Sunday, 1 April 2018

To look or not to look: An Easter Reflection

From "The Book of Awakenings: Having the Life You WantBy being Present To The Life You Have" by Mark Nepo

"A Great Battle Raging"

"There is a great battle raging: for my mouth not to harden and my jaws not to become like heavy doors of an iron safe, so my life may not be called pre-death."

~ Israeli Poet Yehuda Amichai

There is an ancient Greek myth that carries within it, like a message in a bottle, one of the most crucial struggles we face as living beings. It is the story of a gifted musician, Orpheus, whose Love, Eurydice is taken by Hades, the god of the underworld. Orpheus is so grief-stricken that he travels to the land of the dead to plead with Hades to give Eurydice back. After a cold and deliberate consideration, Hades says, "You can have her. It will take you three days to bring her back to the land of the living. There is one condition. You must carry her and you must not look upon her face until you reach the light. If you do, she will return to me forever."

Unfortunately, unknown to Orpheus, Hades tells Eurydice the opposite, "He will carry you to the land of the living, and you must look upon him before you reach the light. If you do not, you will return to me forever." Their colossal struggle fails, and Eurydice is lost forever.

The struggle for us, though, is ongoing. For there is an Orpheus in each of us that believes, if I look, I will die. There is also a Eurydice in each of us that believes, if I don't look, I will die. And so, the great spiritual question, after "To be or not to be?" is to look or not to look. The personal balance we arrive at determines whether we make it out of hell or not.

Though it shifts throughout our lives, according to our devotions, I believe each of us is born with a natural leaning toward looking or not looking. Not surprisingly, I am one of those feminine seers: I believe that if I don't look, I will die. This probably has a lot to do with my calling to be a poet. So, I admit my bias. For though, like staring into the sun too long, there are times we mustn't look to preserve our sight, more often we need to look to stay alive.

Like each of us, I struggle with both: to be the keeper of secrets or the discoverer of truths. Though no one can tell us how, we have to work this great battle again and again: to leave the underworld - not to harden - and to make our way back into the land of the living.

...I recommend this book, actually anything by Mark Nepo...Here follows a reflection inspired by this passage and Easter morning...

To look or not to look? To become the keeper of secrets or the discoverer of truths? To preserve our sight or to look and therefore choose life? Dilemma’s we face every day in our lives. How often do we look? How often do we refuse to look at life?

Often this is a decision we face many times each every day. To look or not to look, to turn away not only from the darkness, but also the light? Just think about the last week of your life. How often have you looked when perhaps you shouldn’t have looked? Also how often have you refused to look, when you really should have looked?

To look or not to look? To become the keeper of the secret or the discover of truth? Brings to mind the narratives of Easter morning found in the Gospel accounts, the story of the followers of Jesus going to the tomb. The stories of those who went and those who did not go. Those who found something in the tomb and those who saw nothing. Those who reacted faithfully and those who fled in fear. Those who looked and responded to the light and those who turned away. All very human responses to what they saw with the eyes, what they found in that empty tomb.

An example is Maray Magdalene in John's Gospel. She rises before dawn on the third day to visit the tomb. She is a broken woman as her beloved teacher Jesus has died a horrible death.  Mary is going to prepare Jesus body, following the teaching of her Jewish faith. When she arrives at the tomb she sees that stone blocking the entrance has already been rolled away and there is no body inside. She flees in fear and grief

She does eventually return and faearfully enters broken, in despair, grieving for the loss of her beloved Jesus. There then follows a description of an exchange with two angels and then suddenly out of the corner of her eye she catches something, a man. She dares to look. The man asks why she is crying and who she is looking for. Mistaking him for a gardener she asks if he has taken Jesus away and asks where he is saying she will take care of him and will rell no one. She just wants to take care of his body and clean him up so he can rest in peace, At this moment the man calls out her name saying “Mary”. As she hears her name she sees that the man is Jesus. As he names her, she recognises him and calls him “Rabbi” “Teacher”

Personally I do not believe in the literal bodily resurrection, but this does not mean I do not believe in a kind of spiritual resurrection, an awakening that can occur in our all too human finite lives. This I believe is what happened to Mary. When she heard her name called, suddenly her eyes were opened to a new reality, she began to see perhaps for the first time. In this moment, through finally seeing with her own eyes. She is called out from her blindness caused by grief and despair. Her eyes are opened and she saw for the first time, she truly began to understand her purpose in life. Her life began again.

Easter is after all the day of new beginning Easter calls us to open our eyes in a new way. To see not only what we expect to see, but something more, something new and unexpected. We need to look to see, despite the pains and troubles of life and the temptation not to look. Look we must, we must always choose life, despite its very real troubles. We must awaken to life, to answer the call and to pour out the love we carry within us onto life.

Mary Magdalene is in utter despair, having lost her teacher, until she once again heard the voice of hope, born from that same place of total hopelessness. As she did she was able to see life through new eyes, new vision came and she was able to turn away from despair to hope.

This is Easter for me a story of hope for all of us that whatever happens in our lives if we keep on turning in faith new vision will come. Easter time, in the midst of spring, truly is the turning season, it is the day of new beginnings. Easter teaches that we can begin again in love each and every day. This begins as we dare to look and see, in so doing we see new hope and by turning from whatever despair may keep us trapped in our empty tomb we are once again turned toward the light.

How we look at life and how we look at others is so important. How we respond to how we see matters too, everything matters every thought, every feeling, every action and every single look. It matters how respond to what we see too. Do we turn away in fear or respond in love? I’m sure we’ve all seen the responses of the young people in America to the gun violence. They have responded in loving and peaceful ways and said enough is enough, its time to change. It’s time for a new dawn and a new beginning. It’s time to respond in loving compassion, to say that life, all life matters, we see the same thing in the “Me too movement” too. We also see it in small acts of love too. I have experienced these last few days as I have been with my loved ones as we have lost one of our own tragic circumstances. The family is broken in grief but so many of others are holding one another in love. I offer thanks and praise for all who have offered loving support.

I also witnessed a simple example, right in front of my eyes. Last Friday I arrived at my gitlfriend Sue’s when jut in front of me there was a loud bang as two cars collided into one another. Thankfully no one was injured, just a little shook up. Now at first Sue didn’t want to look out of her window when she heard the bang. I think there was a little fear about seeing the darkness. When she did she instantly responded. She didn’t turn away. She simply went down stairs, turned on the kettle and took tea and coffee to the two sets of young men in a state of shock. Now this was only a small act, not one that will change the world. That said it was a simple act, witnessed by the young men and her neighbours, and one that hopefully others will respond to when they witness troubles in a similar way in the future. They will not turn away, they will look and having looked they will respond from their hearts and act.

It matters how we see life. This is the starting point, but isn’t the end. It matters how we respond to what we see with our eyes, for others will be watching too.

We need to look. We need to choose life, we need to become seekers of the truth and not keepers of the secret and we need to give our love away, to act on what we see and to give our love away, in our small individual human ways.

It begins today.

Happy Easter. Let’s begin again in love.


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