Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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To forgive the very world

Photo courtesy of N. Augusta Vincent.

 

After both of my parents had died, I put off sorting through the boxes of their belongings that had accumulated like small mountains in our house.

Then I woke one day with the urge to explore them.

I was plunged into stirred-up memories and stored-up feelings.

As if whispered into my thoughts, an idea I’d encountered years ago in the work of psychologist Erik Blumenthal reminded:

“The person who comes to understand his parents can forgive the world.”

Photo courtesy D. Kirkup Designs / https://www.etsy.com/shop/DKirkupDesigns.

The writer, who grew up Jewish in Nazi Germany, knew firsthand how painful experience often makes forgiveness seem impossible.

Yet he emphasized two needs that he believed eventually call to each of us: to become more understanding, beyond our rigid “certainties”, and to accept the freedom that forgiveness bestows.

As I unpacked my parents’ things, I gained a deeper view of what they had faced and the weight of the efforts and decisions they made. When they met, they were two people in their 20s entering a cross-cultural marriage at a time when no one knew what the next day would bring, who would live or die, or even what language everyone would be speaking, depending on the outcome of the biggest war the world had known.

A bird’s-eye view of the German town where I lived with my military family.

I can now see, and appreciate even more fully, that whatever their circumstances, troubles, and significant mistakes or missteps, they made a place for me in this world, and stuck with that commitment.

I’m reminded of words of Rumi’s:

“When you eventually see through the veils to how things really are, you will keep saying again and again, this is certainly not like we thought it was.”

As I uncovered a broader view of my parents’ lives, I could see that most of my own resistance to forgiveness was forged at a stage when the imprint of my parents’ perceived omnipotence led me to believe that they were always in charge, in the know, in control of all situations.

I now share with them the certainty that that was never true, and the humbling realization that, whatever the hurts, it is not, indeed, as I thought it was.

It’s been observed that many people hold back from forgiveness because they believe it might go against the grain of justice, might excuse a wrong or deny its occurrence.

But when we find a willingness to see beyond our own view about any situation, especially the actions and choices of others, it disarms that tendency our perception has to keep us wedded to beliefs that not only make us feel bad, but impede our healing and progress, too.

Adapted from Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details.


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Seed of Reality, Tree of Life

Photo: N. Augusta Vincent

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

From the seed of reality religion has grown into a tree which has put forth leaves and branches, blossoms and fruit. After a time this tree has fallen into a condition of decay. The leaves and blossoms have withered and perished; the tree has become stricken and fruitless. It is not reasonable that man should hold to the old tree, claiming that its life forces are undiminished, its fruit unequaled, its existence eternal.

The seed of reality must be sown again in human hearts in order that a new tree may grow therefrom and new divine fruits refresh the world. By this means the nations and peoples now divergent in religion will be brought into unity, imitations will be forsaken, and a universal brotherhood in reality itself will be established.

~ ‘Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace

Artwork: Tobey A. Ring

Even though we find a defective branch or leaf upon this tree of humanity or an imperfect blossom, it, nevertheless, belongs to this tree and not to another.

Therefore, it is our duty to protect and cultivate this tree until it reaches perfection. If we examine its fruit and find it imperfect, we must strive to make it perfect.

There are souls in the human world who are ignorant; we must make them knowing. Some growing upon the tree are weak and ailing; we must assist them toward health and recovery. If they are as infants in development, we must minister to them until they attain maturity.

We should never detest and shun them as objectionable and unworthy. We must treat them with honor, respect and kindness; for God has created them and not Satan. They are not manifestations of the wrath of God but evidences of His divine favor. God, the Creator, has endowed them with physical, mental and spiritual qualities that they may seek to know and do His will; therefore, they are not objects of His wrath and condemnation.

In brief, all humanity must be looked upon with love, kindness and respect; for what we behold in them are none other than the signs and traces of God Himself. All are evidences of God; therefore, how shall we be justified in debasing and belittling them, uttering anathema and preventing them from drawing near unto His mercy? This is ignorance and injustice, displeasing to God; for in His sight all are His servants.”

