Friday, November 9, 2012

Light in November 2012

A message from Brother Toby of Starcross Community in Northern California:

The light shines in the darkness and there humanity becomes aware of it.

Meister Eckhart (c.1260-c.1327)

As I walk to the chapel for Vespers, the trees around me are mostly bare. Their colorful leaves lay on the ground. Without the leaves I can see the tree as it really is, with all its weaknesses and the simplicity of its beauty.
In human relations it is often hard to see beyond the leaves that conceal the person. We have just finished a national election unlike any I have experienced. These words were written before the election and you are reading them after it. Some will be relieved and others disappointed. For most, it is simply a difference of how worried we are about the future. And, the future of “what”? The overall well-being of the human family or our individual personal welfare? Or both?
It's my good fortune to be around many bright people born after May 4, 1970. They wonder why some of us old folks get so worked up. What is it we expected from life? Well, the big secret of counter-culture life in the 1960s was that most of us would have to admit that, down deep, we really did believe this was the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. We used different words, and dressed differently from each other but we all thought we could change the world. There was a sort of extended tribal feeling.
There was nothing remarkable about students at Kent State University protesting against the Vietnam war. That was happening all over the country. On May 4th the Ohio National Guard killed four of them and wounded nine. We all felt it. In that 13 second burst of 67 rounds it became clear there would be no Age of Aquarius. For many of us restless ancients, the problem is we have trouble getting used to the fact that we cannot change the world with broad movements. And we rail against that!
Many younger friends of mine have accepted what Peter Benson said when he founded Amnesty International, “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”  That is a healthy attitude and, in fact, it is ancient wisdom. Long ago a rabbi said to an impatient student, “God did not ask you to be Moses. God asked you to be YOU.”
As I walk along the path I realize that sometimes the pretty leaves keep me from seeing the tree — or being me. Here at Starcross you will not find the seeds of a spiritual revolution. Here there is only one small candle. The tiny flame must be protected. It can be blown out by ideology, whether that comes from obstructionists on the right or politically correct true-believers on the left — or from the rigidity of our twisted religious history.
As I stand looking out on the porch of our little chapel in the autumn twilight,  I can sense people beyond number carrying their little candles and protecting the flames from the storms around us. In those fragile lights, sisters and brothers, is the beauty of our age and the hope of our future.

Brother Toby

1 comment:

Taradharma said...

I love the term "restless ancients." It is so apt.

While disappointed in the world, I do believe we ancients did change a lot -- not as much or as fast as we would have wanted, but just look at our evolving demographics and an electorate who voted in a man who said he WOULD raise our taxes to pay for common good. That's a first. And look at the women in congress now, and LGBT members, and same-sex marriage and pot legalization. All these things unheard of when we were young. We may not get there completely, but right now I feel we are headed in the right direction.