1995: “The Whole Thing”

SUNDAY, JULY 30, 1995    Sometime in the early ’90s I followed the program described in Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. “Morning pages” is one of the exercises in Julia Cameron’s program. Nika is the Artist part of me, I don’t remember now where her name came from. I started doing the program in May of 1995 as Nika. This post is from “Nika’s Morning Pages.”

Candle, dandelion tea, aap sahaee hoaa on the tape deck.  Glorious day, snarling planes, enormous sadness.  I’m seeing that in the struggle with the noise there are many “parts of myself”:

I am the one that screams intolerably loud, trying to get someone to pay attention to my pain.

I am the one that tries to avoid hearing the noise, that makes the noisemaker wrong.

I am the one that cries out and causes other people to feel the pain of their unhealed wounds.

I am the one who, attempting to enjoy my life, thoughtlessly causes pain to others.

I am the one who is damaged, before birth and all my life, by the toxic wastes of our unhealthy culture, and I am the one who perpetuates that pollution by the choices I make in how I live.

The hardest one to own is “thoughtlessly causes pain” since I have spent so much of my life’s energy holding myself back, holding back my power, my creativity, my intelligence, my joy, in the effort not to “hurt” people.  But much of that fear was an illusion.  And the truth is that I have, more than once, thoughtlessly caused pain by an unconsidered remark.

Walking back to the house to get a mug, I could see the beauty of the glorious day – sparkling blue and green, fresh breeze, white clouds — and the pain of my grief like a dagger in the heart and one did not shut out the other, they were both there, both parts of me, both pain and glory and they were somehow one, somehow some new thing that contains both pain and joy, that’s much bigger than either, that reaches out into enormous spaces. This is the whole thing.    This is like the moment of the corpse and the blossoming apple tree, but more complete.  Words are poor substitutes for experience — that’s the best I can do.  I wish I could express it as poetry, there’s some sort of intensification that happens when the pain is there with the beauty, but doesn’t cut me off from the beauty.  This is like the way the beauty of the world was intensified in the aftermath of Fiona’s death, but then the pain was greater than the beauty, and now the beauty is greater than the pain, includes the pain, is completed by the pain.  I repeat to myself with wonder and tears: “This is the whole thing.  I have it all.”

“This beauty opens a great heart, wide, wide a world’s refuge.”

The white clouds fly.  The little green leaves quiver in the sunlight.  A purple finch sits at the feeder.  The sunlight falls on the pottery shells.  Signs from Journey into Courage stand against the wall.  Maria & Susie are elegant, the dollhouse is unfinished, the crone fabric hangs in the background.  The white clouds fly behind the ugly transformer with its ugly wires that brings the electricity into the house to run the tape deck so I can be listening to aap sahaee hoaa, and the sound of a plane contributes a base note.  A butterfly and a bee come to the window.  “I am the sacrifice unto the One, day or night, with every breath, remember Him.”    Not perfection, but completeness.  Yes, Lord, I happily and with gratitude, give up “perfection” and accept completeness.    “The Lord Himself has become my refuge.”    What an astonishing, rich, complex, enormous place to live.  And I have no name for it, can only feebly call it “the Whole Thing.”    Perhaps this is god?  Certainly there is a sense of a Divine Being who contains all these contradictory things, and has room for more, space in which utterly new things can appear.  What’s Howard’s phrase for it?  “Human freedom open to the new”, and God’s creativity breaking into history — “Behold, I make all things new.”    And I say Yes! I want it all, the pain as well as the joy, the endless risk of being “open to the new.”

Howard, my ex-husband’s father, a minister, wrote: “Divine Grace capable of the new, and human freedom open to the new.”

Thomas Merton’s version of Chuang Tzu poem “How Deep is Tao” contains the line “he grows great, great, opens a great heart, a world’s refuge.” I don’t remember where the other quotes come from, can’t find them on the internet.

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