The less aware we are of our shadow self, the more damage it will do. Church teachings on repentance, confession, and forgiveness make good sense. At some point we must say to at least one person: “My name is Joe, and I’m an alcoholic” (or a sex addict, or a workaholic, or an unloving man). Bring it out of darkness, and “everything that becomes visible is light” (Ephesians 5:14).
That’s what we mean by making friends with the shadow. The hero in the Holy Grail stories was advised not to kill the Dark Knight but to make friends with him. It took me years to comprehend this, but now I wonder if there is any other way to overcome evil except to make it work for you and get it on your side. That’s what Jesus did on the cross by making his own murder the salvation of the world. He didn’t destroy his killers, but forgave them because “they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). The shadow never knows what it is doing.
– Richard Rohr
Pain teaches a most counterintuitive thing—that we must go down before we even know what up is. It is first an ordinary wound before it can become a sacred wound. Suffering of some sort seems to be the only thing strong enough to destabilize our arrogance and our ignorance. I would define suffering very simply as “whenever you are not in control.”
All healthy religion shows you what to do with your pain. If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it. If your religion is not showing you how to transform your pain, it is junk religion. It is no surprise that a crucified man became the central symbol of Christianity.
If we cannot find a way to make our wounds into sacred wounds, we invariably become negative or bitter—because we will be wounded. That is a given. All suffering is potentially redemptive, all wounds are potentially sacred wounds. It depends on what you do with them. Can you find God in them or not?
If there isn’t some way to find some deeper meaning to our suffering, to find that God is somehow in it, and can even use it for good, we will normally close up and close down, and the second half of our lives will, quite frankly, be small and silly.
– Richard Rohr
Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me today
because I know it’s for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons,
situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem,
approval and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation,
condition, person or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and
God’s action within. Amen.
My worst habit is I get so tired of winter
I become a torture to those I am with.
If you’re not here, nothing grows.
I lack clarity. My words
tangle up and knot.
How to cure bad water? Send it back to the river.
How to cure bad habits? Send me back to you.
When water gets caught in the habitual whirlpools,
dig a way out through the bottom
to the ocean. There is a secret medicine
given only to those who hurt so hard
they can’t hope.
The hopers would feel slighted if they knew.
Look as long as you can at the friend you love,
no matter if that friend is moving away from you
or coming back towards you.
Don’t let your throat tighten
with fear. Take sips of breath
all day and night, before death
closes your mouth.
Mockingbirds flitting still
from limb to stone.
A hawk whistles, high
alone. Cardinals gone.
Other morning birds
gone, songs done.
Now two crows,
cawing in the pines –
recall a memory of a boy –
clear, full, fine.
“Leaping Novice,” photography by Janet Powers from issue 3 of Hole In The Head Review, coming Saturday 08.01.2020
I was in grad school when my son, Ben, was born. We lived in student housing – an apartment so small that we had to move his little crib into the bathroom each night.
Since his mother had an actual job while I was busy becoming a serious poet (sic), I would often do the middle of the night feeding since I was awake writing serious poetry all night. I had just scored a remaindered copy of Moby Dick at the UNH bookstore and began to read it to him at night while I gave him a bottle.
That was 43 years ago today. Those nights were special. I remember them like it was last night. Quiet except for the little noises a baby makes and me essentially whispering Melville’s words…
Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.
I’ve read about the white whale every year since that summer of 1977. So today I happily (madly!) cast off again!
But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish in the sea inform you.