Opening View

Meandering. Stillness and silence lead me, waiting for something to open. During mediation all sorts of things open into my mind, then float away leaving me with a sense of insights having passed through me and moved on. 

Much interconnectedness, for me, is the arising of serendipity within my experiences. Not mere accidents, to my mind, but a clarity of thought that culminates in allowing me to see more precisely how the world relates, one item to another and another, guiding me to a larger perspective. Among the books I am presently reading (and re-reading) is “The Dream of the Earth” by Thomas Berry. He charmingly dedicates this book “To the Great Red Oak, beneath whose sheltering branches this book was written”. 

In his introduction, he begins with:

“One of the most remarkable achievements of the twentieth century is our ability to tell the story of the universe from empirical observation and with amazing insight into the sequence of transformations that has brought into being the earth, the living world, and the human community.”

Thomas Berry


 I must acknowledge that all understanding is developed from empirical observation. From there I am forced to consider how crude our human instruments for observation still are, for all our microscopes, our scanning and calculating power, we still spend much of our time uncertain of what we observe and how to interpret it.  Mr. Berry looks deeply into history, the wisdoms found in myth and ancient traditions, as well as the constant dawning of understanding from scientific exploration. From this broad view he asks: what is our responsibility to the earth?

Thomas Berry describes our relationship with earth as having phases similar to those Joseph Campbell describes in his ‘Hero’s Journey’. Humanity must let go of their childhood and move toward their own coming of age, in responsibility for the planet. 

Of course this is indeed a very broad view, one that demands knowledge and understanding well beyond my own. It moves me, I can see the sense in it, the understanding that he conveys, but it leaves me trembling in my own smallness; the tiny thing that hides in the grass. So, I make my great strides with the use of small words; some borrowed, some my own, but only words. Understanding the things that cannot truly be spoken of with the use of words? Yes. How silly.

Virginia Woolf attempts it in this passage from “Time Passes” in “To the Lighthouse”:

“Then indeed peace had come. Messages of peace breathed from the sea to the shore. Never to break its sleep any more, to lull it rather more deeply to rest, and whatever the dreamers dreamt holily, dreamt wisely, to confirm—what else was it murmuring—as Lily Briscoe laid her head on the pillow in the clean still room and heard the sea. Through the open window the voice of the beauty of the world came murmuring, too softly to hear exactly what it said—but what mattered if the meaning were plain?”

According to Ursla Le Guin (lovely Oregonian author of Science fiction and so much more, recently lost to us), when discussing the style of this piece, Woolf is quoted in a letter to a friend:

“Style is a very simple matter; it is all rhythm. Once you get that, you can’t use the wrong words. But on the other hand here am I sitting after half the morning, crammed with ideas, and visions, and so on, and can’t dislodge them, for lack of the right rhythm. Now this is very profound, what rhythm is, and goes far deeper than words. A sight, an emotion, creates this wave in the mind, long before it makes words to fit it.”

Virginia Woolf
in: Le Guin, Ursula  K. Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story (p. 32). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Words may flicker through you and convey ‘the voice of the beauty of the world’. Ordinary magic, but magic, to be sure.

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