The Diamond of Our Hearts

I turned 20 in 1972.  Somehow, in that year of moving out of my teens, I must have felt some necessary transition.  Whatever the cause, I got the urge to read all the way through the Bible, cover to cover:  the creation myths; the twists and turns of Old Testament characters; the tortuous law; the romances; Psalms and the wisdom literature; the histories; the prophets, great and small; the gospels, letters and finally that wild apocalypse at the end.  What a slug it seemed at the time!

There were ups and downs of interest.  I know I spent a lot of time in Proverbs, punctuated with prayers for wisdom.  I have always been blown away by the crystal calls to social justice of the minor prophets, especially Amos.  And Paul’s ego was very annoying (Was I struggling with my own?).  But I will never forget that one particular passage captured me and brought me home.

Somewhere in the middle of Jeremiah, there are several chapters sometimes referred to as The Little Book of Comfort.  In chapter 31: 33-34 it says:

33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts . . . No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord (read Creator/Spirit/Mind/Source),’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.”  Something in those words gripped my soul.

Hebrew scripture was written, of course, for the Hebrew people from a particular cultural and historical perspective.  It has the trappings of time and place and the personal limitations of any individual author.  But like all good scripture, the universal Truth of it breaks out of those limitations and speaks where and when it will.

We live in a time that demands that breaking out.  Few in the postmodern world can accept or live entirely or exclusively within the narrow strictures of any particular religious tradition.  We are simply too aware of the variety of paths, the spiritual journey of all the great traditions.  We are cognizant of the human and institutional flaws that have inevitably tainted each – the flaws that reflect, simply, the struggle of our own hearts, the urge of ego toward power and domination through intimidation, force and fear.  We may choose to live in one house, but we will be engaging, dialoging and welcoming across the global community.

And on any given day, in any given body of scripture, when we mine with an open heart, the gems show themselves.  Somehow when I encountered this diamond, I knew I had found my home – or, of course, it had found me.  Somehow the vision and realization that words don’t matter; that names for Creator/Spirit/Mind/Source are inconsequential; that our hearts at their core are true beyond teaching and language; somehow that message took me completely apart and put me back together, all in an instant.

Humpty Dumpty, of course, has fallen off the wall many times – at least daily – since that encounter.  But hold back the king’s horses and all the king’s men.  Let me fall.  Let us all fall until the last speck of clay is shattered and polished off that diamond of our hearts, and all that is left are the words love, justice, peace and compassion, shining with gentle brilliant welcome, reaching beyond voice to all we encounter.

There is fruit on the Tree of Life.  Its bark is studded with diamonds, a gem in every leaf.

© Two Trees in the Garden.  Share what is useful.  Please quote the source.

Keeping the Appointment of Our Life

I’ve been reading a lot lately about second half of life tasks – Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward and two books by James Hollis, Hauntings and Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life.  I guess people of a certain age (right now, perhaps especially children of the ‘60’s) become concerned about these things.  In Hauntings, Hollis speaks often of “showing up” in our lives.  He says that “what Jung called the Self, the natural wisdom, the organic drive, and the will to meaning, lives in all of us and waits for us to show up, keep the appointment.  How many of us really keep the appointment in our lives?”

Good question.  The “second half” of life is more about a place than a time, a point of response to a confrontation with Self.  The first half place is the place of constructing an ego, a place of defining our fit and space in the world, of making ends meet.  How will we make a living?  How high will we climb the ladder of organizational hierarchy?  How will we dress the kids and what activities will we steer them towards?

These are, for most of us, necessary tasks, if only for the sake of finding out who we are not.  I have known just a few souls who seemed to grasp their true task, following it with joy and deep satisfaction, almost from the start.  Sometimes I have wasted time envying them, time that might have been used figuring out what the real difference was between them and me, the difference of acquaintance with true Self.

If we are not one of those clear-sighted souls who, from childhood, know and follow their call, it generally takes a crisis of some kind to wake us to the emptiness of our first-half pursuit.  The Peter Principle comes to mind:  “An observation that in an organizational hierarchy, every employee will rise or get promoted to his or her level of incompetence.” (Investopedia)  The disparaging follow-on assumption in the Peter Principle is that people just stay stuck in place when they arrive at their incompetence, constructing a mask and pretending until retirement or an early death, contributing little of worth to the organization – most certainly, missing the appointment with their Self.

But if we are half awake, if we are listening or open to God/Creator/Spirit/Mind/Source, we will know when we encounter that incompetence in any area of our lives.  Maybe it is in relationships, maybe it is in professional contribution, maybe it is in following a path other than the call of our hearts.  The Angel of Truth will stand in our way, will challenge us to a fight.

G/C/S/M/S stands always at the ready to break us open, to remove the mask of whomever we think we are, to offer us not a new name, but our real name.  The encounter inevitably involves suffering and pain.  It is never easy to admit or to accept that we have chased a lie in any area of our life.

But if we engage it, if we turn toward it and walk through it, the encounter is not forever.  It is just a marker, a place on the road, a directional sign.  It is not the road ahead.

The road ahead is our second half place.  It is the opportunity to let go of the struggle to construct something false and to embrace a free and useful truth.  It may mean something very different and new.  Just as likely, it may mean a new engagement with our present surroundings, an engagement that relinquishes the fight and becomes one with what we thought was our opponent.

Achievements are replaced with relationships.  Performance is replaced with people.  We begin truly to see, encounter and embrace others because we have seen, encountered and embraced our true Self.

We will know when we are there, when we are truly in this second half place.  We will know because we will have eaten the true fruits of the Spirit.  We will encounter and become “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control.”  (Galatians 5: 22-23a, NRSV)

We will have shown up for our appointment under the Tree of Life.

© Two Trees in the Garden.  Share what is useful.  Please quote the source.