Dance, dammit!

People squawk and argue over all sorts of things involving politics. And over which way society is going (who knew it was traveling anywhere? it always seems to be still where it always was, right outside my door, every time I step out!). And they very righteously sound off over exactly which people, and where, we should be going around the world to kill, and why, because supposedly that’s a good thing to do for world peace. And why one people (say, Israelis) deserve a peaceful, safe homeland, while others (say, Palestinians) maybe don’t. (But few people sound off on why the people whom this country shoved off onto desolate outback reserves don’t deserve to get their homelands back.)

And some people loudly and proudly want to drill, and mine, and deforest, and overfish, and pollute, and overdevelop, and acidify the oceans, and demolish wetlands and rivers and pretty much anywhere we haven’t yet installed strip malls or fast food or mega industry or mega churches—all because “the world was given to us to use” (as if it’s okay to use up, because maybe there are more worlds where this one came from, when we’ve used it up; probably, they are available at WalMart, or maybe World Market).

And others simply cannot believe people want to undermine the institution of marriage, which of course has taken about as many forms as there have been cultures and eras in human history, but apparently now there is only one acceptable form for that: the traditional, biblical form—which nonetheless has a rather minority representation in the actual Bible, where most of its most highly respected figures were in poly-person marriages (plus sometimes including others in the multiple relationship, whom they weren’t even married to). (Those same objecting people also don’t seem ready to explain how their own marriages are apparently on such shaky ground that someone else’s marriage would somehow threaten their own; but perhaps they should be shown compassion and provided good counseling.)

And some of those same people are afraid that those others might hurt the military service where they have always been courageously helping, if everyone knew they were there helping just as they have always done (and which most others in the service have known anyway)—and just like they do in most of our friends’ military services, without it causing problems for anyone. (I wonder why those fearful protesters, some of whom are in military service themselves, don’t have the same courage that those other people in the service do.)

Meanwhile, back in the politics arena, very loud and sincere voices are lamenting the threat of having more of life, such as healthcare, “taken over by the government”, or of giving handouts to undeserving out-of-work people, while the preferable situation of people being unable to afford healthcare for themselves and their children, or to find work and keep a roof over their heads and food on their table, continues and worsens, yet our freedoms are preserved, and individual initiative is triumphantly reinforced even if it kills us, so this is worth it.

And some who name the name of Christ are sputteringly outraged at the dilution of his message by those who aim to promote justice in society for the poor, ill, oppressed, and disadvantaged, while others who name the name of Christ are looking at his book-length message that overwhelmingly advocates care for the poor, ill, oppressed, and disadvantaged, and are going out to do that in any way they can find (including trying to get the government to lend a hand, where there just aren’t enough charities or individual giving to reach everyone).

And religions are mad at each other, and some different skin colors are mad at each other (I wonder if they would still be mad at each other at midnight on a cloudy, moonless night, when they couldn’t even see each other’s color?), and some people who speak one language are mad at people who speak others instead of the “official” one (even though seo an tír na saoraigh í—labhair cibé teanga do rogha rud [Irish: this is the land of the free—speak whatever language you want]!) (plus, English, as it’s spoken today, is pretty different from the way it was spoken in, say, 1776, not to mention the wild variety of ways it’s spoken just in this country, let alone in all other English-speaking lands, so what “official language” are they talking about?), and the descendants of belligerently illegal immigrants (invaders, actually) are mad at newcomers who, they have decided, are immigrating here illegally (just not as belligerently invading—maybe they would respect the newcomers more, if they followed historical tradition by trying to belligerently invade?).

Well—there could be worse responses to all this than to love one another, even in the midst of all our squawking and arguing and litigating and protesting and politicking and preaching and warring and misunderstanding. In fact any efforts at reaching out, bridging gaps, dismantling walls (on borders and everything), speaking universal languages like music and dance, finding and focusing on more of the things we all have in common instead of kvetching at all the things we have in difference, and learning we really are one family put on our one planet together—any efforts to find ways we can help each other, and thus ourselves, grow stronger, healthier, more peaceful, more loving of one another and of the creation we live in, stronger as communities and as a planet—maybe, just maybe, those efforts would enable us to rise above and move beyond some of the things we squawk and fight about. We could do very worse than to come together like that.

