It Acts Like Love: Music

08-12-2013 | Bob Sabath

Daily practice: might I suggest that we take some time to walk in nature and get reacquainted with this beauty and depth that surround us. We are part of this beauty and depth. We belong to the earth. And in a way that is new to me I am coming to see that all of nature desires to be in communion with us. Somewhere a poet says that "the truth depends upon a walk around the lake."

Day Four Reflections by Lindsay McLaughlin

Let's review the past few days. The beauty of being together for more than just a few hours or a weekend is what we have here: the opportunity to go deeper. So, we'll have some new material today, but we are interested in knowing what spoke to you most clearly, in the material we worked with over the past several days; what is the heart of the goodness for you?

This question arises out of personal experience. As I was coming out of depression, I realized that it is important for me to ingest beauty every day. For me, that beauty is poetry. For you, it could be something else. It seems to be important to be aware of the importance of what is goodness for you as we seek to befriend the darkness. It's part of the awkwardness of the swan, the lumbering process that is so good and so real.

All this talk about water, the depths of the water, going down to the depths. Yesterday we talked about Beowulf. He went down to the depths. We go down to the depths of our own psyches, down into the feminine.

We usually think of water as feminine. But today we are touching on the male waters. How can water be male?

In the gospel passage we looked at this morning, about John the Baptist. He was the wild man in the water. Here is a retelling of that story:

It happened this way. We were all together, rich and poor, men and women, walking slowly to the water. In the water was a wild man. He ate wild food, he dressed in animal skins, he came from the wilderness. His name was John and we loved him. He would immerse us in the water, going down deep and then back up again, up and out, and in this process in some way we were changed, transformed. As we moved toward John in the water, we saw Jesus, standing face to face with John in the water. We were surprised, because like us, Jesus and John were in the water sharing secrets. This is what we did when we came to John. We would publically reveal our darkest, most inner places (some call "sins", we say "secrets") and it was okay. So there was Jesus sharing his secrets with John in the water. But John seemed troubled, "what are you doing here with me?" But Jesus said it was okay. And down into the water he went, and he was down there a long time; and then up out of the water he came, arms outstretched, face radiant. Then a voice was heard, "you are my beloved and I delight in you." And some sort of bird appeared and descended on Jesus. We were all amazed. And in that moment, we were all changed. We all change when we get in the water with the wild man.

So, with that, Jesus was baptized by a wild man. And in that, he joined the wild man's movement.

Speaking of men and water, here is another story:

Once upon a time, there was a king. And in his kingdom there was a forest. It was a dangerous and dark forest, and any who went in never came out. It was so dangerous, that they posted a sign: "do not enter, do not go here". One day a happy hunter came along, looking for adventure. He asked the king what adventures might be had in his kingdom. The king said that there could be only one place for adventure in his kingdom, but he did not want to say what it was, because all who went there never returned. But the hunter insisted, and so the king told him about the forest. The happy hunter said that was just the sort of adventure he was looking for. Then off when the hunter and his faithful dog to find adventure in the forest. He knocked down the sign that said don't enter, and went in. He came to a lake. Then out of the lake emerged a hand, snatched the hunter's dog, and pulled the dog under. The hunter went and got three other people with buckets to get the water out of the lake. Then began the long, slow, tedious work of bucketing all the water out of the lake. This is the sort of work we must do over time to remain healthy, to actually get to the depths and see what is there. Eventually, the bucketers had removed all the water from the lake and there at the bottom of the lake was the hairy man. The wild man. Naked and covered in hair. They dragged him back to the courtyard of the king's castle and locked him in a cage for all to see.

That is as much of the story as we will tell. But hold that story with the one of Jesus side by side with the wild man in the water, being initiated into the wild man movement.

As we think about that gathering in the water with wild man, going into the depths and sharing secrets, becoming transparent, the question is:

Where are the waters of your transparency? Where is the community, the sacred space, where secrets can be shared? That place is the place of our initiation, that is our initiating community. Where or what is that for you?

We've been working with the beatitudes and they are a progression: the first, blessed are those who possess nothing, are attached to nothing, are at a loss. This leads to the second: blessed are those who grieve.

The third beatitude follows from that. When we are "in loss" or at a loss, and then we grieve, weep, we have a choice of responses. We can become angry and violent, or we can become open and nonviolent. Instead of becoming clutch fisted, we can become open handed. We can move out of poverty, through and into grief, and into a depth of gentleness and nonviolence.

There is a lovely poem that describes this, by a woman who was a strong influence on Rumi, though she lived several hundred years before he did. Her name is Rabia. She was sold into slavery as a young girl and was forced into a life of prostitution. At the age of 50 she was freed and became a holy woman that many came to. Her poem is:

It acts like love — music,
it reaches toward the face; touches it,
and tries to let you know His promise,
that all will be okay.

It acts like love — music,
and tells the feet;
"You do not have to be so burdened."
My body is covered with wounds this world made,
but I still longed to kiss Him, even when God said,
"Could you also kiss the hand that caused each scar,
for you will not find me until you do."

It does that — music.
It helps us to forgive.
When my pain became the cause of my cure,
My contempt changed into reverence
and my doubt into certainty.

I see that I have been the bale on my own path.
Now my body has become my heart.
My heart has become my soul.
And my spirit the eternal spirit.

Rabia of Basra (717-801)

Rabia poem sung on YouTube: http://youtu.be/aJmyL4GrlWA
Listen to song: Cead Mile Failte: A Hundred Thousand Welcomes
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To review our days:

Day 1: weaving three sources, poem The Fountain by Denise Levertov, and the story of Jesus and the woman at the well, and the first beatitude. Question: what is my poverty and how can that be blessed?

Day 2: poem, The Swan by Rilke, the story of Mary and Jesus at the tomb, and the second beatitude, grief. Question: how do we hear the voice of call, and how do we distinguish it from the many voices that give bad advice.

Notice that Mary hears the call in this story through her tears. She sees in her tears what the next step is and she is able to hear the voice that calls her Beloved. Notice that she remains, waiting, while the others leave; and when she receives her call, it is not in the way she expects. When Jesus comes, he draws out the moment, and even plays with it a bit, asking "why do you weep" and "whom do you seek" even though he knows the answer. He asks Mary to be present to the moment, not to hold onto the past. He is not the same Jesus who died. He is here, transformed and alive. She should not cling to the old, but let go, and let go of false or old impressions or ideas that were true or that worked in the past, but do not work now.