Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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The light of our kindness vanquishes the dark

Photos courtesy of David Campbell / http://gbctours.com/

 

As Winter overtakes my days, one book reviewer’s words continue to strike a chord:

 “One of the things I also enjoyed was that this story took place in a kind world, with supportive and loving folks, despite their past difficulties, even with each other.”

This is the reason that I write –  from the belief that this is the world that all of our hearts want – and that all of our hearts are capable of helping to bring it into being.

Our minds can be reinforced in a thousand ways to believe that this is unrealistic and impossible.

But our hearts know so very much better. They always hold the key to that kinder world they can envision, with love.

Perhaps this is what Carl Jung was pointing to in these words:

As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence
is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being.

It seems that “kindling a light of meaning” is inextricably linked with compassion, which author Christine DeLorey recently defined as “love of life.”

Our experience of life in these times can feel harsh and cold and unyielding. Those are the times when our hearts can feel stricken, fearful, confounded.

But like the sun, even in winter, there is always, each day, that waiting possibility of “radiating light throughout the world and illuminating your own darknesses” so that “your virtue becomes a sanctuary for yourself and all beings.”

Those words of Lao Tzu’s, shared a long time ago, capture the timeless essence conveyed in what we remember in every new Season of Light: the light does, indeed, shine forth most brightly, unmistakably, in darkness.

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Every plant has its fragrance

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

 

Regard thou faith as a tree. 

Its fruits, leaves, boughs and branches are, and have ever been,

trustworthiness, truthfulness, uprightness and forbearance.

~ Baha’u’lláh

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

 

What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves?

This is the most important of all voyages of discovery.

~ Thomas Merton

 

Most of the shadows of this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

The herb is not without its fruit, although it seemeth so, for in this garden of God every plant exerteth its own influence and hath its own properties, and every plant can even match the laughing, hundred-petalled rose in rejoicing the sense with fragrance.

Be thou assured of this.

Although the pages of a book know nothing of the words and the meanings traced upon them, even so, because of their connection with these words, friends pass them reverently from hand to hand.

This connection, furthermore, is purest bounty.

 ~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá


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Lights that cannot be hidden

 

Therefore, you must thank God that He has bestowed upon you the blessing of life and existence in the human kingdom.

Strive diligently to acquire virtues befitting your degree and station.

Be as lights of the world which cannot be hid and which have no setting in horizons of darkness.

Ascend to the zenith of an existence which is never beclouded by the fears and forebodings of nonexistence.

~ ‘Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 89-90

 


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The real universal language

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A kindly tongue is the lodestone of the hearts of men.

It is the bread of the spirit, it clotheth the words with meaning,

it is the fountain of the light of wisdom and

understanding.   ~ Bahá’u’lláh

When I saw the Chinese New Year decorations in a favorite restaurant this week, I was transported back to one of the most powerful lessons I ever received, from one of my youngest teachers. During the semester that I taught English to kindergartners in China, the curriculum I used also introduced another more universal language that I believe all human beings are pre-programmed to speak: the language of virtues.

China3.2009 216When you live in a place where you can’t speak the language, you gain new appreciation for spiritual attributes as stepping stones for communication. Kind looks and encouraging smiles are something we can all recognize and such gems of human goodness became more visible when we can’t fall back on words alone.

This happened for me one day in China when, right before the five classes I was scheduled to teach, I was hit by sudden illness that left me weak and dizzy in the midst of Shanghai’s spinning streets, on the verge of collapsing. I arrived at the school with no idea how I’d get through the afternoon of classes ahead of me.

2005 China Trip 248I was greeted at the classroom door by a five-year-old who, upon seeing me, took my bags and carried them to a place where he pointed for me to sit. Then he disappeared into the next room and returned with water in a beautiful clay teacup. He presented this to me with marked kindness, good manners, and concern, then stood beside me companionably, patting my back gently a few times as I sipped slowly.

He spoke only a few English words he’d learned from me (none of which applied very much in this situation) and I spoke virtually no Chinese, but the unspoken communication between us in those moments was unmistakably deep. Settled in the hospitable embrace in which he immersed me with such unspoken wisdom, I felt my symptoms lifting off of me as I basked in the oasis of calm he had created. Then I experienced a surge of energy that lifted and carried me through that class and those that followed.

Storm 205Remarkably, I can feel that same warm, healing strength today as I remember his kindness.

More than ever, humanity needs a universal language. Though I don’t know what it will be, I feel as though I’ve caught a glimpse of what must surely be one of its essential ingredients: the vocabulary of virtues that God has treasured inside each of us.

It seems to find its best expression in actions and gestures of kindness, and needs no translation at all.

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

http://rcm-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/cm?lt1=_blank&bc1=000000&IS2=1&bg1=FFFFFF&fc1=000000&lc1=0000FF&t=leaofthetre-20&o=1&p=8&l=as4&m=amazon&f=ifr&ref=ss_til&asins=1931847673″


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Try to leave the light on

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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 as a siren.

An experience I had in the dark gave me a whole new appreciation for light, and lamps. I suppose that’s as good a place as any to have an epiphany about these.

EB pix Germany and more 004When my husband and I rented a small vacation apartment in Germany, the landlord showed us around the place before he headed away on business. His English was limited, as is our German. What I later realized that he had cautioned us about was, roughly translated, “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.

2005 Spring 071And 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:

http://www.amazon.com/Life-First-Sight-Finding-Details/dp/1931847673/ref=tmm_pap_title_051D7zcqZNML._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-62,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_