Even with our incomplete, goofy, fumbling attempts at reaching out and joining together, still we can see in ourselves, and show to others, the joy and grace of life in this beautiful and peculiar world we were given, and that we help to make—and I don’t know of many better pictures of the grace of God joining with the genuine heart of humankind, in our goofy, fumbling celebration of life, than this one in a video that you’ve probably seen before (but is always worth passing around again!).

I don’t care what arguments we have, or who thinks they have better solutions for anything in the world—dance, dammit, and celebrate life, and love one another! It’s hard not to love one another when you’re just throwing yourself into dancing like a goofy fool. And we’ll get the rest worked out from there a lot more easily!

(Here are the Bengali lyrics to the video’s song, “Praan”, which were adapted from the poem “Stream of Life”, by Rabindranath Tagore [1861-1941]—English translation following. That is the author’s translation from his original, in the collection Gitanjali [Song Offerings].)

Bhulbona ar shohojete
Shei praan e mon uthbe mete
Mrittu majhe dhaka ache
je ontohin praan

Bojre tomar baje bashi
She ki shohoj gaan
Shei shurete jagbo ami
repeat 2x)

Bojre tomar baje bashi
She ki shohoj gaan
dao more shei gaan

Shei jhor jeno shoi anonde
Chittobinar taare
Shotto-shundu dosh digonto
Nachao je jhonkare!

Bojre tomar baje bashi
She ki shohoj gaan
Shei shurete jagbo ami
repeat 3x)

Bojre tomar baje bashi
She ki shohoj gaan
Shei shurete jagbo ami

Bojre tomar baje bashi
She ki shohoj gaan
dao more shei gaan

“Stream of Life”

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day
runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.

It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth
in numberless blades of grass
and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.

It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth
and of death, in ebb and in flow.

I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life.
And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood this moment.

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If you really want to—!

If you really want to, you can run springing into the air like a little child—taking off and flying just like you always imagined! If you really want to, you can sprint with balloons and kites, bounding over obstacles and catching their lift to sail through rooms and out windows and up into the sky. Those fusty pieces of paper that you have to deal with every day are actually paper airplanes just waiting to be creased into their proper dimensions, and launched with your heart riding aboard to catch the breeze.

I’m not sure I understand the weight of being trapped to the ground—whether by the obligations of life (which can be very real), or by the weight of even very discouraging or grief-ridden experiences (which I’ve been weighed down by, more times than I care to think, and still am at this moment in some ways). I understand a lot of those weights and griefs, but I don’t understand how so many people seem to think that even the daily grind of life is somehow a normal way of being, even an inevitable or inescapable way of living. Living?! they call that living?

I don’t mean to act flip, as if there are no troubles in life: Let your mind review even the headlines and photos of people both far away and in this very country, who suffer starvation and live practically, it seems, only on dirt—and let your heart widen to take them in, and grieve with them even in what small way you can from far off, which is then how we start finding practical ways we can genuinely lift others up, even a little. Let your heart and ears open to people you know, who may be carrying weights or griefs they’ve said nothing about—when you ask the simple greeting, How are you doing?, let yourself really want to know, and give them room (and encouragement) to tell you. Make sure they know you really are interested to know. Let children who are hurting or frustrated by adults find in you a genuinely open heart, who will listen and respect them, when the “adult” world can’t be bothered to give the same respect that it thinks it’s owed (without having earned it). In small ways or great (since what counts for others aren’t whether those are small or great, but meaningful ways, even if to you it’s just like offering a plain cup of water), let your heart take on some of the weight of others’ worlds and lighten their burdens—and let others do the same for you, when you’re the one needing it.

But trapped or bound to the ground, including by daily humdrum, as if it’s inevitable? Not at all: everything, you know, has some kind of weight—but it’s possible for things to fly, too. Children understand this, and so do children’s authors, when they write of Oz, and Seussian escapades, and a girl debating nonsense with a Cheshire cat or a loopy tea party. (Even without geting into politics!) They know their readers will simply leap into the air, believe the impossible, and in no time be soaring through worlds that lift them into the joy that really is our native environment.

