Gnosis

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These days when I am in the car by myself, I switch over the audio book CD from The Mark of Athena, which we listen to as a carpool on the way to and from school, to Tucker Malarkey’s Resurrection, an audio mystery book I got from the library book sale last summer. It’s an interesting slow-unraveling story about a young woman (post-WWII) who goes to settle the affairs of her archaeologist father in Egypt after his suspicious death. She discovers that he was working on finding and translating fragments of text from papyri found at Oxyrhynchus, and that someone is trying to stop the texts from becoming public. It’s entirely fiction, of course, except that it’s loosely based on some of the hype surrounding the mid-1940s discoveries of papyri fragments at Oxyrhynchus.

It makes me want to start looking again at some of the Gnostic texts and other gospels that were not included in the canon by the councils and church leaders by the time of the Synod of Hippo Regius in 393.  The novel I am reading contends that the non-canonical gospels were actively suppressed, often violently, by church leaders who were threatened by the gnosticism of many of the texts. We have Elaine Pagels’ book on Thomas: Beyond Belief, and perhaps I will start there, as well as searching through the fascinating online Nag Hammadi Library.

Gnosis has always been one of my favorite words. It rings something inside me when I hear it. I remember that even before I really knew what it meant, I was drawn to its mystery. What are the layers beneath the stories I’ve heard all my life? What are the patterns and secrets that were kept so fiercely out of the text that we read today? Who were these early followers of Jesus? I think of gnosis as gut knowledge, bones knowledge, the kind of thing you know within yourself to be right and true.

Early gnostics believed that the physical world was to be transcended in favor of spiritual realities, a primary sticking point for me. Perhaps this is how some people reach their gnosis. I think the physical world is to be entered fully, experienced profoundly, relished deeply. For me, it’s about settling into the gut, the bones, the blood, seeking the way Spirit imbues matter, not the way it transcends it.

Gratitude List:
1. William Carlos Williams Moment: so much depends on a tangerine sun rising through blue into a violet magenta cloud. Suddenly all is cerulean and indigo and golden.
2. Heart Moment: Receiving an email from one of our graduates, asking several of us to pray for him as he prepares to deploy as a medic to the Syrian border. We have a bridge between us, despite my pacifism, and I am honored to be among those praying for his safety, praying that he may be a blessing to those he serves.
3. Comfort Moment: Sitting under a feather bed, reading a fantasy novel to my boy.
4. Moment of Depth: This quotation, by Alice Walker–“Poetry is the lifeblood of rebellion, revolution, and the raising of consciousness.”
5. Pleasure Moment: Shells with spinach and peas in a creamy cheesy sauce.

May we walk in Beauty!

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Open Heart

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Last week, we met this teeny tiny turtle–a snapper the size of a half dollar–on the sidewalk into the school. We set him in the grass where he would be safer from the many feet that would be thundering through during the coming day.

“It can hurt to go through life with your heart open, but not as much as it does to go through life with your heart closed.” –Jim Doty

The bud always opens toward decay,
toward falling, the fragile bits within
slipping off their tiny moorings,
sifting downward, petals drooping,
dropping to the ground below,
offering beauty and a lingering aroma
in the briefest span.

The bud which never opens
also lives toward decay and rot
but never senses sun-warm petals,
never knows the draw of butterfly,
the tickle of the bee, never feels
the moment of release, of
settling to earth.

Gratitude List:
1. Teeny tiny turtles
2. Having enough: enough sleep, enough love, enough time, enough of what we need to get by.
3. Spoken word poetry–always inspiring
4. Crickets, heartbeats
5. Believing in the good

May we walk in Beauty!

Waiting for a Heart

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My friend Kyla was to have heart surgery today to implant a ventricular assist device, but she’s developed an infection, and will have to put off the surgery. Meanwhile, she waits for a new heart for a heart transplant.  Today her friends are wearing purple to support her.

Gratitude List:
1. Laughing with friends gathered on a hillside. Children (and adults, too!) whizzing down a waterslide. Good food and conversation.
2. Singing together. Blended harmonies.
3. Community conversations. Bringing up the topics that we’re sometimes too uncomfortable to talk about.
4. Feathers. Every day a feather or two or three.
5. Waking up.  And waking up.

May we walk in Beauty!

Desire

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As you read, you can use your own name for the Great Mystery, the Force of Life, Beauty, Love:

Psalm of Desire
(14 August 2016, revised)

O God of Beauty,
God of Marvel,
God of Wonder,
the whole universe that you have made
is built upon desire:

the force that holds electrons in atomic orbit,
that keeps the planets in their dance around the sun,
and wheels the spiraled walk of galaxies
is that same force which holds us to the earth,
which pulls the tides up the beach and back,
and calls us from complacency
to yearn for something more.

Not only do we hunger for you,
but you are the very force of our longing,
the Magnet which draws us ever outward
from the limiting walls of our own egos
to seek your face in all that surrounds us,
to seek your heart in the hearts of our neighbors,
to follow the pathway that leads us homeward.
You are the Magnet which draws us, finally,
into the home of our deepest selves,
where we are most truly
what you have made us to be.

Our yearning for you is an echo
of your own yearning for your children.

May we carry the knowledge within us,
deep in our cellular constellations,
pulled with the tides of our blood,
that our own deepest longings
are the echoes of your voice
calling us to you.

Draw us ever closer to your Center,
as the sun holds the planets in constant orbit,
as a mother draws her child to her heart,
that our longing may lead us always to you,
our Truest Home.

Gratitude List:
1. Preparing the heart space. So much work remains to be done, but the work on the heart moves on apace. (I copied this from last year’s August 15 list.)
2. Memories of luna moth. I haven’t seen any this year (yet), but I love looking at photos from other years.
3. How Love will always trump dogma. Generous spirits.
4. The wise and loving community.
5. Feathers. Wings. Wind. Flight.