 ~ Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 230


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Let us be light

O Son of Being! With the hands of power I made thee and with the fingers of might I created thee; and within thee have I placed the essence of My light.

O Son of Being! Thou art My lamp and My light is in thee. Get thou from it thy radiance and seek none other than Me. For I have created thee rich and have bountifully shed my favor upon thee.     Baha’u’llah

Every once in a while, a piece of truth that’s been looking me in the face for years, making no attempt to hide itself, stops me in my tracks. Often it’s something in recent life experience that sounds an inner chord and makes words I think I’ve heard and understood come through with new implications as loud and unmistakable as a siren.

An experience I had in the dark gave me a whole new appreciation for light, and lamps.

I suppose that darkness, ironically, is as good a place as any to have an epiphany about these.

When my husband and I rented a small vacation apartment in Germany, the landlord showed us around the place and cautioned, “Remember the light.”

When we returned home later that night, it quickly became obvious why he’d said this. We had neglected to put on the exterior light.

And on this overcast night, the narrow old-town streets, most of which are also hills, were incredibly dark. The uneven, irregularly spaced steps down into the tiny alley on which our apartment’s front door was located were treacherous.

We groped our way down slowly, VERY carefully, in the thick black. The cobblestones underfoot were still slippery from rain. We were relieved to finally step inside without any sprains or falls.

Waiting the very next morning as I spent some quiet time at the start of the day were those two passages above. This is definitely a way the angels have their fun with me, sometimes.

And there was this passage from ‘Abdu’l-Baha to go with them:

The good pleasure of God is love for His creatures.

The will and plan of God is that each individual member of humankind shall become illumined like unto a lamp, radiant with all the destined virtues of humanity, leading his fellow creatures out of natural darkness into the heavenly light.

Therein rests the virtue and glory of the world of humanity.

One light, and so very many lamps — each and every member of humankind.

Just what kind of brilliant light might all of those “destined virtues of humanity” provide that makes it bright enough to lead us from the “natural darkness” of a sore-tried world into the safe, joyful freedom of “heavenly light”?

Adapted from Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00B5MR9B0


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Rising to that for which we’re created

 

earth

Artwork: Judy Wright

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

 

O Friends!
Abandon not the everlasting beauty for a beauty that must die, and set not your affections on this mortal world of dust.

~ Baha’u’llah

Shed the light of a boundless love on every human being whom you meet, whether of your country, your race, your political party, or of any other nation, or shade of political opinion.

Heaven will support you while you work in this in-gathering of the scattered peoples of the world beneath the shadow of the almighty tent of unity.

~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

figure

Artwork: Judy Wright

 

Be thou not unhappy; the tempest of sorrow shall pass; regret will not last; disappointment will vanish; the fire of the love of God will become enkindled, and the thorns and briars of sadness and despondency will be consumed!

Be thou happy; rest thou assured upon the favors of Bahá so that uncertainty and hesitation may become non-existent and the invisible outpourings descend upon the arena of being!”

~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá


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In a full heart there is room

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Wertheim flowerbox photo: Jon Ring

Just like one of the characters in my novel, my mother had a Leap-Year birthday on February 29. As my sister and I remember her this year, I’m grateful to share a guest post from my sister that carries my mother’s voice — unmistakable to my inner ear, across years and the incomprehensible distance between this life and the next — in ways that leave my heart astonished.

It was captured at a time of unbearable loss, and unfathomable mystery, just the sort of atmospheres in which our mother knew how to accompany us.

 

Guest Post

By Tracey Edgerly Meloni

I need my mother.

I’m twelve years too late, but never have I needed her more than at this moment. Her last words to me were, “I’ll always be with you,” though I doubt either of us believed that she was being literal.

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Photo: Karen Olin Darling

This is not what I expected, this waiting for Bob, the last time I will see him in this hospital, the last time I will touch his hand, brush his lips with mine. Sometime between when a tinny voice called me in the middle of the night and when I arrived here, he was spirited away from his sterile ICU cubicle (now stripped and eerily empty) to this unknown room I am waiting to enter. The Visitation Room, they call it. Doctors, nurses, orderlies and general helpers bustle past; no one looks at me.