You don’t have to be a child, of course, or even read children’s books (though that’s a good idea for every adult to do regularly, to keep grounded in those tomes’ brilliant, and far more perceptive, reality), to launch yourself into that exhilarating flight, or that leapfrog chase to explore intuitive sense outside the bounds of our tiny, silly “reason” (as we often like to call it). If you really want to, you can leap into imagination in any environment, and bring the sparkling creativity of fresher perspectives that bust open the windows to make a wider view visible.

In a graduate research class, during our final presentations, many people were offering very well-done, thorough projects replete with all sorts of figures, numbers, statistical regression charts, and other tools of quantification that helped them make sense of the business-related things they were researching. Then I got up there, but what I had wanted to study was, How can you tell if people in a church are really loving one another? (which seemed to me a pretty important thing to be able to find out). Instead of charts and PowerPoint slides, I drew a forest on the whiteboard, and explained the perspective of seeing both the whole environment (of whatever you’re trying to understand), and the trees (its individual members) at the same time, as well as down to the individual leaves, cells, molecules, and so on (all the other details involved)—getting a full sense of the scope of what you were dealing with in a human community, both groups and individuals, plus how they all interact, all the time. Because, especially with people, it’s a living, dynamic system, that works on all those levels at once. And because all of that vibrant complexity has to be known and navigated qualitatively, even intuitively (in fact, that’s almost the only way it can be navigated), I illustrated that by folding a sheet of paper into a glider and launched it across the room two or three times, urging people to watch its flights as I gave a running commentary on how, though it seemed a little random, in reality it was guided by the subtle, complex interplay of its own design and the environmental forces it was soaring through—and how this was a pretty good image of how best we can navigate our way through understanding a dynamic, complex environment like a community of people, and all the ways they interact.

I got the idea I was making my (very quantitative-data-venerating) professor crazy; at least, I figured that when at one point she actually put her head down on the table for a few moments (about the time I launched my paper airplane on its first flight). But I was just sorry she didn’t know how to fly, right there in the room. I wanted to help everyone there know a little more how to step aboard an airplane, or grab a bunch of balloons or a kite, and go soaring off through their own lives, finding freer and higher perspectives that would actually help their down-to-earth practicalities make more sense, plus even be a little lighter to deal with. Because you bring some of that lightness and flight with you, when you come back down to walk among the dealings of your life again.

You can do that too, if you really want to. Life’s serious business (not to mention its genuine burdens, and griefs) needs attending to, of course—but you can deal with them better, and bring more of a breath of life to lift them, when you yourself are also leaping into the sky with the joy and abandon and wisdom of a child, to breathe freer air and gain a wider perspective, not to mention being released even for a bit to bring some of that freedom back down to Earth and share it with others.

If you really want to—it doesn’t take any special skill or gift, any more than it takes a gift for a child to run merrily with balloons and pretend to fly away. You have the same ability, because that’s who you still are, too. Only, you have to want to; the air doesn’t seize you and toss you upward, but you can leap into it and catch its lift, at any moment, even right now. And tomorrow, and at work, and at home, and on the road, and anytime and anywhere you are.

In fact, once again I’ll let Enya show a few lessons on how that’s done, since she always seems to know that leaping for joy, doing the impossible, and soaring into heaven is one of the most practical, down-to-earth pursuits anyone can—well, can leap into and celebrate. Here’s how she puts that:

(Here are the lyrics, for anyone who’s interested:)

When there’s a shadow, you reach for the sun,
when there is love, then you look for the One.
And for the promises, there is the sky,
and for the heavens are those who can fly.

If you really want to, you can hear me say
only if you want to will you find a way.
If you really want to, you can seize the day,
only if you want to will you fly away.

When there’s a journey, you follow a star,
when there’s an ocean, you sail from afar.
And for the broken heart, there is the sky,
and for tomorrow are those who can fly.