May we walk in Beauty!

Oranges

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I have oranges in the dogwood tree for Oriole, but he seems uninterested.  He prefers the sycamore fluffs at the tops of the trees.  The dogwoods have lost their pink in the three days since I took the photo.

Gratitude List:
1. Cool May–whenever I start to kvetch about being too cold, I remember the beastly heat at the end of the year last year, and I am grateful.  I have not started up my classroom air conditioner at all this spring.
2. Deep, flowing conversations.
3. Your heart.  My heart.  The strands of love and compassion that connect those dots.
4. White fluffy clouds in blue sky.
5. Passing on the Flame.

May we walk in Beauty!

Hearts in the Trees

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(I have a friend who takes pictures of hearts that she finds in the world, and another friend who takes pictures of trees that she loves.  Here is a heart.  And I love this tree.)

Gratitude List:
1. Hearts.  Trees.  Hearts in trees.   The friends who draw them to my attention.
2. All this blooming.  Everywhere.  You’re blooming too, I think.
3. A day off and hanging out with my muchachos.
4. Arts.  I have been thinking a lot lately about how the arts make us more fully human, more compassionate with ourselves and others, more able to deal with and comprehend our secret inner worlds.  I want to do more to incorporate more art into my teaching, to encourage my students to incorporate more art into their projects.
5. Stories of Holy Week.  I have always thought of Jesus as a revolutionary, but somehow this year I have been struck in a more powerful way with the way the stories of Holy Week portray him: the street theater of the donkey ride into the city, the anarchism of the temple cleansing, the subversive answers to the establishment, the way he turned everybody’s expectations upside-down. (How sad that this story is so often used instead to enforce the status quo.)

May we walk in Beauty!

Glorious List

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Gratitude List:
(Sometimes I accidentally type Gratitude Lost.  This morning, before I had engaged my brain, I started typing Glorious List.  Perhaps I should have let that stand.)
1. Beginning the process of blessing and launching these young people into the world in their evenings of Senior Presentations.  It’s a high expectation we place upon them, to call them World-Changers.  They are each, in their own ways, prepared to make the world a better place with the gifts and skills and compassion that they have been nurturing in their time at our school.  I am so proud of them.  Monday will be my last evening of blessing the last half of my crew.
2. A single crow rowing her way across an overcast sky.
3. The ducks are wandering all over the school these days, searching for nesting sites.  They quack outside my window.  I actually like when the natural world distracts us from the scholarly task at hand.  It’s a reminder that this work is only part of what they are to learn.  I should run out to the shop before I go to school and see if I can find that old plywood nesting box from the chicken coop to put outside my window.
4. Kyla has been approved for a heart transplant.  Now begins a new kind of waiting, but meanwhile, knowing that there is a team ready to work with her, a great weight is lifted. The cycles of life and death are so intimately woven together.
5. Rooms and fields where we all can find a home.  I don’t know how to say it less cryptically at this moment, but it is a profoundly important part of my gratitude list today.

May we walk in Beauty!

Two Hands

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Gratitude List:
1. Two hands: one to hold the terrible, and one to hold the wonderful.  Breathing into the spaces between.
2. How the heart holds stories
3. Shades of red.  Shades of green.  The red buds of leaves popping out on the tree outside my classroom window, against the mossy green of the trunk.
4. Burrito for lunch
5. Transformation

May we walk in Beauty!

The Heart is a Forest

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I took this back in the autumn, but as I look at it now, I think it looks like a World Tree.

Gratitude List:
1. The UNICEF Social for the Middle School last night.  I was tired from a week of work, and really desiring some introvert time, so I wasn’t quite sure I was up for it, but it was incredibly worth it to see the high schoolers reaching out to the Middle School kids, giving them a great time, and getting a chance to get to know some of those bright and shining 6th-8th graders.  One girl told me afterward, “This was so great!  We don’t often get a chance to just hang out together.”  I’m proud of the UNICEF team.
2. Game Night at church last night.  So I didn’t get to go home and have my introvert time after the social because we had game night at church afterwards.  What fun.  I am so glad that we went.  I felt sort of like that Middle School girl, really grateful for a chance to just hang out with these people.  I agree with Erin–we ought to consider monthly game nights, or at least every other month. . .
3. Movers and Lovers.  I love Mindy Nolt‘s music, and I woke up with “Movers and Lovers” in my head this morning.  Just the soundtrack I need this morning, when I finally get a little introvert time.
4. Lancaster Food Company‘s multi-grain bread.  It’s so tasty.  And they exist with a social purpose.  Check out their About page.
5. Heart.  The heart is a forest that always has more spaces to explore.  Always another grove or bosque, previously overlooked, just waiting to be known.  I love being a human being.

May we always walk in Beauty!

God the Wolf

Today you are God the Wolf,
howling down the forest pathways of my memory,
padding through purple shadows into moonlight,
elusive as the fogs which drift into the clearings
where I listen for you calling,
calling me from comfort into wildness.

Gratitude List:
1. Wildness
2. Philosophizing about time with teenagers.
3. This Pope.  He called today a Day of Prayer of for the Environment, and he’s declaring a Jubilee Year of Mercy for next year.  Perhaps the rest of us will learn something, too.
4. The Heart.  Abstractly and physically.  Too many people in my village are experiencing heart trouble right now for my comfort.  May their hearts beat with strength and fortitude, and bring them life.  And your heart, too–may it be strong and full of life.
5. The heat will break, and cooler days will come again.  (Yes, that was a back-handed gratitude, if I ever wrote one.)

May we walk in Beauty!