I am sitting in the Dead Zone, an awkward limbo to hospital personnel: the patient is no longer here, but has not yet left the building.

Don’t worry — you know they are getting him ready. And I will be with you.

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Painting, “Movement” by Diane Kirkup

Mum is here – that deliciously throaty voice, Helen Mirren meets Lauren Bacall, her Arden scent wrapping around me like her slender arms.

Yes, I do know, after years as a doctor’s wife,

I know about  “getting him ready.” Removing the tubes and wires, masking the bruises, the torn skin, the paddle burns; erasing that final image, the moment of knowing alarm, from his features. I’ve been there hundreds of times, but not with my Bob being the one readied. Definitely I am looking through the wrong end of the telescope.

Let’s go away somewhere for now – pick your happiest memory.

There were so many … let’s go with Turks and Caicos, 1987, before the Glitterati discovered it, when only one gas pump, a Club Med and the most glorious scuba diving in the hemisphere defined it. When torrid and wine-drenched afternoons were spent lying naked under the lazy ceiling fan …

thOK, enough … I am your Mum, after all, and you were a long way from married then … pick another memory.

In Venice, on the Grand Canal, in the bridal suite of the Regina-Europa, toasting Mum’s leap-year birthday at a time when no sane person goes to Venice.

Or in Cairo, having dinner at sunset on the Nile …

Or in Djibouti, where “Bombay Bob” gained fame on our 100-passenger explorer vessel for my dubious lyrics, to the tune of the old “Pretty Baby:”

“If you miss the final shuttle

Say GOODBYE, your cruise is scuttled,

In Djibouti today!”

Naked stuff there, too, yes?

483660_10151501579297641_2073824323_nThere, and everywhere.  Soul mates and best friends and … yes.

“Mrs. Meloni? You may come in now – and my condolences.”

Mum says nothing – For this, I must step forward on my own.

The room is ridiculous, chintz and lavender wallpaper and a rocking chair, as if I am welcoming him to the world, not saying goodbye.

He is clean, pink, scrubbed – no sign of the odious central line that became so infected, all evidence of his cracked chest,  ventilator, bedsores and other bodily harm hidden by an Amish quilt. Terrible music – Mantovani Mediocrity, elevator music – plays softly in the background. Tears, the unbidden, unattractive snotty-nosed kind, threaten.

No, no, no! We don’t cry for bad taste and worse music. Get everyone out of here and be alone with him – capture what you need.

I ask everyone to leave. I kiss his forehead, his earlobe, his neck. I slide off his wedding ring, knowing I will wear it on a chain around my neck, maybe forever. I marvel at his peaceful expression, so different from yesterday’s angst. I long to stroke all of him, but know that those days are over.

Never again will we lie naked together, under a lazy ceiling fan.

Some not-quite-a-nurse person hands me a plastic bag: the dead man’s stuff, no longer needed. Glasses and underwear and a book he never read about Cole Porter.

I think of his spider-quote from EB White: “and I … as spiders do, attach one single thread to you, for my returning …”

Mum

Peggy Wilson Edgerly, 29 Feb. 1920 – 4 Nov. 2000.

You’ve forgotten Antonio, she reminds me;  we both love Antonio Porchia, especially  in a full heart there is room for everything and in an empty heart there is room for nothing.”

I cock my head to one side, holding Bob’s hand gently, wondering what she will say, and if she will come back again.

She blows me away:

Man, when he does not grieve, hardly exists.

 

 A heart full of thanks to writer Tracey Edgerly Meloni

 


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Roots of hunger, role of justice

munichgirl_card_frontI have read a lot about about hunger — and destruction — on the road to my novel The Munich Girl.

There was a lot of hunger, in a lot of places, before, during, and after the second World War. I have an abundance of first-person accounts from people in my own family who have never forgotten what it feels like.