Chorus (2x)

Ah! je voudrais voler            Ah, I want to fly
comme un oiseau d’ailé.       like a bird on the wing …
Ah! je voudrais voler
comme un oiseau d’ailé, d’ailé, d’ailé …

Chorus (2x)

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Far and away

What way are we going on our journeys? We always want to know—yet we always somehow want a journey that is safe, predictable, comfortable. But if it were all that, how is it a journey and not just a routine commute? A journey implies something of the unknown, of adventure, of places beyond the horizon that we just won’t be able to see till we round it and find them. What we’re wanting is the story of our lives, only published in advance so we can see the uncomfortable parts (and hopefully skip ahead past them)—not the story we actually have, which we are in as it’s being written, at this moment.

A book of days is an archaic term variously for a sort of journal or diary, or a kind of almanac with information (as, historical tidbits) linked to each day of the calendar. The almanac version, of course, contains things that have already happened—but our own journal is an almanac whose contents we’re discovering as they happen. It really is our own personal history, except that unlike any other history, we happen to live in advance of this one. But because it’s our very own life story, why shouldn’t it always be fascinating to us, instead of something we might not want to find out?

Because we’ve all experienced things we wish didn’t happen, of course, and don’t want to have to find out if there are going to be more of those. I’m not meaning to oversimplify personal sufferings or tragedies, obviously; I’ve had a good share of those myself, and no doubt will have many more too. But life’s insistent hope to continue is what has borne us this far, and carries us on day to day, sometimes even against our will. The book of days, it seems, needs to be written, and will be written no matter what we say about it.

Well, you wouldn’t be on this journey, if it weren’t worth being on—and your personal book of days wouldn’t be in the writing right now, if it weren’t worth being written, and made available for others to see. We agonize at the falters, the falls we take, and some people no doubt would wish that none of those would happen at all (sometimes, even out of a sense of moral purity that we mustn’t fall!)—but those falters and disasters are, really, part of the very raw materials from which our life is forged, our story is written.

On a much broader scale, life itself has suffered cosmic falters that, it turns out, are part of the very forging of life beyond those events—for example, if a literal cosmic disaster hadn’t spelled the end of the dinosaurs’ reign, there would have been no environmental room for mammals to emerge that were larger than shrews, but that evolutionary “falter” is what allowed and led to our own appearance much later on. Likewise, the human family appears to have been bottlenecked down to only a few thousand individuals some 75,000 years ago (possibly by a global catastrophe caused by the Toba supervolcano, in what is now Sumatra), but that may have fine-tuned our genes in a variety of ways to accelerate the unique diversity of the one human race.

Our personal falls and falters aren’t really the disasters they feel like at the time, or may seem to be in our larger circumstances—that isn’t making light of their seriousness, but it is putting our struggles against the larger writing of our lives. They are always part of the wealth that our lives draw from, to make each of us the unique and irreplaceable story that we are.

This is a long pilgrimage we’re on, stories that have never been told before, and will never occur again. The far world, wide ocean that we cross—the struggles and falters along the way, which are not failures, but pages and chapters—are what build the book of days around us, and write us into it. It will always be a story worth writing, worth being a part of, worth reading. I hope I get to read at least a few pages of yours, but regardless, there are people around you who will read those pages, and your own book of days will touch their lives, change them in subtle ways, and become part of their own book of days in turn. Your story, in other words, goes on far beyond you as well—which itself is reason enough to make it worth writing, worth reading.

What all this comes down to is that the Author of our book of days has a wider, richer story in mind than we could imagine for ourselves—and the best news we can have, I think, that keeps us wanting to see each page turned till the end, is that the story always turns out better than maybe we thought it would, better than we hoped it could.

Enya, once again, has a perceptive take on living in a book of days—please enjoy this video of hers, of her song by that name. (You may also recognize the song as featured in the 1992 film Far and Away, scenes of which appear in the video as part of its own story.)

(I keep finding good videos that don’t allow embedding, so I’m sorry this will take you to a YouTube link, but the video is certainly worth it.)

Here are the lyrics (including translation of the Irish):

One day, one night, one moment
my dreams could be tomorrow
one step, one fall, one falter
east or west
over earth or by ocean
one way to be my journey
this way could be my Book of Days

Ó lá go lá, mo thuras,                         From day to day, my journey,
an bealach fada romham                   the long pilgrimage before me
Ó oíche go hoíche, mo thuras,           From night to night, my journey,
na scéalta nach mbeidh a choích’     the stories that will never be again

No day, no night, no moment
can hold me back from trying
I’ll flag, I’ll fall, I’ll falter
I’ll find my day may be far and away
far and away

One day, one night, one moment
with a dream to be leaving
one step, one fall, one falter
and a new earth across a wide ocean
this way became my journey
this day ends together, far and away

This day ends together, far and away
far and away

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Living backwards

If you want to enter the kingdom of heaven, you must change and become like little children (Mt 18.3).

