Monday, January 4, 2010

Unearthing the Key

This morning's Logion from the Gospel of Thomas reads like this:

Yeshua says...

Your scholars and religious leaders
have taken the keys of knowledge
and locked them away.
They have not used them to enter in,
nor have they allowed those desiring it to do so.
You, therefore, must be as subtle as serpents
and as guileless as doves.

When I first read this Logion, 3 or 4 years ago, I took it at face value, focusing more on the religious leaders taking away the keys of knowledge. And so I took an image of a wall, and a door, and a light behind the door, and wrote a poem that basically said you don't need those guys: just fall to your knees, look inside yourself, recover your childlike faith and you will find the key to enter into the light.

But when I opened that poem this morning, I realized that what I had initially written assumed that the wall between me and that light within was real, and that the way through was to somehow find a key to unlock the door. Having just finished reading these passages from Notes from the Song of Life, I realized that in reality the wall itself is just an illusion, and rewrote the poem. Here's how I came to that conclusion (as best I can reconstruct the often mysterious workings of my mind...)

"Despair," says Brother Tolbert, "comes from trying to control matters over which you have no power... If you cannot find security by your grasping, then you look around for others to blame for your discomfort. All these actions build walls within you, and the wind of the spirit cannot move through you. Your strings remain limp. There is no song. You add more walls until you have built a solid prison for yourself. Now you are truly enslaved. You hate the jailer but you cannot see his face.

Remember that every prison has a chapel. Travel through the corridors of your own dark stillness until you come to a little room. Inside that room is a tiny spark that never goes out. If you blow on the spark with your full attention you will be able to make a flame. Then light a torch. Examine the walls. See how fragile they are. Look at the face of the jailer. You are the jailer."

He concludes by saying that if you choose to accept responsibility for yourself and your actions, and choose not to let yourself be possessed by things and thoughts, "you will stand and watch the walls of your prison melt away like clay in the rain."

So that took care of the wall: it's not real, it's not even something others build to keep us out. It's something we create ourselves, with our defenses and our accusations, our need to be right, our protectiveness of what we think is ours alone. But how exactly do we get past that obsession with possessions and control? Brother Tolbert's observations on the subject of death helped me better understand what Yeshua was saying about the serpent and the dove:

"Death is a name we give the act of returning. It is only your individuality which will really die. Watch a sunflower grow and bloom and bear fruit. See the great stalk wither, turn brown, and fall to the ground. You say that it is dead. But nothing in nature can really cease to exist.

A number of elements were brought out of their quiet to produce what you have labeled "sunflower." The plant performs its mission. Now it returns to its source. As it does so it nourishes other parts of the great community of life. what remains of the sunflower becomes quiet and after a while merges with the ground again. Perhaps it will remain in the quiet forever, or it may again be used for another of life's stories."

If earth is her source, the sunflower gathers together what she needs at that level, and then soars to fruition. That combination of earthbound and skyward bound felt parallel to the images of snake and dove, and I began to see that the distinctions we draw between life and death have the same illusory quality as those walls we build within us, and that part of the sunflower's growth to fruition is to rise above the wall and reach for -- and mimic -- the sun. Having done so, when her time comes to an end and she slowly fades back down, it's all just part of her cycle of giving. There's beauty in her death as in her life.

So then I came to see that all parts of life have those cycles -- "To every thing there is a season" -- and that there is neither a wall nor some secret key of knowledge to get through. Living itself is the key; moving with acceptance through the highs and lows, the grounded periods, the hibernations, the ache of creation, the soaring and the sinking -- all of it together, the dance of life conducted in awareness and in love -- is the key.

... and so I rewrote the poem, which you may find in today's post on the Gospel of Thomas.

4 comments:

Maureen said...

I'd read a bit of Bro. Tolbert in the recent past. I always find his writing thought-provoking.

Sister of Loretto Mary Luke Tobin writes, "The trust, confidence, and courage that enable us to go through the little doors and experience the little deaths of daily living somehow rehearse us for the opening of that final door."

(At Our Cancer, we call "that final door" the "Fifth Stage".)

Dawna Markova reflects: "When I die, I want to remember the pulse of life. . . I want to be well practiced in letting go over the edge of the known, holding onto that golden Wonder Woman rope woven of threads of love and feel it untwining into a thousand directions. . . It's not so much about being prepared for death as it is about being full of life. I want to be so well practiced in crossing thresholds that dying is merely another step in the dance."

I so like that Markova quote: learning, growing from the "little deaths" daily; letting go and giving in to what counts in life.

All good!

M.L. Gallagher said...

Oh my. And more learning to embrace.

At a seminar I was at, Thelma Box, founder of Choices gave me some incredible feedback: I experience you as a woman who will never find an answer good enough for her.

Wow -- so true. So enlightening. So freeing.

THe answers are not important -- it is the questions and the journey that determine my flight path.

I love this line: Look at the face of the jailer. You are the jailer.

I am the jailer and I have the key to my freedom. To simply quit being my jailer behind the walls I erect in my mind.

Thanks Diane. Thought-provoking.

karen gerstenberger said...

I loved this passage about the prison and the chapel. It's luminous; it's inspired. Thank you for sharing it. I've not read that book, but am glad it's such a great inspiration to you; what you've quoted is inspiring to me, too. Love to you!

SUNRISE SISTER said...

I'm coming back to this post later today to reread but couldn't not mention the photo - WOW, it's a beauty. The color of blue on the flower is a wonderful "capture."

xoxo