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“It’s not happiness that makes us grateful but gratefulness that makes us happy.” – Br. David Steindl Rast

Dead Butterflies, What You Think You Know, and Mysteries, Yes!

A note from Carl ~

“I know her so well that she is completely and utterly unknown to me.”
-Gabriel Garcia Marquez (speaking of his wife)

This morning I am enlivened by the kind of knowing that is described by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Do you ever find yourself thinking “Oh, I already know that…'” ?

I do.

I think it all the time.

There was a line that seemed to be popular some years ago (perhaps a Mountain Dew commercial?) of “Been There, Done That.”

When I reflect on that sentiment, there is an image of a door shutting on life.

We do this.

We take the live fluttering butterfly of life, put a pin through it, put it in a case, and say “That is a butterfly” or “That is my husband” or “That is my bad hip,” or “That is the Tea Party.”

Literally, when we are relating to what we think we know about a person, a situation, ourselves, it is the difference between a beautiful butterfly in the case a the Natural History museum and one fluttering with life around in the foothills.

During our last Embodied Life training week in Santa Rosa, there was a time when we circled around to share something that is alive, something that is touching. One woman began to read “Our Deepest Fear” by Marianne Williamson. This was the piece often attributed to Nelson Mandela, who read it at his inauguration, and I remembered the exact moment when I first heard it in 1995 – it was one of those deeply moving, early doors opening on the path.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us…”

As I listened, I nodded, I closed my eyes – and then I realized… it was a dead butterfly! I was just relating to the great story I had, the touching memory I carried of that piece, but was completely impervious to anything fresh and alive coming in.

It was like a voice was saying “Oh yes, I know this, I like this…” and I just let my ‘Our Deepest Fear’ program run.

In the moment of recognizing that (about a third of the way through the reading) everything changed, and the piece became “completely and utterly unknown to me.” Lines touched me in a way they never had, and I realized that the one who was hearing the poem in that moment, had actually not heard it before.

In this “information age” that we live in, it is so easy to mistake our concepts, memories, our intellectual understandings, our “data” for the dynamic, alive, ever-changing experience of life itself. How can our knowing be in the service of calling out to what is unknown?

Well, Mary Oliver always has some good hints….

Mysteries, Yes

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.
How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say “Look!” and laugh in astonishment, and bow their heads.

-Mary Oliver

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