“Grow up,” we tell children. What a quaint notion! Jesus, meanwhile, tells us to grow down, or grow back, to childhood.

That Jesus! Always doing things inside out and heading in the opposite direction from the way we know he’s supposed to go. Because we’re not going that way. After all, we have a cumulative 50,000 or so years of history, since the emergence of modern human intelligence and spirit (which is perhaps the era indicated by the poetic and God breathed into his nostrils the breath [spirit] of life, Gen 2.7), and surely we’d know by now which way to move forward in life!

As evidenced by, for instance, how we’ve advanced from helping to extinguish Ice Age megafauna (like mastodons) to extinguishing all kinds of species, all around the world, plus turning the seas to acid, clearcutting the rain forests that provide a big chunk of our oxygen, overfishing the seas to virtual collapse, and in general doing our best to destroy Earth.

And how we’ve advanced from mere tribal or clan rivalries, to the proud ability to barely keep the world from igniting into some variation on nuclear holocaust. Or how we have such advanced notions of spirituality that various factions want to reinstate theocratic rule, maybe even complete with capital punishment for infractions of morality!

Meanwhile, we embellish our society with Amy Vanderbilt-like propriety on who may marry whom, since God forbid we wouldn’t want to end up with things like, say, polygamy, like most of the greatest heroes of the Bible practiced. Why, we want only biblical family values! Not the ones that biblical figures actually practiced!

And various factions argue the advanced philosophy that a proper nation is governed, if not entirely populated, only by those of, well, proper complexion. Others, after all, might be not legally resident, or otherwise sponging off of society, like those indigent aliens that God kept on bleeding-heart-harping about how all of society should have compassion on. Loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, set the oppressed free …. share your food with the hungry and provide the poor wanderer with shelter … when you see the naked, clothe him … (Isa 58.6-7).

So if we were to take Jesus’ rather silly advice, we’d have to abandon all our stupendous advances, and return to—well, return to something closer to innocence. Of heart, of culture, of society, of Earth.

Compassion for the least fortunate, the most vulnerable, without asking whether they “deserve” it or not; mercy for those we disagree with, since if we are the ones who prove to be wrong, we’d be appreciating plenty of mercy, ourselves; patience to pause, appreciate Earth and its life, societies and the lives who  make them; grace always to want and hope for what is better for all, not necessarily what counts as “more”.

And grace to roll with the surprise, maybe, at finding that most people’s response to our showing this kind of heart—is to extend the same to us in return. Give, and it will be given to you. Rather than being depleted, both we and life around us might begin to be more enriched, more fascinating, more fulfilling, more rewarding on almost every level.

We’d find that the face of the God who breathes life into us is also looking back at us through the faces of those we breathe life into, like sunlight through a stained glass window, transforming it from bits of glass to an artwork of beauty and wonder. And we’d find that this same return to more life and innocence is spread from those others, to yet others—because, if evolution teaches anything, it is that the life God breathes into the world is contagious and persistent.

Could it be done? Actually, I don’t know of anything Jesus said that couldn’t be done, because what we think of as living backwards, really turns out to be going forward to what we really should be—sort of like this (from Enigma, “Return to Innocence”—I’m afraid this video will ask you to open in YouTube, since its makers did not permit embedding):

I think that would work. In fact, as far as I’ve ever known, it’s the only thing that does work, and breathes life back into our lives—where we can then breathe it back out into the world around us, returning full circle the breath of life God gave us to begin with.

