Sunday, January 10, 2010

Excerpt from book The Spiral Garden

There is an old story about a holy man who sequestered himself in a remote mountain cave and spent his nights and days in solitude, praying, far away from humankind. Many years, he spent there, living on a meagre diet of nuts and berries, praying day and night to God. At last, worn out by time, or the privation of the body, or simply by the burden of his solitude, the hermit realizd that he was near death.">As he sat staring into the fire on what he knew to be his last night alive, God spoke to the holy man, not in whispers as would often happen in prayer, or as the man foraged for sustenance or scoured the mountaintop for firewood, but in a clear, audible voice. God said that he was pleased; that the man had fulfilled God’s wishes for him in this life, and, in return, God wished to give him a gift before he died. Whatever the man might ask for. The holy man immediately said, “Tell me the truth about this existence. Why we must struggle and be alone, even in a crowd or with those we love the most. Tell me why we might weep and why we must die.” So God told him the answer.Immediately, the man began to search for a way to record God’s words.He charred a stick in the fire and carefully began writing on large flat stones, line after line pouring forth from his memory and soul, until the night had passed and the sun had begun to rise.And at that moment, the holy man’s energy was spent.He was about to die.He looked at the stones upon which he had written the Truth of God, the greatest gift that humankind could receive.Then, with his last wanning ounce of strength, the hermit dragged the stones to the fire and pushed them in so that the heat of the coals erased the writings.What the hermit realized was that the Truth, once written down, would be read by people with different experiences and expectations, who brought to the words their own desires, ambitions and fears.Every one would understand the truth differently. The result would only bring dissension and pain. Someone once told me that Truth is like mercury.It takes a different shape according to its vessel.If we try to hold on to it, it slips through our fingers.And yet, who among us, if God offered us any gift, would not ask for that very thing? I think, in the end, I would rather have courage than uncertainty.
Prologue from The Spiral Garden by Anne Hines.
I read this book a few years ago when I was still adapting to ministry. I loved it. I also read "the Passion of Reverend Nash" around the same time. I liked this book, Spiral Garden, because it was full of tidbits like what is written above and the tidbits can be a line.. such the following: But they are all packed with interesting points to ponder.

Abraham Joshua Heschel:
“We do not leave the shore of the known in search of adventure or suspense or because of the failure of reason to answer our questions. We sail, because our mind is like a fantastic sea shell, and when applying our ear to its lips we hear a perpetual murmur from the waves beyond the shore.”

p.200 My hero of the Celtic Church, Palagius, had an idea that, better than a priest, we all needed a "soul friend". Not someone who tells us how to make our journey, but someone who travels beside us, sharing our learning, sharing our fear. You and I have not exactly appeared to travel in step ... but we do give each other this -- we witness each other's journey.

This is probably one of the closer definitions/analogies for what pastoral/spiritual care is.

p 212 Religion is founded on the feeling of being uncomfortable. Discomfort is a gift. It's what compels us to search.There's not a person on the face of the earth, who hasn't wondered, at least for a moment "Why am I?" Not even "why am I here?" I think, but "Why am I?" That is what makes us search. Possibly it is even what makes us human. It is also what tells us there is a God, because we are born into this world knowing from our first heartbeat that there is something missing.
The question speaks to our aloneness. As if, knowing purpose, we could feel connection. I know that aloneness. I know that other too. It's what I've seen occur.. people finding an answer for themselves, by letting the truth to them in the language they can hear best.

Jung said that religion is a defense against a religious experience.

I don't know exactly what this quote means. In the context of the book, I do, but I think that this refers to the fact that some people hide behind the rituals of religion but don't really go deep into what the "religion" teaches. Religion for me, is different from faith. Faith is what you believe and how you live it out in your life. Religion is the label that people use to define what they believe. I will likely think about that one some more later.

A rabbi, passing by a farmer’s field, heard a farmer singing as he worked. “Dearest God,” the man bellowed joyously, “if I could give you a radish, I’d give you the biggest radish in my garden.” The rabbi was shocked, and going over to the farmer, he admonished him, “that’s no way to address our King! Let me teach you a proper prayer so your words may be accepted by God’s ears.” So the rabbi taught the man a very formal and ancient prayer. The next week, the rabbi was passing the farmer’s field and saw the man was hard at work, but this time no sound escaped his lips.The same thing happened the next week, and the next. The farmer never sang again. Finally, the rabbi died. He arrived at the gates of heaven and was greeted by the sound of angels singing loudly, proclaiming their love and devotion to God. The angels sang, “Dearest God, if we could give you a radish, we’d give you the biggest radish in the garden.”

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