A Gathering of Yellow... Northern Maine
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Today's Saying: Success is highly overrated, while Love can never be overrated - It is All.
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LOVE YOUR LIFE
your life, I am saying.
Be kind to your life,
or else there can be no
genuine love of others if there is no
love of your life,
no matter what love looks like.
so that it will seep through your pores and run like
sweat down your spine.
And it doesn't matter who sees it or not,
no need to promote it,
just as long as the love is there.
*Earthlyn Manuel. Still Breathing.
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The late Jungian, Robert A. Johnson, shares in his memoir, Balancing Heaven and Earth, a vision that was startling to him. Johnson had been under analytical training for several months in Europe. Before returning to the United States, he decided to travel about Europe, visiting cathedrals in France. He crossed the English Channel by ferry. In Lyons, Johnson got nervous, for he did not know anyone there. And he wrote that his "inner demons" - afflictive emotions - began acting up.
Johnson found a hotel room. When in his room, he began working with a Jungian technique called active imagination. He did this to work with his "inner demons." Of this night, he writes, "I sat up writing most of the night, and the vision that came to me was a Kafkaesque nightmare in which my soul was on trial" -
A prosecutor presented all of the sins of commission and omission that I was responsible for throughout my life, and the list was very long indeed. That went on for hours, and it fell on me like a landslide. I was feeling worse and worse to the point where the soles of my feet were hot. After hours of accusations from the prosecution, a group of angels appeared to conduct my defense. All they could say was, "But he loved." They began chanting this over and over in a chorus: "But he loved. But he loved. But he loved." This continued until dawn, and in the end the angels won, and I was safe.
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This dream reminded me of my life. The verdict "But he loved" brought comfort. I have often not lived up to my ideals. As a writer, speaker, and man, I cannot live up to the standards I teach. I am, after all, fallibly human. I do not say this as an excuse, only as a fact that I - no human being - can escape.
I have taught love is central to a meaningful life. After all, without love, what meaning is there? Do we not discover meaning when we are loved and love? And as I enter the last stage of this life journey, I deeply feel the truth of the angels' chorus: "But he loved." While I have often not loved well, I have loved. I seem to have been ushered into this world as a lover. As a child, I felt the truth of this. When a little boy, I grieved that my parents did not show their love for each other more in gestures of affection. I even urged them to. This was because the music lived within the small boy; he was born with the song inside - we each are, and know it before we forget and, then, we grow to remember, hopefully. Life is about remembering the song.
I compare my life to having been born with the music within, but the self not playing it consistently well, for he cannot play it as it plays in the heart. I am at peace with often failing to love well, and I am at peace knowing I have, nevertheless, loved.
Secondly, the vision applies to everyone. We are all born lovers. So much in life shapes us not to listen to that inner song and devalues our learning to play it well. Oh, yes! we hear about love from all sides. But much of modern life discourages and distracts from loving well or even intending to love well. One aspect is how we are judged a success. We are seen, for example, to do a good job, if the results measure up to pragmatic, tangible goals. If we are productive and efficient, we are esteemed successful, even when we put no love into it. We are good parents, if our children grow up to perform well at school, participate in sports, marry, have children, end up with a high-paying career, ... whether they felt loved or not in the home. As a pastor, we pastors were evaluated on externals - like how many new members that past year, amount of money put in the offering plate, number of new programs started. We could succeed and climb the hierarchical ladder without genuinely loving those under our care, as long as we pleased denominational leadership by producing the correct numbers. Numbers impressed, while a loving pastor without those winning stats might never be welcomed up the professional ladder to be seen as one among the successful.
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See, love is intangible. In a production-oriented culture, even religion, the intangible is not what often determines our being seen as successful or unsuccessful, even as worthy. Hence, we are encouraged, directly or indirectly, to do things well without acknowledging doing well is doing with love.
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The message given to Johnson in vision can encourage us. We can relax, ceasing trying to play the love music perfectly. Yes, we can learn to love more wisely, just as a musician learns to play the instrument better. So, the music comes out more reflective of the perfect image of the piece. Yet, it will never match the song in the heart.
Anyway, we can never show love perfectly to anyone, for the other is always somewhat a mystery to us. Yet, we try, for love tries. That is enough. In that sense, we can all be successful.
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When preparing this writing, a Scripture from the Christian Bible arose to heart. It reads: "But we have this treasure in jars of clay..."(II Cor 4.7, ESV). Yes, we are - as to our human form - clay jars, but Spirit lives within those jars. And what is Spirit? One word for Spirit is Love. As says I John 4.7-8 (ESV), "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love."
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*(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2021
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse. The book is a collection of poems based on wisdom traditions, predominantly Christian, Buddhist, and Sufi, with extensive notes on the poetry's teachings and imagery.