From the Editor: July/August 2018
Quest for the Sacred: Niki at the Top Rung by Melanie Luther
In this issue we’ve got a letter from Jacki Mallett, an original subscriber (Thank you!), who now appreciates Akhilandeshwari Ma, the Hindu goddess who is never not broken: “I mean, if a Goddess can be imperfect, why can’t I?” We also got a letter from “Culture Shocked,” a new reader who had an unpleasant, visceral response to something I wrote about our president—and gave the magazine a second chance. (Thank you, too!)
Meanwhile, Mark Nepo’s column (from his wonderful new book, More Together Than Alone) tells us: “The truth is that we are born into both tribes [“Go away” and “Come, teach me”] and can move from one to the other, depending on the level of our fear.” The irony is that whichever tribe we’re in is the right one—even as we switch. And from On the Brink of Everything, the 80-year-old gentle genius Parker Palmer tells us that “Thinking paradoxically is key to creativity, which depends on the ability to hold divergent ideas in a way that opens the mind and heart to something new.” While the ever-compassionate Emma Seppälä teaches us to Say NO! like a boss.
I LOVE this stuff!*
Jan Phillips gets an atheist into one of her divinity workshops (oops!) and it turns sublime, in “A Vacation from God.” Zen master Kazuaki Tanahashi looks back at a once-in-a-lifetime joke: a single brush stroke (and many hours with a mop) to fill an entire exhibition in a cathedral that took a hundred years to build. Carol Caruso finds that mindfulness is the gateway to a deeper calling: Hula-Hooping. Stephanie Ludwig’s aunt is brutally raped and murdered while running in the woods. So what is Stephanie’s path to faith? Trail running!
*The late, great Tom Wolfe (who punctuated my life and likely yours) was such a thorough reporter, he said, because “You can’t make this stuff up!” Yet making stuff up is exactly what we do. And in the course of making it up there are those moments when the entire body tingles (unless you have to take Zoloft and, alas, it likely can’t…) and for an instant it seems you get it. Whatever it is.
I’m reminded of my very first spiritual practice as a teenager. We had a Japanese Zen priest in the basement and every so often he would emerge with his bow. He would take an eternity to become one with the bow— S T A N D I N G T H E R E PERFECTLYSTILLASHELETGO. … Then my practice would begin: Climb the ladder over the fence and look for the arrow. No shit.
That was my apprenticeship to become editor of S&H, but it took till this moment to understand: It’s not the arrow, the proverbial thing that points, nor is it the intended target, which I suppose is enlightenment. It’s being willing to climb the ladder and look, perhaps humming a Neil Diamond song that I was much too young to appreciate:
They have sweated beneath the same sun
Looked up in wonder at the same moon
And wept when it was all done
for bein’ done too soon…
Meanwhile, what to do? You might be lucky and get a passing hug from Julie Nardone. Or walk in the Church of the Woods. Or really lucky and end up in San Quentin meditating with Kelly Boys.