(Here are the lyrics, if you’re interested:)

Love, devotion
Feeling, emotion
Love, devotion
Feeling, emotion

Don’t be afraid to be weak
Don’t be too proud to be strong
Just look into your heart, my friend
That will be the return to yourself
The return to innocence

If you want, then start to laugh
If you must, then start to cry
Be yourself, don’t hide
Just believe in destiny
Don’t care what people say
Just follow your own way
Don’t give up and use the chance
To return to innocence

That’s not the beginning of the end
That’s the return to yourself
The return to innocence

Don’t care what people say
Follow just your own way
Don’t give up, don’t give up
To return, to return to innocence

If you want, then laugh
If you must, then cry
Be yourself, don’t hide
Just believe in destiny

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Wild child—safe in the wilderness

I think Eithne Ní Bhraonáin (Enya) gets a lot of what adventuring on life’s path is about—let’s hear her calling us to wander where that breeze lifts us (I apologize, this video is “disabled from embedding,” so it will direct you to a YouTube link):

“Wild child”—what a day for a wild child! How funny that some people can recoil from an idea like that. (I’ve known good people to visibly cringe a bit at the words, like flinching from a wasp.) Noooooo—no wild child! Good child! Must not run wild—! But good grief, it doesn’t have to mean someone running headlong over the nearest precipice, like a BASE jumper except without a ‘chute. Isn’t it pretty weird, that somehow we’ve come to associate wild with wrong, out of control, dangerous, or more or less you’re just not behaving—then meanwhile, we love getting away to breathe free out in nature.

Where by definition it’s wild. And doesn’t usually “behave”. Ah, I love being out in tame, manicured nature! isn’t typically something you hear vacationers or backpackers exulting when they’re out in, say, the Sierra tameness. Wilderness! I meant, wilderness. And isn’t that the same place we often call creation?

So which is it—doesn’t God know what he’s doing, by making his creation a wilderness instead of a tameness? I don’t think anyone would want that tradeoff. (Although there was a time, a couple of centuries or so back, when genteel European travelers would sometimes draw the curtains of their carriages to avoid seeing those unruly mutations on the landscape called mountains. Eeww, they weren’t manicured gardens!) Maybe what it is, is that we’re so used to cultivating the details around us (that’s easy to do) that we get out of touch with the rhythms of wild creation, as if a bird could forget how to fly.

(I know, you’re going to bring up examples of penguins and ostriches, who have evolved to do just that—stop it! Those are metaphors for another story!)

At the same time, we often admire and wish we could emulate—or recover—the instincts of indigenous peoples, whom we describe as being so much more “in touch with nature”. So why don’t we? It can’t be that hard, since obviously it never took some sort of advanced technology for humankind to have been in touch with nature through our entire history, up till the quaint modern societies that we like to call “developed”.

It’s only that we’ve grown afraid of the wild, even though that’s where we evolved, where God created us, and a few souvenirs of which he’s left with us (like the vesitigal tailbone, that we don’t like to think about because of its inescapably “animal” heritage, till our feet slip from under us on a wet or icy walk, and we take a hard buttslam on the pavement).

And maybe (to me, anyway) most curiouser of all, Jesus—who to many has become the very icon of safe, wholesome life, and (we wish) normal society—spent the most important years of his life wandering in often-borderline-wilderness, mostly orbiting outside the circles of “decent” folk, sometimes taking his disciples on excursions to untamed backcountry of God-knew-where, and ultimately giving them the cheery sendoff, “Off you go, then! Out into the whole world! See you!” (I picture them, frantically waving as he vanished into the clouds: “Uh—go exactly where, Lord?” Jesus [gesturing vaguely to the horizon]: “You know—that way.”)

But that way—into the wilderness, the life, we’ve grown afraid of, but which is exactly where we came from—is really the safest way, safe defined as this is where we were meant to be, where our hearts breathe freest.

A lot of  society, meanwhile, simply because it has grown to forget our native creation, aims to replace it by struggling to wring out of life some sort of meaning or just shallow satisfaction (life’s equivalent of stopping at a convenience store for one of those syrupy slushee drinks—yum! a frozen hummingbird-food daiquiri!). Often, that ends up taking the form of wringing satisfaction from one another, the saddest form of exploitation.

