Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details

Leave a comment

The unknown’s hidden kinship

When I was young, I had to choose between the life of being and the life of doing. And I leapt at the latter like a trout to a fly.

But each deed you do, each act, binds you to itself and to its consequences, and makes you act again and yet again.

Then very seldom do you come upon a space, a time like this, between act and act, when you may stop and simply be.

Or wonder who, after all, you are.

~ Ursula K. Le Guin

Wise insight from experienced writers like Ursula K. LeGuin helps shift my inner compass toward that grace of the space and time between, so I can discover, yet again, what it holds. Without exception, the mystery of this unknown offers me, like the source of a stream, the place from which creative expression flows.


Photo: David Campbell / GBC Tours

“I have been a storyteller since the beginning of my life, rearranging facts in order to make them more significant,” John Cheever said. My own earliest play involved arranging miniature objects on the floor of my childhood bedroom to create scenes, often like the ones I saw around me in Germany, then adding the characters and conversations I knew somewhere inside me. I’m told that some of these exchanges were occasionally audible when I was 3, 4, or 5. After that, I probably grew too self-conscious to allow that to happen.

For me, Cheever’s “more significant” would, initially, have meant interesting for me. Today, it has grown to mean significant for my heart, with evidence of a soul’s transcendence over the small side of human being. That’s the only way that story — either others’ or my own — can ever attract me, and is the treasure I’m always searching for. It’s what I believe story, in its highest purpose, has always been for.

This makes the bringing forth of story a sacred thing for me, as well as a search that requires the surrender Le Guin points to, one woven with a willing sense of wonder.

“Wonder makes the unknown interesting, attractive, and miraculous. A sense of wonder helps awaken the hidden affinity and kinship which the unknown has with us,” John O’Donohue describes in Eternal Echoes.

““What we write today slipped into our soul some other day when we were alone and doing nothing,” writer Brenda Ueland has reminded.

Ah, the sweetness of this truth, whose admission price is that space and time between — beyond the insistent, nonstop doing that life — and we — so often try to impose. The experience of writing requires that I seek refuge from that clamor and feel my inner life slow down to presence once more.

In an interview with Karen Bouris of Original Story, novelist Elizabeth Gilbert said:


Image: EnochVision.com

“I think creativity is entirely a spiritual practice. It has defined my entire life to think of it that way. When I hear the way some people speak about their work, people who are in creative fields who either attack themselves, or attack their work, or treat it as a burden rather than a blessing, or treat it as something that needs to be fought and defeated and beaten. . . . There is a war that people go to with their creative path that is very unfamiliar to me. To me, it feels like a holy calling and one that I am grateful for.

… I was given a contract, and the contract is: ‘We are not going to tell you why, but we gave you this capacity. Your side of the contract is that you must devote yourself to this in the highest possible manner, you must approach it with the greatest respect, and you must give your whole self to this. And then we will work with you on making progress.’ That’s sort of what it feels like for me.”

What good companionship I find here, as she speaks for my own heart.

The entire interview can be seen at http://www.dailygood.org/view.php?sid=413


The privilege of the balanced mind

Gleanings found here and there:IMG_5655

Close one eye and open the other. Close one to the world, and all that is therein, and open the other to the hallowed beauty of the Beloved. 

~ Bahá’u’lláh

The dimension that counts for the creative person is the space he creates within himself. This inner space is closer to the infinite than the other, and it is the privilege of the balanced mind … and the search for an equilibrium is essential — to be as aware of inner space as he is of outer space. 

~ Mark Tobey

Contemplation is also the response to a call: a call from Him Who has no voice, and yet Who speaks in everything that is, and Who, most of all, speaks in the depths of our own being: for we ourselves are words of His. But we are words that are meant to respond to Him, to answer to Him, to echo Him, and even in some way to contain Him and signify Him. Contemplation is this echo. We ourselves become His echo and His answer. It is as if in creating us God asked a question and in awakening us to contemplation He answered the question, so that the contemplative is at the same time, question and answer. 

~ Thomas Merton

Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new. ~ Ursula K. Le Guin


Can we be as smart as our cells?


Photo: Saffron Moser

When I was young, I had to choose between the life of being and the life of doing. And I leapt at the latter like a trout to a fly. But each deed you do, each act, binds you to itself and to its consequences, and makes you act again and yet again. Then very seldom do you come upon a space, a time like this, between act and act, when you may stop and simply be. Or wonder who, after all, you are. ~ Ursula K. Le Guin

These ponderings of Le Guin’s prodded my own: What if experience only reflects “life” when we’re as completely present to the moment as possible? And what if that can only happen if we’ve had adequate periods of rest and reflection?

September 2007 114

Photo: Vanessa Jette

In her book, Cellular Wisdom: Decoding the Body’s Secret Language, neuroscientist Joan C. King came to the conclusion that what she’d been studying under a microscope over two decades of research at Tufts University had significance beyond simple anatomy and physiology. Her up-close observation of cells led to the discovery that the keys to balance and well-being are written right into them, and modeled for us in the ways that both cells and our various body systems act and interact.

She proposes that just as each cell functions from a nucleus or center, so our human design intends that we live from some sort of core or center in order to be healthy and whole. Cells need to be connected with their center, and the same seems to hold true for us.

Israel 150

Photo: Nelson Ashberger

The rhythm of cell life is cyclical. They routinely go “on” and “off.” They experience periods of significant output or expenditure of energy, then immediately shift over into a “refractory” period during which they rest and gradually accumulate energy and resources in preparation for their next expenditure. Cells have no choice but to rest. Their innate wisdom abides by this requirement of healthy function.

Humans often skip this part of the cycle, though it’s as much a part of our design as it is that of our cells, says King. Genuine rest and re-creation (to break the word down to its intended roots) are what help us have the capacity to access our core, our greatest source of strength. Without a rest cycle, we have little opportunity make use of this, or of that other power tool, learning from our experience by reflecting upon it. It’s the “resting” phase of our design cycle that gives us the time and space to reflect.

King’s discoveries about cellular activity point out a lot of other instructive patterns within cellular behavior. Beyond the individual level, cells only fulfill their highest potential when they connect with other cells. We, too, tend to achieve our highest purposes when functioning in relationship with others.

In its evolution, the human body, at the cellular level, has also adopted principles of moderation, diversity, and even compassion to help maintain its survival. How willing are we to learn from it with humility, apply its wisdom, and do the same? 312q7DGYsbL._PJlook-inside-v2-small,TopRight,1,0_SH20_

Adapted from:

Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details –