Our love needs to be bigger than our insanity.
There are three covenants that keep us engaged in the work of love. To begin with, when we see something true and beautiful in someone, it is not the work of love to change them or force their growth in our direction. It is the work of love to create conditions by which what is true and beautiful in all we behold can grow and blossom, bringing forth its deepest nature. At the same time, the work of love depends on giving others, especially young people, a sense of safety in the world, nurturing their confidence to lean into life and the unknown—not away from these eternal resources. Still, being human, we constantly slip from integrating our experience to being consumed by our experience. We move, almost daily, from having our fear, pain, and worry live in us to living within our fear, pain, and worry. So the third covenant of love is to keep each other company when we’re drowning in our experience and awash in our feelings, until it all can right-size, until our experience and feelings can once again live in us. These covenants exercise the muscle of compassion we call the heart.
I know now that, over the years, my own cries that life is unfair, have come from the inescapable pain of living, and these cries, while understandable, have always diverted me from feeling my way through the pain of my breakage into the re-formation of my life. Somehow, crying “Unfair” has always kept me stuck in what hurts.
I offer what has surprised me in my pain: that life is not fair, but unending in its capacity to change us; that compassion is fair and feeling is just: and that we are not responsible for all that befalls us, only for how we receive it and for how we hold each other up along the way.
If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happened better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.
In this place where the hidden treasure is made manifest, there is nowhere to go that is not also welcoming, also home; yet even here, glimpsed as if from the corner of the eye, another path leads on, further into the hidden—for the sacred is not a destination, but an unfolding, an unscrolling, a blossoming without end.
When you feel you have no more to give, keep your heart open just a while longer, because this is when the deepest gift we have is about to show itself. This is the foundational side of a paradox that can’t be explained: as we’re humbled over time to honor our very real limitations, the light we carry is ever more exposed through those limitations. And just when we’re at the end of what we know, the soul’s lips are ready to meet the world. As we honor our frailties, we’re also asked to trust in the inexhaustible Source the heart is threshold to. While the container we are can wear down and weaken, the Spirit we carry is indestructible. I know this because I’ve watched the life-force burst from those being born and I’ve bowed to the tenderness seeping from others as they die. I know this because I’ve almost died myself, and have felt the life-force burst and seep through me. I’ve been roughly rearranged by life until the face beneath my face, that can hide nothing, finally met the world. Once the light we carry is felt and known, a covenant is awakened within us to keep that inexhaustible light in view. This is a marriage of the deepest kind between our soul and the life that carries that soul while here on Earth.
The mystical path is the most difficult, demanding, dangerous, and intoxicating journey one could ever make. It takes one into the depths of the heart, into the abyss and endless love that one finds there. It leads you from the known to the unknown, and then further, into the unknowable, into a darkness brighter than any light. Nothing can prepare you for the heart’s journey, for the places it can take you, the depths and the heights that are within you.
I step into the painting of the four blue horses.
I am not even surprised that I can do this.
One of the horses walks toward me.
His blue nose noses me lightly. I put my arm
over his blue mane, not holding on, just
He allows me my pleasure.
Franz Marc died a young man, shrapnel in his
I would rather die than explain to the blue horses
what war is.
They would either faint in horror, or simply
find it impossible to believe.
I do not know how to thank you, Franz Marc.
Maybe our world will grow kinder eventually.
Maybe the desire to make something beautiful
is the piece of God that is inside each of us.
Now all four horses have come closer,
are bending their faces toward me
as if they have secrets to tell.
I don’t expect them to speak, and they don’t.
If being so beautiful isn’t enough, what
could they possibly say?