Sunday, 13 May 2018

Becoming Juicy People with Holy Curiosity

I was out the other night with friends enjoying a meal. It was one of our numbers fortieth birthday. We had a wonderful evening full of life, full of joy, full of laughter and of course full of food. We did get some funny looks from others in the restaurant due primarily to the joy and abandon in our gathering. I enjoy similar experiences on a Tuesday morning with the group of folk I go for coffee with after our early morning mediation. We fill Café Nero with the joy of living, despite its very real troubles. Oh how I love the company of juicy people.

Juicy people brings to mind the following lines from Walt Whitman’s “The body electric”, the fourth stanza:

I have perceiv’d that to be with those I like is enough,
To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough,
To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is enough,
To pass among them or touch any one, or rest my arm ever so lightly round his or her neck for a moment, what is this then?
I do not ask any more delight, I swim in it as in a sea.

There is something in staying close to men and women and looking on them, and in the contact and odor of them, that pleases the soul well,
All things please the soul, but these please the soul well.

Rick Heffern in his book “Daybreak Within: Living in a Sacred World” writes about the twelfth century Christian mystic Hildegard of Bingen, she suggested that the key to living spiritually alive is to become “juicy people”. That such people need to be filled with wonder and curiosity and live with lusty appetites and high spirits and that they embrace life liberty and they pursue happiness “with a burly grinning bear hug”, It is suggested that to “be juicy is to be: a fearlessly joyous optimist, a troublemaker tirelessly afflicting the comfortable, a passionate lover of good talk and tasty food, an an anonymous prophet hovering over the cosmological riddle, a frequent violator of the ordinance against indecent exposure of the heart, and a guerilla in the insurrection against Dream Molesters everywhere."

When I think about my friends from the other night and the ones I share meditation and morning coffee with, they are juicy people. They are filled with a enthusiasm for life, they hunger and thirst for a life filled with passion, they seek joy in each moment, despite the real troubles that we all face. They see a goodness in life. They proclaim that all is well, not perfect, but well. They bring alive the juiciness of human being.

There is nothing like eating with and simply sharing the company of juicy people. When you do there is a richness to the company, you experience deep conversation, deep laughter and a joy that no one can take away. They experience the goodness of life and want to share it with you, to welcome you to their table of love and joy. In such company you are challenged to grow, but not grow alone. It is about raising one another up and aiming high, it is not about playing it safe. When I reflect on the near eight years I have meditated with these people I have witnessed deep transformation in our shared human being. Do you know what I think that this has come as much from the hour we have shared in Café Nero as the hour we spent in meditation and sharing. Groovy times with “juicy people”.

Now “Juicy people” are by their nature curious. They are spiritual seekers. They do not merely ask questions, but attempt to live them, to bring them to life. Curiosity always begins with a question. Just think of every two and three year old you have ever known, or every puppy you have ever known for that matter, is there anything more “juicy”? They are full of curiosity and ask questions of everything. Think about the little ones you have known, everything you ever tell them ends with that frustrating one word response “Why?” You can’t take your eyes off them either, their fingers and or noses are into everything.

Now as we get older we lose a little of this, perhaps because we start to realise that there will always be questions that we cannot fully answer. Yes we have gained experience but we do not know everything and I don’t suppose we ever will.

This brings to mind a wonderful little story about an encounter with a Zen master and his student:

“What happens when we die?” asks the student.
“I don’t know,” is the answer.
“But you’re a Zen master!”
“True. Quite true. But I am not a dead Zen master.”

So yes there are many questions that no matter how well we live them we will never be able to fully answer.

Now there are other groups of “juicy people” that I have the pleasure of sharing time with. One is the monthly “Living the Questions” group. An ever changing group by the way. A group which each month explores and attempts to bring to life the questions of truly living. It has been a joy and blessing to be part of this these last few years, it has certainly transformed me and I have witnessed this in others too. The inspiration for the group’s title come from a favourite passage from “Letters to a Young Poet” by Rainer Maria Rilke. In it the poet Rilke writes a letter to his protégé the 19 year old cadet and budding poet Franz Xaver Kappus making a beautiful case for the importance of not merely asking questions, but living them, while embracing uncertainty and allowing for the development of intuition.

Rilke writes:

“I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

This to me is the essence of living the “juicy” life, to curious living.

Now I’m not sure that our day and age encourages “juiciness” in people; I’m not overly sure it encourages doubt and curiosity, to live the questions. It seems today that folk are encouraged to have an opinion, voice it with conviction and voice it again and again and again. This to me seems to be a faithless form of living, where people cling desperately to partisanship. Certainly this is the case when you look at public dialogue. It would appear that to live juicily, with curiosity is to let go of certainty, now this seems out of step with our current age. Well that maybe, but surely curiosity is the key to faithful living as it allows the transformation of our humanity, this kind of faithful uncertainty requires courage.

Victoria Safford describes what I mean beautifully in her meditation “Open Eyes”. She states:

“The awakened eye is a conscious eye, a willful eye, and brave, because to see things as they are, each in its own truth, will make you very vulnerable.”

This unselfconscious vulnerability, this openness is how the curious, very young live. They see without preconceived notions. They see with open eyes and then ask why, why, why, why?

Now of course we cannot look with children;s eyes, we have to look with adult eyes and this to me is how we begin to live the questions, to become what Heldegard of Bigen suggests as living “juicy lives”. I suspect that Safford captures this beautifully when she writes that “To see, simply to look and to see, is an ethical act and intentional choice; to see, with open eyes, is a spiritual practice and thus a risk, for it can open you to ways of knowing the world and loving it that will lead to inevitable consequences.”

We adults can do what those young children do but with ethical eyes looking out at the world and acting in the world as adults. Through this we begin to be transformed as we live with this curiosity and begin to act differently in the world.

This is where transformation begins. Transformation of ourselves and our world as we begin to live the questions, as we become juicy people as we develop what Albert Einstein called “Holy Curiosity.” Which is to live with the spirit of humility, with an open mind, an open heart and open hands, to search out truth and to live with your eyes wide open in joyful wonder.

I’m going to end this "blogspot" with Einstein’s quote on “Holy Curiosity”. He said:

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.”

So let’s live with “holy curiosity”, living the questions as ever more juicy people.

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