Tuesday, 15 January 2008

... and shoots

In becoming the man born of the youth born of the child I used to be, I have trodden a path that has encircled and defined my own uniqueness within a life and world filled with unforeseeable and unrepeatable opportunity. Along the road ahead lie all potential losses and gains in my struggle toward a deeper truth, and I must take all that I have learned about myself, all that lies within the anchorite cell defined by my self-encompassing journey to date, along the track that leads away to an un-revealed destination.
If I try to forge ahead by closing my mind to my past, to my failures and my acknowledged weaknesses, I may stumble no more than others who repent yet always remember, and who remember yet never despond, but on stumbling I shall more surely fall, and may be quickly overcome by the will to either stay down or to turn and give up my attempts to follow.
The child in which that ‘first light’ shone is still alive in me, and I must carry him with me every step of the way. Together we have become able to learn from all that is laid before us, taking the teachings of others for confirmation rather than as the source of our knowing. I am nothing if not that child.
'Learn where knowledge is, where strength, where understanding, and so learn where length of days is, where life, where the light of the eyes and where peace.' ( Baruch 3:14 )

The roots are established; the unseen groundwork bears fruit in their stability and in the constant supply of life giving water and nutrients made possible by their search and spread into the depths of their world. The tumescent shoot will carry the benefits and the evidence of this preparation on its journey of growth into the light. Roots and shoot are born of the same seed: they are inseparable, the plant having no ability to grow to fruition without the continued life of its juvenile past. 'Unless it grows out of yourself no knowledge is really yours, it is only a borrowed plumage.' (D.T.Suzuki. An Introduction to Zen Buddhism.)
This wonderful cycle of birth and growth and death, overlaid as it is with an ever-touching, ever-covering and sheltering, overlapping quilt of that same sequence, is a thing of beauty. It is as a slow rise and fall of praise from creation to its Creator: a long sustained ‘Alleluia’ in the heart of mankind, bursting forth in a tearful and heart-rending glimpse of an incomprehensible joy. A fleeting and inexpressible certainty set in the midst of our seemingly broken worlds of disbelief and of grief when confronted with the death of a loved one.

A clear view of this beauty underlying the grey emptiness was granted recently through the news of the death of Peter, a man with whom I and a mutual friend, Richard, used to work. I called at his home to pass on the news. My visit was overdue as I had not seen him or his family for a long time, but as soon as I arrived there was that wonderful feeling of a friendship being re-affirmed as we picked up conversation as though continuing from the day before. Talk of Peter included our awareness of how greatly his life had improved since we first met him, his first forty five years or so having been spent in ‘institutions’, and out of this conversation came the news that Richard’s father had died a few weeks earlier. Having been totally unexpected, this had left him in a place where I had not been; my own father’s decline over some twenty five years, while taking me to the same experience of loss and grief, was clearly without some of the painful corners he could not avoid.
He did not have the opportunity to say any form of goodbye, while I, being around throughout the decline, had been in a position where there had never been any real need for goodbyes. The other striking difference for me was that Richard had been able to speak to me about it; I had been unable to even mention my own father – even to my immediate family – for three long years, and had to walk away whenever others spoke of him.

As a background to our conversation we had the constant delight of happy chatter and interaction between Richard’s three young sons, and the occasional smiling face popping round the door: ‘Daddy, can I ...’, ‘Daddy, what’s this ...’, and, ‘Would you like one of these?’ while presenting me with an unexpected can of drink.
Here was the reason for all that has gone before. The ‘first light’ shines in such children as these, and our place of prominence and influence as parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, Godparents, and loving friends, is for none other than these. They are not just their own future, they are THE future: they are your future and mine, and in the overlap of their growing with our decline, of their living with our dying, we are called upon, not so much to fan the flame as to ensure that we do nothing to quench their awareness of it. In the face of all the distractions of this world, if we can achieve that, then let us pray God wills that it has been enough.
While we lay out all roads and paths before them and step aside, His work will continue unseen within them; we must make way for their freedom in the hands of God.

‘Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.’
(Mark 4:28)

About Me

Who I am should be, and should remain, of little consequence to you. Who you are is what matters; who you are meant to be is what should matter most to you. In coming closer to my own true self, I have gradually been filled with the near inexpressible: I have simply become "brim full", and my words to you are drawn from those uttered within myself, as part of an undeniable overflowing that brings a smile to my every dusk, and to my every new dawn.
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