It is the little things. The little things that are so simple, so mundane that it is easy to gloss over them with the simple, mindless movement used for brushing teeth or wiping down a kitchen counter. It’s often the little things that bring a touchstone, provide a ritual reminder of who we are and what it is we value most. These are the places and times of pure enjoyment and recognition of the privilege of being alive.
One such quirky ‘little thing’ for me is the ritual exercised at the end of each month when I make my way from calendar to calendar in our house and in my office as I turn the page to the next month, the new month. Yes. I am one of those people who still, in addition to the digital calendar on my phone and computer, has paper calendars. Lovely calendars of beautiful artwork that makes me wake up and feel something….joy, beauty, blessing, hope…..when I look at their pages. The sterile, factual black and white letters and numbers of my digital calendar can never do this.
So on Wednesday as I made my ritual walk from calendar to calendar,turning the pages from June to July, I looked back at what had been in those first days of summer. Memories of lovely time with family and friends washed over me. Just as I turned the page on June, these words printed at the bottom of the page of one calendar, echoed their truth:”We experience ourselves as separate from the rest….We must free ourselves from this delusion…by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” The words are those of Albert Einstein. Not bad as a source of wisdom. I jotted down the words onto one of the many scraps of paper I keep tucked into books and a compartment in my purse so I could spend more time with them later.
What I realized about these words is that they make up a piece of my own personal faith statement and what I hope guides my life. This being a part of an ever widening circle of connection has been something I commit to every day. It is what keeps me honest and sane and, hopefully, a gentler, kinder human being. It is also what fills me with wonder and awe and deep humility that I get to have this life, this living, on this floating ball of blue and green in a Universe I can never possibly understand or comprehend. This widening circle is what keeps me from making more statements of surety than I ought and nudges me to try….to try…to understand more fully all I might believe to be ‘other’. It is always what keeps me in love with the world in all its beauty and terror.
Over the past weeks we have been overwhelmed with talk about ‘other’. I cannot call them conversations because that implies a give and take of listening that has rarely been present. In all the various media, we have been present to the digging in of heels and hearts over love, how we care for one another in illness and health, what symbols we hold sacred. I have been hoping for an ‘ever widening circle of compassion’, one in which we can see how intertwined we are in this living, not separate as we often like to act and speak. This ever widening circle of compassion calls us to a humility about which all our faith traditions speak. It is the language of love…..even when we disagree, even when we are still working on edging out thoughts and beliefs of separation.
While in northern Wisconsin these last few days, I was reminded of this delusion of separation. Each day we were treated to an incredible sunset in which the Sun was hot pink, red, orange and various shades that seemed as showy as a Vegas dancer. Why? Because our skies are the same skies as those in Canada where fires are burning and sending smoke and color our way. While the beauty was amazing, the haze created kept us from seeing the night sky as we often can. A gift and a challenge. Isn’t it nearly always so?
In addition to the sky, we watched as a family stopped to prod a large turtle with a stick across the road to help hurry up its nature lest it be shattered by a less observant driver. Four humans poured compassionate connection onto this prehistoric creature. Only a few moments later a covey of grouse flew in front of our car while one of its members instead plowed into the side of our vehicle narrowly missing flying into the driver’s open window and my husband’s head. Shaking ourselves out of the shock of this encounter we turned our car around to check on its stunned body before watching it move quickly to rejoin those with wings. The experience widened our circle of compassion.
How are you committed to widening your circle of compassion? The joy of it is that it is work that lasts a lifetime. The hope of it is the healing of the world.