Footnotes (Robert Steiner)
I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.
- John O'Donohue (an unfinished poem)
Metaphors shimmer. I used to think of them as re-framing tools, opening up new ways of seeing. I have now come to discover them as powerful pathways to source myself differently. It is no longer just about seeing differently. It is now about a new way of being. We limit metaphors if we think of them as comparisons. To say life is like a river plays into the idea of re-framing, and certainly has its place in our attempt to inhabit the world and our own life. But to say life is a river evokes an immediacy that taps straight into its very being, bringing forth new possibilities of being in the world. Such sourcing is a continuous unfolding, a river finding its way to the ocean.
Blessed are the sorrowful.
"Sorrow is better than fear. Fear is a journey; a terrible journey. But sorrow is at least an arriving." - Alan Paton
I was brought up to believe that the benediction of this particular beatitude rested in the promise of future consolation. But I have come to understand it as an encouragement to allow myself to mourn, to feel my woundedness, to lament my vulnerability. At times it feels like an arrival, at times it marks a departure.
Sitting in the fire.
“Questions don't have to be questions.”
This was not said to me to remind me of the genre of rhetorical questions. I was asked to consider that certain statements are more a question than a proposition in the way they create a new spaciousness. A good example would be Jesus' parables. Not only do they invite a whole new range of questions. They also make us wonder what the question was that provoked such a poetic response. The danger is to take the response as a statement, meanwhile it is meant to rather be an opening, a clearing of mind, heart, and soul, a moment of sitting in the fire.
To be radical.
I remember how our Latin teacher spent a lot of time explaining our class the value of learning Latin. At that stage we could not quite agree with him. This insight still needed to grow on us. I can now appreciate the gift of etymology and the rich reservoirs of meaning in a single word. I have been made to be more specific and nuanced when I talk about the need to become more “radical”. The word derives from the Latin word “radix”, which means the “root”. To be radical then is to go back to the beginning, the origin, of a movement, a faith, an ideology. It is about drawing new strength and vision from the soil we are planted into and to allow it to permeate our whole being. The Reformation captured this with the slogan ecclesia semper reformanda.
I have come to consider my Atheistic and Agnostic friends as spiritual siblings. We both keep being unsettled and disturbed by the suffering in the world. We share the sigh of pain and despair about systemic injustice and the destructive forces of nature. We share the same little boat in a large sea of suffering. We enjoy the same privilege and are united in the longing to transform it into a commitment for the common good. We both dream of a life not lived at the expanse of other lives.