping the planet breathe, cleanse, survive? How can I pretend that it is not my most important job to educate the world about plastic and demand its banning, or go out to the squares and shout that my heart is breaking when lions and elephants are killed for trophies, or travel to the Africa or the Middle East and save every little girl who will be raped by soldiers today?
And even more importantly- can I rise against Them, those with the power to decide the destiny of this Earth with frozen hearts? And who are They– how can anyone be so far gone to not break from this pain, and wish differently upon this gorgeous life, this precious, sacred planet?
Then one day a post from a sweet sister, Natalie Shapiro, stops me in my tracks.
“Today,” she writes, “instead of wondering what shell of a person could do such a thing, I wonder: What do you need, brother? What do you need? What shields have you placed around you that keep you from truly feeling the massiveness of your choices? What stories, memories, faculties, and tactics protect you from fully sensing what is being taken from Life with far too much ease? What might happen if just enough of that shield was removed? Might you get just enough of a whiff of your own humanity? Just enough to break you?”
And then I come across another sister, Dominique Youkhehpaz’s, telling of a dream she had.
A hideous and unstoppable monster was violently attacking the village where their women’s ashram is, in India. The monster was “destroying everything, and could not be reasoned with.” It was agony, until the women sensed that they needed to start singing to the monster. Their voices came gentle and loving, and “he froze and softened, entering a trance where the pain in him could be healed. For days and days, we took turns in the circle holding this monster and singing to him, until he melted and there was balance, safety, and peace again.”
It hits me then, and it hits me again and again:
This is not a nightmare. It’s a love story.
Even in a nightmare kind of dream, it always is a love story. This story isn’t just about us rising against, more truly it is a story about rising toward. Rising to find so much love as to say What do you need, brother, what do you need?, and, Can we sing to you so you can find your heart again and begin melting the thick fortress you’ve built round and round yourself?
Can we sing to you while your knees soften and your jaw unclenches, until you begin feeling the soil under your feet and let the breeze bring you the aroma of acacia and things mothers have cooked in the kitchens today? Can we sing to you until you remember that time you were a kid and ran out into the forest on your own for the first time and met a bunny rabbit and an owl, and it was like they were your friends, and you knew this in your belly and your chest?
And while we’re at it, can you stay inside your belly and your chest just a few moments longer? I know. It’s been a while...
Can you feel yourself on the inside, and let your breath reach the tight places and the achy places and the frozen parts? How long since you’ve been inside here, inside your own body, where life sings its own song in your veins, and the only way to survival is to let the earth beneath your feet hold you, and grant you life in each moment to come?
How long since you have felt with your skin the passing of whales in the distance? Since you laid in tall grass and let ants and crickets tickle your hands? How long since you sat on the ground and felt the cracked land and realized that her veins are your veins, and her thirst is yours? Since you felt with your whole being that there is never a pause between body and earth, and that the way you love one another–– you and the earth–– is the only way to know god.
And while we’re still singing, brother, sweet monster, you who belongs to love…. Let me soften my own body to you, and ask quietly: How long since you’ve let your whole body feel your deep feelings?
Your fear that you may never be successful enough, even if you rule the world. The deep grief-turned-anger that you’ve kept locked in since you were little because you learned that to be a winner, you and your heart have to go your own ways. The sorrow that you might never be loved, for you have surrounded yourself with frozen people. The agony that you may never belong in a world that feels so separate and so distant from the high office of your head?
I am beginning to feel you, brother, sweet monster… I myself have built my own fortress against you, unable to feel any semblance of love, not for you. But as we sing, love lands its medicine back to us, and it melts me too…
Might this be where we are–– monster brothers, frozen sisters–– where we stand to wake up inside of the great myth of Love on Earth? Might this be the part of the epic when we sing the Patriarch—and what is lost of our own souls–– back to love?
In the ancient story of Psyche and Eros (Soul and Love), an exquisite young woman too beautiful for an ordinary man to approach or marry, is brought to the peak of the mountain to wait for her destined non-human husband. She expects a monster, a many-headed serpent, yet she is taken to a palace of unseen riches, a paradise on earth where her every need is met with beauty and sensuous luxury. It is only that her husband remains invisible to her, and that is his only request: She cannot see him. Doubt sets in her mind: What is he IS a monster?
One night she brings a lamp and a knife to the bed that they share– she would illuminate his face while he sleeps and, if he is a monster, she would kill him. But a most gorgeous man is revealed in the flickering light, and she realizes that she is married to Eros, the God of Love himself!
But he wakes, and, betrayed, lifts off into the heavens, leaving her loveless on earth.
Now, for Psyche there is no other life but to journey back to love, to return to Eros. Soul and Love become entrenched in the journey of finding each other again. The goddess gives Psyche impossible tasks to win Eros back.
But here, sweet monster, is the real question. HOW did Soul find Love again?
Each time she was overcome with despair, about to give up, the ants came to help, and then the river reed offered its wisdom, and the eagle landed its wings. It was the animals, the waters, the birds, and the plants, their quiet, animate loving, that carried Soul back to Love. It was them who gave her another chance, not the gods, not the winners, not the largest enterprise.
It was the animate living earth. And, truth be told, it always will be.
So might it be, sweet monster, that it is time indeed for us to sing you and soften our bodies to you, until you own body cracks open and you can feel it again? Until you begin remembering with every beat of your ice-melting heart, that you have been given a gift that surpasses all else: To walk this exquisite, marvelous Earth, to smell and touch and to feel its aliveness– and yours! To BELONG to an earthly community, a larger-than-human cosmos of love and care and beauty, and you only have one duty: To love it well.
You see, at the end-– and the end is never too far–- how well we loved the earth and its beings is the only measure of how well we lived.
It is true, we fear you, brother. Like Psyche feared that Love was a monster. And perhaps Love was monster– when deprived of its soul.
But let us sing to you now, let us come close and circle around you, hold you even!, and sing. Let us bring the lamp to your face and remind you: This is a love story. It isn’t a nightmare. The monster wakes up to remember: He too is love.
Let us sing to you, Eros. Let us sing to you, patriarch, man, woman, human... everyone who forgot.
How does the story end? I do not know–– we will write it together.
Let us sing to you now. Let us sing.