If you want a bit of visual putting the liberation of a wild child in perspective, how about this video from Enigma, of their song “Gravity of Love”. If you haven’t seen this before, you’ll find a young girl, seeming almost delirious and swathed in a shroud- or cocoonlike garment in the heart of a lavish mansion, while around her swirls a disturbingly dark, sensuous, masked ball, of people who scarcely notice her. Her eyes roll back, occasionally getting a glimpse of, perhaps, heaven beyond the great hall’s ceiling (which the others sometimes see too, but apparently ignore)—till the guests abruptly leave, wraithlike, their party evaporating. (Interestingly, beyond the swirling, self-absorbed party you’ll occasionally see three windows with large, crosslike frames, the moonlit open night beyond.)

Our last view of her, shaken free of her shroud, is now outside the mansion in the open night, lit as from  moonglow or by something within her—before she herself vanishes into that glimpse of heaven.

Wild, unknown, untamed heaven. A wild child at last, where it’s much safer. Whether we go into literal wilderness, or wander in Enya’s peaceable scenery, or see through our ceilings to our native, gloriously unknown life (“out there—that way!”), a wild child is the safest, freest thing to be. I hope you turn wild. What a day!

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A journey along a treelined path

When I launched this blog just moments ago, and went to view its natal form, I was surprised—and very pleased—to see the default image that had been included. The lone traveler, walking along a treelined path with various shrubs and meadows to the side, mottled in sunlight and shade, strikes me as very much like my path in life, as well as one which I’d like to invite others to come along on, as they like.

God has a life and place for us, not the one we might design for ourselves, but the one we pass through and grow in naturally—the only one we’ll ever be satisfied or fulfilled in. The people, experiences, and places he has us encounter already exist in the world he created, whether we’ve encountered them yet or not—and whether or not we even know they’re around us. We’re certainly participants on this path, but it’s a silly misconception to think “we” craft or make our own way. (Though we can be really good at cluttering it up, like piling junked cars along the road.)

I don’t entirely know what I’ll encounter on this path—as neither do you, on yours. But I do know that a lot of it will be fascinating, moving, sometimes thought-provoking, by turns inspiring or disturbing or outrageous or comforting or ridiculous or noble or heartrending or like the sunrise bursting golden above rugged hills and silver-leaden clouds. Often, some or all of those at once.

I hope you’ll share some of your journey here, too, because all these paths interweave in various ways, you know, like a great, complex tapestry across the landscape; and it takes all the threads and paths together to make the design of the whole world, all its life, everything and everyone in it. We might not always like what we see, but we’re not the ones weaving this living world. And each of us is needed in it as much as anyone else is, so your path helps fill out, even color or shape, the design reflected in others’ lives.

The air is fresh and scented with life, there under the trees and among the shrubs and meadows. There are places we may stop and rest a while, reflecting on what’s around us, breathing in the life and presence of God and all he’s created and does in others’ lives; and times we’ll go on mad romps over hill and dale, or maybe just swing by our knees from a tree limb for a while, looking at the world upside down for a different perspective. We’ll tuck fragrant herbs in our hair to spice the air around us; pick a bunch of flowers and hand them out to people or drop some in a stream as a memorial; let leaves and fronds and branches caress us as we move through them, like friends giving affectionate greeting that we’ll return.

I can’t guarantee the topics we’ll explore here, except I can guarantee that some of them will be “inspiring or disturbing or outrageous or comforting or ridiculous or noble [etc.]”, as I mentioned above. You can’t explore life and expect it always to be what you find comfortable or familiar; that isn’t an exploration, after all, but a living room. On the other hand, in an exploration you have to have places where you can rest or find refuge, places to climb up and get a wide perspective from a safe distance, places that are indeed comforting and familiar, and where you can meet with those you know and love as well as meet new faces or cultures or places you never imagined existed.

In other words, just like the exploration of life. That’s what I hope this will be, and I’ll welcome your contributions as well that bring in your own journeys to enrich everything else we’re going through together here.

“Imagination is greater than knowledge—for knowledge is limited, but imagination encompasses the whole world” (Albert Einstein).

“Most of our so-called reasoning consists of finding arguments for going on believing as we already do” (historian James Harvey Robinson [1863-1936]).

Exploration and adventure are found in going the other direction—embracing the whole world God gave us, and finding out whether what we already believe or know or think we know is really as we thought, or is completely different.

But the trees shade the path, and the air is fresh and scented with life. Breathe as you travel!

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