Monthly Archives: October 2012

P Is for Peace

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Today’s post is a double “P”—Peace Pilgrim.

From 1953 to 1981 a silver-haired woman calling herself only “Peace Pilgrim” vowed to remain a wanderer “until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food.”

Her life seems to me to reflect Jesus’ own wisdom about how to live in this life. She affirmed for us all that: “You create your future as you live.”

Peace Pilgrim lived where the foot touches the pavement. Over the course of her life, she walked more than 25,000 miles, as her website (www.peacepilgrim.net) explains: “traveling penniless and without any organization, fearlessly calling for international as well as personal disarmament. … Her message was a simple one: overcome evil with good, hatred with love and falsehood with truth. To do this, she said, various stages of maturity must be reached, starting with the self: inner peace first, then peace will be attainable among individuals, the community, the nation and the world.”

We desperately need this vision—and people who will dare to exemplify it—now more than ever.

As Mother Teresa said: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

At this very divisive time in our national history, let’s take a moment to remember that we do.

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For me, it is impossible to talk about “the One” without also considering “the Many.” Seekers in all cultures and times have pondered at various levels this mystery of manifestation and source.

The first time I heard of this philosophical problem—this human quandary framed in abstract terms—a lot of my personal searchings started to fall into place and make more sense.

We struggle in trying to say anything about the world, and always we stumble over this paradox: How can everything that is be related back to a single substance, entity or idea?

In a universe of seemingly endless variety and perpetual change, the dilemma of “The One and the Many” underlies all.  The earliest Greek philosophers often concerned themselves with this puzzle. And the problem of the One and the Many still dominates Western concepts of the universe, including modern physics. Will science ever validate a theory that will unify (“make into one thing”) the laws of physics?

Renowned physicist John Wheeler (1911–2008), namer of “black holes,” once said: “Everything must be based on a simple idea. Once we have finally discovered it, [it] will be so compelling, so beautiful, that we will say to one another, yes, how could it have been any different.”

Whatever the key to the One and the Many, ultimately it must work on all levels. And so I find some consolation in poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s admonition: “Do not seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

These bloggish reflections on key words, working through the alphabet, give me an opportunity to “live the questions” aloud, so to speak.

And in the meantime we can take this whimsical schoolish assertion from comedian Woody Allen to heart: “Students achieving Oneness will move on to Twoness.”

Especially since there is not much chance we’ll be among them!

And so we live in suspended paradox—that is, wholly enmeshed in what we consider to be the Real World. And perhaps, as Santayana said, “One real world is enough.”

 

For further thought:

I like philosophy the way some people like politics, or football games, or unidentified flying objects. —John Gardner.

Every single creature is full of God and is a book about God.  —Meister Eckhart.

By the act of observation and intention, we have the ability to extend a kind of super-radiance to the world. —Lynne McTaggert.

A bit beyond perception’s reach I sometimes believe I see that Life is two locked boxes, each containing the other’s key.  —Piet Hein.

O Is for One

N Is for Narrative

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Narrative: a collection of events that tells a story, which may be true or not, placed in a particular order and recounted through either telling or writing.

Narrative is the way that we convey our stories to each other, exercising our “voice” and lending it, sometimes, to a variety of other persons’ perspectives as well. It is our weaving of the human drama into a pattern that “tells” about life.

But Narrative also tells us a lot about ourselves and our lives as we are living them. When we are able to connect the events of our human experiences into a coherent shape, we are more likely to see purpose and meaning in the little things that happen to us—and remember times when just such small incidents ended up being clues to our destiny.

It is for some of these reasons that I chose to write in Narrative, specifically in excerpts of condensed dialogue between a mother and daughter, in my books Becoming Flame and Spinning Straw, Weaving Gold.

Susan Cahill writes in the Introduction to her anthology Wise Women: “Perhaps because it has been women’s task throughout history ‘to go on believing in life when there was almost no hope,’ in the words of Margaret Mead, women have sought and cultivated the goods of the spirit out of a practical need for meaning.”  

I see something spiritual in the Narrative quest as well, and so I use this conversational form, drawing from my experience as a woman and a mother—seeking to convey some essentials of feminine collective insight, as wisdom is sometimes “kneaded” and made into “bread” right within our own daily exchanges.Image

Such dialogues can be seen as cameo stories with imagined details that extend beyond the borders of the words spoken. As an instance of Narrative, they invite the imagination to enter in, filling in richness from memory and the mind’s eye. In fact, all stories, even the most descriptive, require this of the reader.

Since much of the Bible itself is presented in Narrative form, I find it natural to think both in terms of specific setting and acts, and also more timeless implications.

Umberto Eco wrote in Six Walks in the Fictional Woods:

“By reading narrative, we escape the anxiety that attacks us when we try to say something about the world. This is the consoling function of narrative—the reason people tell stories, and have told stories from the beginning of time … to find a shape, a form, in the turmoil of human experience.”

And, whimsically speaking, as renowned author Elie Wiesel put it—perhaps “God created man because he loved stories.”