Each of us must find a way to love the world. You have found yours.
With these words, from Sue Monk Kidd’s latest work, comes the first validation of a young girl’s determination. The Book of Longings takes place in the first century and its main character, Ana, is a spirited, brilliant, rebellious young woman determined to find her voice at a time and in a culture that diminished and inhibited women.
The words are spoken to thirteen year old Ana by a very young Jesus, who eventually, through a complicated series of unforeseen events, would become her husband. But this is not his story…it is Ana’s and it is her determination, resilience and passion that makes for an inspirational and absorbing tale.
I write about this today because I have not been able to put aside those powerful words. I’ve spent lots of time since finishing the book, trying to figure out exactly what they mean and if and how they may apply to me. If we are all challenged to “love the world,” how are we to do this? I think of Ana.
Early on, she is fascinated by stories of audacious women. Fearing these tales will be forever lost, she determines to preserve them. And she discovers she has been given an extraordinary talent as a scribe, a pursuit forbidden to women. She uses this “gift” to create beautifully written tales of these brave women. Ana recognized her passion at an early age and her “gift” enabled her to pursue her dream. In return for what she was given, she gave to the world her beautifully scribed historic narratives.
If you’re like Ana, you are aware of your purpose in life at an early age and you use all your innate resources in the pursuit of that vision. Once realized, you cannot keep it to yourself. You need to share it with the world. In doing so, you give back what has been given to you. You show your love of the world. I think of the artists, musicians, scientists, writers that have made their mark on the world. They, like Ana, were given a unique gift which they nurtured and then shared.. Their impact on society and culture is indelible.
But then, I look around me – at members of my family, my friends, my neighbors. Most are seemingly ordinary individuals like me. What gifts do we have? How do we give back? How do we show our love of the world?
So… I look more closely at each individual – one by one. It doesn’t take long before everything becomes clear – I have my answers. Each unique “gift” shows itself. For one, it’s the career choice. For others, it’s how they parent. Another, the readiness to help wherever and whomever. Or how she always knows the right thing to say. They, on the other hand, are passionate about education. She exudes true joy in being with others. And then I think of the unselfishness of the heroes that have responded to the needs created by this pandemic. Healthcare workers, first responders, researchers, leaders and volunteers in non-profits and so many others. Whether or not they are conscious of these gifts is not important. Their gifts radiate their love of this world. Their impact is undeniable.
The poet, Mary Oliver, tells us…” I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”
So, yes, I do believe we are all given a gift. I believe that loving the world happens when we give time and attention to our gift…when we give back, when we decide, as Ms. Oliver states, to be more than just a visitor on this earth.
Will you share your thoughts on this topic with us?
Before leaving, I’d like to share two beautiful examples of individuals loving the world with their gifts:
(Thank you to Marge and Vi for sending the above links to us!)
On my birthday last year, a dear friend presented me with a framed copy of the poem that follows. It hangs now in my bedroom and I often use bits and pieces of it as inspiration for my meditation. Its simplicity and brevity are hardly indications of the weighty message it delivers. There’s so much to consider in these words…
by Linda Buckmaster
Pick a crevice,
a homey gap
and make it
Grow a life here
and the memories of ancients
embedded in limestone.
The bees will use you
for their sweet honey.
The rock will soften under
You will draw moisture from fog
and hold it.
will build soil.
This is all we have
in this life
all we own:
a gap between stones
On most occasions when I read this poem, my mind travels back in time. Long forgotten figures, once significant, walk out of my past and into my present. We visit, reviving memories – some joyous, others maybe not so. Those moments of my life of which they are a part are, as the poem says, all that I have. I am there again with them as if time has reversed itself. I feel their presence with all my senses. They are the “bees” that have come…shaped me…some staying in my life for a short while, others for much longer. We have freely given to each other… and we have taken without shame.
Other times when I read, I let my mind walk me down paths not yet traveled, I wonder what lies ahead for me and for those who share my place between these stones. It is then that I remind myself that all I truly know is what is in this time, in this present moment. I am content to be in this moment and I am ever grateful for those who have come and who have remained. Now our roots have become so entwined they cannot be separated.
Such is my place between the stones – I’ve grown a life here. A simple, uncomplicated life – yet filled with so many meaningful connections.
Poet Muriel Rukeyser says “this moment is what we have…and if a poem is any damn good at all, it invites you to bring your whole life to that moment…”
Though this crevice may be all that I have, it is more than enough for me.
Note: This poem and more beautiful offerings may be found in The Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems edited by Phyllis Cole-Dai and Ruby R. Wilson.
Please share your thoughts here.