Many of them paid a big price for it with their health, or lived in fear afterward with cupboards they can never empty before the contents spoil. From my earliest days, I listened to stories of what it feels like — what you feel like — when you don’t have enough to eat.

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Photo: David Campbell

I wonder what those who sought to remake the world with justice after the war would think of where we find ourselves as a world today? There is still hunger. There is unbearable savagery.

There is a collective consciousness that remains unconscious of the reality, precious value, and imperative of soulhood.

In fairness, it’s hard to remake a world in “justice” in the midst of unimaginable destruction. If you only operate out of what you think you know about justice, what you think history and experience have shown it to be, the possibilities in such imitation are, inevitably, quite limiting.

If you don’t know what the very purpose of justice is, it’s like traveling without a map, or even a polar star.

The purpose of justice is the appearance of unity among men.

~ Bahá’u’lláh

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Photo: David Campbell

Unambiguous, this declaration is. And doubtless, very difficult to conceptualize — and apply — if you act only from what you believe you know about human beings, and potential, based on what you believe you know about human history and experience.

As I continue to study the war that launched our world into entirely unimagined directions, many of which have congealed in blighted possibility, like plants insufficiently watered, I think I’m discovering what the root of all hunger really is. There is much we have not yet mined, nor learned, from “history.” History itself often remains a narrow category deliberately designed to keep certain things in, and certain things out — essentially what has always led to violence of every kind.

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Photo: Diane Kirkup

But there is also a legacy that always outlasts that — a brilliant jewel of indestructible power whose facets reflect those qualities of justice and unity that Bahá’u’lláh has pointed to. I believe that it is the only reason there is any possibility of either survival or advancement, just as I believe that humanity continues, if blindly, to let itself be convinced to treasure trash, while overlooking the one true treasure it has.

John O’Donohue has recognized what it is, and why it triumphs, and why we suffer so deeply — every kind of hunger we know — when we betray ourselves by depriving ourselves of it:

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Photo: Timothy Jette

Our time is hungry in spirit. In some unnoticed way we have managed to inflict severe surgery on ourselves. We have separated soul from experience, become utterly taken up with the outside world and allowed the interior life to shrink.

Like a stream disappears underground, there remains on the surface only the slightest trickle. When we devote no time to the inner life, we lose the habit of soul. We become accustomed to keeping things at surface level.

The deeper questions about who we are and what we are here for visit us less and less. If we allow time for soul, we will come to sense its dark and luminous depth.

If we fail to acquaint ourselves with soul, we will remain strangers in our own lives.  

~ John O’Donohue


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Beyond all walls and worry

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

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Photo: Karen Olin Darling

Be empty of worrying. Think of who created thought. Why do you stay in prison when the door is wide open?

Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking. Live in silence. Flow down and down in always widening rings of being.

~ Rumi

What is drawing? How does one get there? It’s working one’s way through an invisible iron wall that seems to stand between what one feels and what one can do.

How can one get through that wall? — since hammering on it doesn’t help at all. In my view, one must undermine the wall and grind through it slowly and patiently.

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Photo: David Campbell / http://www.gbctours.com

And behold, how can one remain dedicated to such a task without allowing oneself to be lured from it or distracted, unless one reflects and organizes one’s life according to principles?

And it’s the same with other things as it is with artistic matters. And the great isn’t something accidental; it must be willed. Whether originally deeds lead to principles in a person or principles lead to deeds is something that seems to me as unanswerable and as little worth answering as the question of which came first, the chicken or the egg.

But I believe it’s a positive thing and of great importance that one should try to develop one’s powers of thought and will.

~ Vincent van Gogh

When you hold on tightly to a part of your life that’s not working, it has no room to heal. Whether you’re unhappy with your love life, finances, career, home, or health, let go …If you hang on to these aspects of your life because of fears such as “What if I can’t find someone or something better?” then the situation will only worsen.

However, if you’re willing to open your hands and allow the situation to be freed, one of two situations will occur: Either it will be washed away from you and replaced by a better situation, or the situation will heal in a miraculous way. Try not to control the outcome of your troubling situation. Let go, and let God help you!

~ Doreen Virtue