“It gets to seem as if way back in the Garden of Eden after the Fall, Adam and Eve had begged the Lord to forgive them and He, in his boundless exasperation had said, 'All right, then. Stay. Stay in the Garden. Get civilized. Procreate. Muck it up.' And they did.” Diane Arbus
surfacing from mother-sea, we came ~
we came shape-shifting and sighing,
living before the prescient moon and
under the life-giving sun, we climbed
mountains and marched into valleys
short-lived, we camped by the riverside,
we slept in caves, we cleared the forests,
built cities that domesticated us
we became sophisticated, forgot our
rootedness in the archives of heaven,
our shared destiny with the earth, we
forsook our history and the stars,
invented math, maps and compasses,
governments, borders and ownership
we built great ships to sail the oceans,
to drum across the sky and away to outer
realms and other planets, we mislaid our
true stories and, in ignorance, we suckled
on prefabricated values, these streamed
from cold fires that stoked insecurities ~
we confused wants and needs, hungered
for the sake of our own stupidity
and someone else's greed
© 2017, poem and photograph, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved
I'm grateful that although this poem is true and I have one-and-a-half feet in the grave, I find dreams are still worth having and holding. This is thanks to the everyday saints I know: people who give time to tutor children and youth at risk, who visit the sick and so forth and, not the least, because of the stalwart family and friends I treasure who stand by me and encourage me even when life is tough for them. That's huge.
I still dream because I'm in love with the night and with the view of the sunrise from my balcony and the honking of geese as they fly overhead in the morning. I'm in love with moonlight and star sparkle and yellow flowers. I'm in love with the plant "babies" I'm growing on my balcony. I'm in love with my neighbors. My apartment is clean and cozy. My refrigerator is full. My family is about as safe as I could ever hope they would be. What more could I want?
I still dream because of my spiritual practice, an idiosyncratic combination of Insight Meditation and mystical Catholicism. The saving grace of my Catholic upbringing was the injunction to "Practice the Presence."* This is something from which I too often stray and to which I always return. Practicing the Presence is something I recommend cultivating.
Practicing the Presence makes it easier to avoid petty preoccupations and conflict. I can't be in the Presence and engage in disorder and dissension. I'd much rather be quietly in the Light and let the rest go. Letting others design their own lives, spiritually, physically and stylistically, is respectful. We don't all have to act the same, live the same way, speak the same language, or practice the same religion. After all, no one died and left me to be capo dei capi. I recognize that that's an odd phrase to use given this subject, but there's that nagging temptation to be dogmatic and dictatorial when it comes to the way things "should" be done or how folks "should" act. I want to keep things in perspective. I know there are so many people in the world who have lost everything and are on the run. People who are starving, scared, sick, lonely, and hungering for peace. How can I make a fuss over the minor differences and inconveniences of this one small but fortunate life?
So, in spite of my own human frailty and foibles and the human tragedies playing out across the globe, I still cling to my dreams. One dream is that humanity holds fast to hope and that advocacy for compassion continues in a way that is free from bitterness and filled with Love and Truth. My other dream is that everyone will be fed, housed, educated, respected and encouraged to follow the spiritual path to which they are drawn. That will be a long time coming, but we're working on it. This also feeds my hopes and dreams.
“Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird,
That cannot fly.”
― Langston Hughes
* as in "Practicing the Presence of God", Brother Lawrence