Tensions of Awakening

Yup, more from Mark Nepo. Well, actually Henri Nouwen, a Dutch priest and writer, who eventually lived in Canada, quoted in Nepo’s book, Facing the Lion, Being The Lion.

“To live a spiritual life we must first find the courage to enter into the desert of our loneliness and to change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude. This requires not only courage, but also a strong faith.”


It takes strong faith these days, doesn’t it. What, with the everyday reporting of massacres. Or environmental extremities. Or economic systems failing not just individuals but nations. Or the senseless death of loved ones. For some, our faith is in our religious communities. For some, in our families. For some, in the depths of the loneliness that Nouwen writes, from which can come oh, so subtly, purpose, and essential refining of soul, and quintessential letting go, and, ironically, belonging. From the void, from the seeming barrenness, some of us hold to a faith that there is irrepressible life (and have friends to remind us when we can’t see it anymore).

I like happy endings. Of course. Yet, I have learned that happy comes in many forms — sometimes from the deep honesty in sorrow. And that endings are rarely endings — little is so clean. Some stories transpire over a decade, or a lifetime. Some stories stretch the limits of our ability to remember that gardens do exist. My 19 year-old son reminds me — “most of it is about learning and growing; not forcing.” That’s a different kind of happy and a different category of ending.

So lays these tensions that most of us live. Some very personally. Some very globally. Good to be aware of as we walk, and die, on these many paths of humaning.

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