The Beauty of Letting Things Be
I've been experiencing insomnia to some degree or other for years. The last couple weeks, though, have taken me into new realms, shall we say. I wish I could feel as Leonard Cohen did, when he said, “The last refuge of the insomniac is a sense of superiority to the sleeping world.” I've yet to have feelings of superiority, but I can say that the middle of the night is a good time for reading and it so happens that I have a really great stack of books on the bedside table.
The book that called to me first is Walking on the Pastures of Wonder, which is John O'Donohue in conversation with John Quinn. I don't know why I've not come across this before. At first I thought it might be just excerpts from O'Donohue's books, and there are some, but there's also a goodly amount of new content.
It's the sort of book I ought to live with for a while before I talk about, but there are a few parts that have struck me and which I thought I'd share. In a chapter on Meister Eckhart, he quotes a poem by Angelus Silesius who was a follower of Eckhart. It goes:
The rose is without why
She blooms because she blooms
She does not care for herself
Asks not if she is seen
O'Donohue then responds to the poem:
"One of the beautiful things in Eckhart is the idea of letting things be. So many people wonder what they should do, how they should work. For Eckhart, none of this matters. The most important thing to focus on is how you should be. That is really mindfulness of presence."
When we stand back and let the mystery be, he says, we "become enveloped in it so that it extends us and deepens us."
I needed to hear that, and I needed his thoughts on calmness, too, which, he says, is something we all can awaken in our own hearts. O'Donohue says,
"Eckhart has the lovely idea of gelassenheit. Gelassen is the German for calmness. Even when things go against you and the rhythm in your life takes you to awkward and lonely places, you can still maintain a stillness which is in your soul..."
In the chapter titled, "Balance," O'Donohue says,
"Most of the time when we are talking about things, we seem so sure we are right, yet all we are giving are little minuscule, half-truth glimpses. To become wholesome, we need connection with the whole. Our access is always limited and partial; yet through the imagination, we can enter more elegantly into its field of creative tensions."
This is the truth that novelists work with – that all we are given are glimpses of half-truth. Jane Austen in Emma said, "Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised, or a little mistaken..."
So there is the wisdom in maintaining that stillness in your soul, and just letting things be, while also doing that mindful work on who you want to be. There is the wisdom of knowing that we are not all-knowing.
But get this, at the same time, all is change. O'Donohue says, "There are two great sentences in the Greek tradition: 'Know thyself' and 'Everything flows.'
He describes how a professor in a philosophy class he once took said that, "over a seven-year period all the cells in our body will have changed. There was at the time someone in England who had been in prison for seven years and he appealed his sentence. His claim was that he was not the person now whom they had sentenced seven years before!"
Knowing thyself is a full time job, really, isn't it? And so it's no wonder that we only catch half-glimpses of the truth in those around us. How could it be otherwise?
The rose is blooming and blooming, changing before our eyes. Stay with it, let it be. Watch, listen, breathe it in.
Incidentally, or who knows maybe subconsciously I was working toward this the whole time, my book of brief essays is coming out in Spring 2018 with Palimpsest Press, and the title is The Flower Can Always Be Changing – which is a line from Virginia Woolf. I spent the summer on edits, and now the cover is starting to come together, which is always exciting. This is how long it takes for a book to come into existence though....such patience required.
Lastly, I would like to quietly thank those lovely souls who have supported this blog both anonymously via snail mail and by hitting the "support" button below of late. The encouragement is wonderful.