This guest post is by Phila Hoopes. You can read a bit about her on the “Denizens” page.
A few months ago, in a storm of grief over the way the world is going, I wrote to author/teacher/medicine woman Deena Metzger, “Knowing what you know, being sensitive to all you perceive, how do you not despair?” She answered: “Because I know that Spirit exists and that some of us are being guided and so we are doing what we are called to do and that has to be sufficient. And because — I don’t want God to despair too.”
I have shied away from those words; their challenge was too devastating. I’ve buried myself in purposeful overwhelm, busybusybusy applying my skills to good causes, and when fatigue forced a halt, burying myself in lesser distractions – conversations with friends, an old movie, a brain-candy novel, surfing the Internet. Checking the stats for this blog, frustrated that no inspirations were coming for new content (surprise!) and bemused that the most popular page, by far, was Quotes on the Dark Night of the Soul. Refusing to admit – despite all indications – that I was (unadmittedly, only borderline-consciously) traversing a similarly shadowed valley.
On a morning that had begun brilliantly, clouds were moving in; as I emptied the dishwasher, thoughts of digging the garden were turning to rainy-day alternatives; my mood was darkening with the sky. My morning reading, From the Redwood Forest: Ancient Trees and the Bottom Line, had already awakened the familiar inner voice: old-growth forest was being eradicated, whole species and indigenous cultures were being wiped off the face of the earth, and what was I accomplishing here as a copywriter signing petitions and promoting visionary businesses and organizations in my lovely, safe little refuge of a home? Nothing I could do would make a real difference. The inward keening began again, feeling trees, rivers, wilderness, wildlife, whole swathes of the natural order tearing away as fat hands grasped and wrung them, dying, into cash…
The focus tightened: I thought of the physical signs I’ve studiously ignored in my own body, and the underlying motivation for doing so, half-acknowledged. Spiritual teachers’ warnings arose – despair is the worst of the sins – only to meet the furious retort – so I’m already feeling hopeless, just add another load of guilt, why don’t you?
They say you teach what you most need to learn. The Quote pages on my blog are the words I turn to when my hope, faith, belief are dissolving.
Deena’s statement of belief scrolled up to my view…and I recalled her response to my first question: “…And because — I don’t want God to despair too.”
For God to despair…and I say that I embrace, have viscerally experienced that the Divine is in all things and all things are in the Divine…that all things are alive, aware, and interconnected…
So for the mote-of-Divinity that was I to embrace the furthering of not-life by purposefully ignoring what was demanding attention in the mote-of-creation that was my body, because I saw no large, headline-grabbing heroic accomplishment in my life, would in its own way be dooming God to despair through an abandonment of belief in the divine worth of each speck. An abandonment of belief in the divine spark of small actions, of their potential to ignite into more. An abandonment of willingness to stand for hope, whether against outward social/environmental devastation or deathly inward responses to human ignorance, egotism, folly (mine or others’). An abandonment of faith that inward and outward evolution continue and that (seemingly) impossible odds can be overcome.
A friend’s response to a Facebook post arose to mind: “Jung is right that becoming aware of the darkness is a large part of the spiritual work. But being aware of (as opposed to imagining) the light is important as well.”
Am I going to close with a loud and ringing affirmation of faith renewed and intent to stand strong and change my life from this moment forward? No. Such simple transformations and ringing affirmations are usually (for me) worth no more than the hot air exhaled in voicing them. Better that such epiphanies hover glistening in consciousness like motes in a sunbeam, sink down into the soul like seeds falling into earth, taking root in quiet, small day-to-day choices of incremental change, small anchorings-in, small openings to the “uncreated Light,” small moment-to-moment agreements between oneself and the transcendent/immanent Divine
First published in Elephant Journal.