The world is a mess right now, maybe it always has been. This is actually one thing we can all agree on and are all worried about. We turn on the news or avoid the news. We get involved or start planning to move to the mountains. I think you get it. And even in the involvement or the running to the safest place possible we share a common thread of not exactly knowing what to do or how to help or just feeling plain ineffective. I want to take a minute this month to look with you at this a bit more deeply, my hope is that this will give you a real sense that you can actually engage in a meaningful way because yes it is a mess but it is also a stunning precious and beautiful mess that needs us.
The story of our messy beautiful world is one of forgetting, we have forgotten our true names, as the poem at the end of this blog says, and so we run amuck trying in all the wrong directions. Rollo May observed the curious tendency of humans to run faster when they have lost their way. We have lost the way to the truest sense of ourself and so cannot possibly hold the truest sense of the person who sits just across the breakfast table, never mind the one across the ocean. This unknowing has led to a mad dash of externalized projections to claim in anyway possible some sense of self in the world. We build, we chase, we define, we claim, we consume…but we don’t feel better and so we do more, run harder, build higher, consume more. In this insane age old pattern we are blindly killing each other, our world and dying inside. We have forgotten and we need to remember.
A Somali woman once told me a story her people believe, In the time before time it is believed that we all sat in a great garden under a great tree, every soul that ever will be was there with the Creator. It is here under this great tree in our eternal togetherness that the Creator whispered into each ear the souls purpose. However now as incarnate beings we have forgotten and we need to remember. I love this story, in my mind I see a sun soaked land and beings of light sitting in pure clear seeing togetherness, I can almost feel the breeze and see the leaves of the tree shimmer in it. I’m struck by the tragedy of this now, from the light of togetherness to the shadow of opposition. I see the soul come to, and in utter shock and dismay whisper ‘what have I done.’
There are many painful parts of my work as a counselor for detained refugee’s, being confronted daily with what is excruciating unimaginable inhumane disgusting and disturbing is very hard. The diversity of clients in the prisons makes the suffering and despair seem exponentially multiplied across the world. It’s crushing. It feels like nothing is sacred, there is no place untouched. I understand the temptation to look away when we can’t fix it or do anything to make it better. It is normal to not want to engage when you can’t stop the pain, it feels so powerless impotent. We humans are wired to run hard from helplessness. The truth is in the not looking away, moving away, distancing I have received the greatest gift of my life. The gift of awakening to a remembering of my kinship with this humanity. My kinship with an Afghani boy who survived a suicide bomb survivor, the Syrian man with tears streaming down his face, an Uzbek woman who shared my room, a Ugandan woman who raged purely and justified, Kenyan, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Indian, Eritrean, Russian, Cambodian, Thai, Sudanese, Congolese, Nepali, Egyptian, Iraqi, Moldovan, Iranian, Canadian, Peruvian, English, Mexican, Colombian... This list of nationalities is real to me, living breathing stories behind eyes seared into my heart, often told over the path of deep connection sitting on the ground inches apart. This sacred space remains untouched. Gustavo Gutierrez said ‘If you love the poor tell me their names’. I think first we must know our own name. It is in the knowings of the names that we all arrive. We arrive at the secret of our shared sorrows, fears, anger, grief. We arrive at the truth of our shared hopes, dreams, desires, strengths, joys. We arrive and arrive and arrive and finally slowly steadily we arrive at ourself.
I leave you know with these inspired words from Thich Naht Hanh and the encouragement to consider how you can participate in this great awakening, this remembering of who you truly are and your connectedness to all.
Do not say that I'll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.
Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.
I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.
I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.
I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.
I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.
I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.
I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his "debt of blood" to, my people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.
My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life.
My pain is like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.
-Thich Naht Hanh
CLF’s blog in 2018 is being written by Amy Hupe
Amy Hupe is co-founder and support staff at CLF
Amy also works part time for UNHCR and other non-profits to offer mental health support to refugee’s and other vulnerable populations. And Amy spends the bulk of her time homeschooling her daughters which to her is much more about turning them towards their own light than anything else.
**Cover Image by Eddiecalz (Eduardo Rodriguez Calzado) from the website Deviant Art