Our mission is to plant ourselves at the Gates of Hope –
Not the prudent gates of Optimism,
Which are somewhat narrower.
Not the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense;
Nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness
Which creak on shrill and angry hinges
(People cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through)
Nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of
“Everything is gonna’ be all right.”
But a different, sometimes lonely place.
The place of truth-telling,
About your own soul first of all and its condition.
The place of resistance and defiance,
The piece of ground from which you see the world
Both as it is and as it could be
As it will be;
The place from which you glimpse not only struggle,
But the joy of the struggle.
And we stand there, beckoning and calling
Telling people what we are seeing
Asking people what they see.
- by Victoria Safford
The Reverend Victoria Safford, White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church minister in Mahtomedi, Minnesota, is the author of Walking Toward Morning: Meditations (Skinner House, 2003) and a contributor to The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen’s Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear (Basic Books, 2004).
Victoria Safford image: http://www.uua.org/directory/people/victoria-e-safford
Thanks to Patricia R. for introducing me to this poem that seems very significant today.
May your lives be filled with hope –
“The place of truth-telling . . .
Telling people what we are seeing
Asking people what they see.”
I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.
I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?
Book of Hours, I 2
-Rilke translation from Krista Tippett’s interview with Joanna Macy
René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke —better known as Rainer Maria Rilke —was a Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist, “widely recognized as one of the most lyrically intense German-language writing in both verse and highly lyrical prose. Several critics have described Rilke’s work as inherently “mystical”. His writings include one novel, several collections of poetry, and several volumes of correspondence in which he invokes haunting images that focus on the difficulty of communion with the ineffable in an age of disbelief, solitude, and profound anxiety. These deeply existential themes tend to position him as a transitional figure between the traditional and the modernist writers. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainer_Maria_Rilke>
For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio – written during the dark times of World War II is a Christmas poem for adults.
Last portion of For the Time Being – by W.H. Auden
Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes —
Some have got broken — and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week —
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted — quite unsuccessfully —
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off. But, for the time being, here we all are,
Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid’s geometry
And Newton’s mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.
It seems to have shrunk during the holidays. The streets
Are much narrower than we remembered; we had forgotten
The office was as depressing as this. To those who have seen
The Child, however dimly, however incredulously,
The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all.
For the innocent children who whispered so excitedly
Outside the locked door where they knew the presents to be
Grew up when it opened. Now, recollecting that moment
We can repress the joy, but the guilt remains conscious;
Remembering the stable where for once in our lives
Everything became a You and nothing was an It.
And craving the sensation but ignoring the cause,
We look round for something, no matter what, to inhibit
Our self-reflection, and the obvious thing for that purpose
Would be some great suffering. So, once we have met the Son,
We are tempted ever after to pray to the Father;
“Lead us into temptation and evil for our sake.”
They will come, all right, don’t worry; probably in a form
That we do not expect, and certainly with a force
More dreadful than we can imagine. In the meantime
There are bills to be paid, machines to keep in repair,
Irregular verbs to learn, the Time Being to redeem
From insignificance. The happy morning is over,
The night of agony still to come; the time is noon:
When the Spirit must practice his scales of rejoicing
Without even a hostile audience, and the Soul endure
A silence that is neither for nor against her faith
That God’s Will will be done, That, in spite of her prayers,
God will cheat no one, not even the world of its triumph.
He is the Way.
Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness;
You will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures.
He is the Truth.
Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety;
You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.
He is the Life.
Love Him in the World of the Flesh;
And at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy.
— W. H. Auden
“English poet, playwright, critic, and librettist W(ystan) H(ugh) Auden exerted a major influence on the poetry of the twentieth century.”
image from: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/w-h-auden
Many blessings to all. Merry Christmas – Happy Holidays wherever you are. Aloha, Renée
When relationships, projects, plans, or dreams don’t go as you had hoped, remember the wise words of 13th century Persian poet and Sufi mystic, Rumi:
“The Guest House”
This being human is a guest-house.
Every morning a new arrival:
A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary
awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep
your house empty of its furniture.
Still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be cleaning you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the the malice, meet them at the door
laughing, and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes because each has been
sent as a guide from beyond.
– from Essential Rumi translated by Coleman Barks
Wishing we all grow in wisdom and love as we meet the challenges of our lives.