echoes of the dance

What is serious to [us] is often very trivial in the sight of God. What in God might appear to us as “play” is perhaps what He Himself takes most seriously. At any rate the Lord plays and diverts Himself in the garden of His creation, and if we could let go of our own obsession with what we think is the meaning of it all, we might be able to hear His call and follow Him in His mysterious, cosmic dance. We do not have to go very far to catch echoes of that game, and of that dancing. When we are alone on a starlit night; when by chance we see the migrating birds in autumn descending on a grove of junipers to rest and eat; when we see children in a moment when they are really children; when we know love in our own hearts; or when, like the Japanese poet, Basho, we hear an old frog land in a quiet pond with a solitary splash – at such times the awakening, the turning inside out of all values, the “newness,” the emptiness and the purity of the vision that makes themselves evident, provide a glimpse of the cosmic dance….

Indeed, we are in the midst of it, and it is in the midst of us, for it beats in our very blood, whether we want it to or not.

Yet the fact remains that we are invited to forget ourselves on purpose, cast our awful solemnity to the winds and join in the general dance.

  • Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

what liars lose

The possibilities that exist between two people, or among a group of people, are a kind of alchemy. They are the most interesting thing in life. The liar is someone who keeps losing sight of these possibilities.

When relationships are determined by manipulation, by the need for control, they may possess a dreary, bickering kind of drama, but they cease to be interesting. They are repetitious; the shock of human possibilities has ceased to reverberate through them.

 

the air in which you breathe

[We’ve recently been inspired by Martin Buber’s classic on relating to others in fully human, not objectifying, ways. Here is a line that stuck with me:]

Spirit is not in the I but between I and You. It is not like the blood that circulates in you but like the air in which you breathe. Man lives in the spirit when he is able to respond to his You. He is able to do that when he enters into this relation with his whole being. It is solely by virtue of his power to relate that man is able to live in the spirit.

― Martin Buber, I and Thou

a peculiar wisdom

[a second excerpt from SSU Field Notes – this one dedicated to all our great alumni]

Leland: You were talking about how your art fit, conceptually, but then when we met you – those of us that were coming to live here in Nova Scotia – do you think that we alumni brought something of St. Stephen’s University here that you resonated with?

Judith: Yeah, I think it deepened the intrigue, because I was seeing a quality of character and what I’ve always called a “peculiar wisdom” in these people. You guys had a way of relating to the world and to each other that I haven’t seen in very many people. Like the ability to do hard work together, or experience things together. In normal circles of friendships, it was never as tight-knit, or forgiving, or gracious. Or something – there was just a difference in the way you guys related to each other. I think I saw a kind of deeper possibility for relationship than I’d experienced before, even in churches. We’d had a long experience of churches at that point, and what I experienced seeing in you guys was a deeper, cleaner, real-er way of relating.

– Judith Brannen, Nova Scotia artist who became an alumna herself, in an interview with SSU alumnus, Leland Maerz – from SSU Field Notes

[If you’re interested in one of the few remaining “limited edition” copies of SSU Field Notes (printed by Gaspereau Press) you can order one by sending an email to Lorna Jones]SSU Field Notes cover

an indigenous view on sustainability

One of the stories I tell in my book is of working with an elder who’s passed on now, Robin Greene from Shoal Lake in Winnipeg, in an environmental education program with First Nations youth. And we were talking about sustainable development, and I was explaining that term from the Western perspective to the students. And I asked him if there was a similar concept in Anishinaabeg philosophy that would be the same as sustainable development. And he thought for a very long time. And he said no. And I was sort of shocked at the “no” because I was expecting there to be something similar. And he said the concept is backwards. You don’t develop as much as Mother Earth can handle. For us it’s the opposite. You think about how much you can give up to promote more life. Every decision that you make is based on: Do you really need to be doing that?

The purpose of life is this continuous rebirth, it’s to promote more life.

If I look at how my ancestors even 200 years ago, they didn’t spend a lot of time banking capital, they didn’t rely on material wealth for their well-being and economic stability. They put energy into meaningful and authentic relationships. So their food security and economic security was based on how good and how resilient their relationships were—their relationships with clans that lived nearby, with communities that lived nearby, so that in hard times they would rely on people, not the money they saved in the bank. I think that extended to how they found meaning in life. It was the quality of those relationships—not how much they had, not how much they consumed—that was the basis of their happiness. So I think that that’s very oppositional to colonial society and settler society and how we’re taught to live in that.

– Leanne Simpson in an interview with Naomi Klein