“I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness, and the willingness to remain vulnerable.”
- Anne Morrow Lindbergh
“One writes not to be read but to breathe...one writes to think, to pray, to analyze. One writes to clear one's mind, to dissipate one's fears, to face one's doubts, to look at one's mistakes - in order to retrieve them. One writes to capture and crystallize one's joy, but also to disperse one's gloom. Like prayer - you go to it in sorrow more than joy, for help, a road back to 'grace'.”
- Anne Morrow Lindbergh, from her diaries
What We Need is Here
by Wendell Berry
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.
What I've been thinking about this weekend, besides coffee and doughnuts.......
is peace. About being quiet in heart, about being clear. And about grace, and breathing.
Because I'm always reading about six books at once, I'll share the opening of one I've just begun, though I might come back to it again later here. Mary Pipher's Seeking Peace: Chronicles of the Worst Buddhist in the World. The first few lines spoke to me:
"Let me be straight with you. I am not writing this book as an expert on inner peace. Nor am I offering sage advice from one who has been to the mountaintop. My authority does not come from being a relaxed and happy person, but rather from being a person who has sought calmness and happiness all of her life. I address you as a woman who has spent plenty of time talking herself and others down from emotional ledges."
In the book she's talking about how her life went after the fame of Reviving Ophelia. The book was a huge bestseller, landed her on Oprah, and countless other places. She was a hot commodity.
"All the writers I knew wanted crowds at their readings and lines of people buying their books. Many people seemed to envy me and think I had a glamorous situation. I would have envied myself if I weren't experiencing my life from the inside.
I knew other people were capable of handling, and even enjoying, my kind of life. I had always seen myself as a person who could cope with anything. But slowly I realized that one person's walk in the park is another person's journey to the dark side. Just at a time when I was pummelled with praise and attention, I became emotionally fragile and my inner spirit turned brittle."
It comes back to knowing yourself, knowing what you're capable of, and what you really want, need.
What we need is here, says Wendell Berry, and this is true.
Those of you who are longtime readers of this blog will remember that at about this time last year, I found myself experiencing Bell's Palsy. In many anecdotal accounts of those who contract BP, there is a stress trigger mentioned. And I've been noting that this time of year has its stresses for me, making lists of things that are stressing me out, and trying to limit them. I'm trying to limit my time on the computer, and especially Facebook. It must say something about Facebook or my experience of it anyway, that having only allowed myself on for 15 minutes a day for the last several days has made me feel calmer already. I'm trying to concentrate on the good things about Facebook, the good people, the wonderful generosity I have experienced there. I think by now I could write an essay, if not a book, about the strange and stingy things that I've seen on Facebook, but right now that won't do.
This week I'm concentrating on being quiet in heart, on being patient, and on seeking grace. Of which I certainly need more.