Here are a few of my recent picks. I hope you enjoy them. Please feel free to share your favs with us and chime in with your opinions on any or all of these.
Love, love, love Lucy Foley’s newest mystery thriller, The Guest List! I “read” it on Audiobooks and highly recommend this format , if it’s available to you, since hearing the lilting brogues of the characters add so much to the flavor of the story. The setting is a remote island off the west coast of Ireland. With very few characters, the plot unfolds over a single weekend as guests come together to attend the wedding of a true power couple -he, a handsome TV star and she, a stunning magazine publisher. It becomes a seriously complicated event as secrets are revealed, relationships shattered and then, a death, all in the course of that meticulously planned wedding weekend.
It’s a quick read – mainly because you don’t want to put it down.
The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali is a beautiful and timely exploration of devastating loss, unbreakable family bonds, and the overwhelming power of love. Set in 1953 Tehran, it is the story of two young lovers brought together by a kindly book and stationery shop owner. But, despite their determination, there are many obstacles in their path to togetherness. I love historical fiction and this was most informative as the author weaves so much of the Irani culture into her telling of the lives of Roya and Bahman.
The writing is beautiful, the plot captivating, each character so well developed I felt I knew them personally. I was literally sad when it all came to an end.
In the age of Black Lives Matter, Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid, soars to relevance. The story of the very complex and dysfunctional relationship between two women elucidates the state of race and class in contemporary America. Emira is a young black college graduate, who, while struggling to find her passion, is employed as a babysitter for a privileged, white, upper middle class family. “Alix” is the mother in this family – a driven, self employed “influencer” focused more on her life outside the home than on what takes place within. Utilizing realism, humor, heartbreak, and satire, the author brilliantly integrates many of the true, self imposed obstacles to smooth race relations. At times a tough read, but it captured my mind and heart from the very first page.
If you’re a history buff and you like to read about strong women, The Alice Network by Kate Quinn should be your next read. True confession – I’m only half way through it but it just keeps getting better. So I’m confident enough to recommend it.
Though it is historical fiction, it is based on the real life of a woman who led a network of spies that infiltrated German lines along the French border during WWI. For years she is presumed dead, her last whereabouts unknown. But a devoted cousin commits to uncovering the missing pieces and bringing closure to her story.
The telling jumps between decades as we are taken back to events of the first world war in one chapter and then, in the next, to the search taking place in post WWII. With many twists and turns, this is in essence a story of the courage of two brave and daring women who refused to accept a life less than what they envisioned.
Very diffferent from other wartime novels I’ve read. Captivating!
It seems a crazy time to be presenting you with travel information, but maybe it’s not. I know I need to dream, and that’s exactly what I did today as I clicked from one travel website to another. Here are three of my absolute favorites – filled my afternoon with exciting visions of what may lie in the future, once we are allowed to move beyond our isolation. Hope you enjoy!!
Quite by accident, I came across a magnificent website, JourneyWoman. I don’t use the word magnificent much but, in this case, I make the exception. I do love to travel, though these days, any plans to go further than my town are naturally on hold. However, wandering around this site was almost as good as the real thing. But be careful – there’s so much to see…you could lose your way! It houses all things “travel” and I do mean ALL things. Easy to navigate, filled with inviting photos and great writing, the site is worth visiting – over and over again!
Still on the same quest, I’m finding all kinds of fun things! Legal Nomads is written by a lawyer, turned foodie, turned world traveler. Super, right! As I read through the site, I immediately connected on several levels – not only does the writer love travel and food, as do I, but we also share a gluten allergy. Both of us have celiac disease which complicates traveling or just plain eating out anywhere!
But that’s not where her focus is…much more lighthearted than talking about diseases. In her own words…“Here, readers will find a community that connects storytellers who want to dig deep into a new country, in-depth food guides to cities around the world, and a long set of resources to help plan and budget for long term travel. From my end, I want the site to remain an inspiration to those who crave a life of travel and exploration, but one that also sets realistic expectations about the sacrifices unconventional choices require.” Another virtual travel experience while we are stuck at home.
Here’s one more for you that I really liked. It’s called The Blonde Abroad. This one is a little “quirk-ier” than the others and maybe more commercial but still lots of fun. Visitors to the site are given the option to choose where the want to travel and then are introduced to their destination with beautiful photography and tips about getting there, what to pack, and so much more. It’s beautiful, fun, upscale, and I left wishing I were the blonde abroad. Take a peek – even if you have no desire to move further than your couch!
Again, I invite you to share your travel dreams, tips, experiences – virtual or otherwise, with all of us. We’d love to hear from you!