In the Thick of It

In the Thick of It


“And it is the call of each generation to make sure that we choose love over fear and kindness over cruelty, one more time.”

The times seem dire, at times apocalyptic. Wildfires are rampant. Hurricanes are the size of states. And racism continues to rear its ugly head. Will we survive? Will humanity survive? I believe we will. Not because I deny the truth of these difficulties. Not because we try to reframe everything into a better light. But because all things are true. All things are not fair or just, but all things are true.

And it is the call of each generation to make sure that we choose love over fear and kindness over cruelty, one more time. We are all capable of both. This is why it is imperative to accept that each generation and each life takes its turn in opening one more time than closing, in giving one more time than taking, in standing in integrity in the thick of it all.

While it is true that the planet could burn up, and that we might make ourselves extinct, I am anchored in the knowledge that we have been on this dark precipice before. And witnessing the history of the soul, I believe in incarnation more than progress. While progress calls for us to leave the world in a better place than we found it, incarnation is the inevitable process of facing life and living life that no one can escape. While progress lets us take a lift to the top of a mountain instead of climbing it, it is the work of incarnation that calls for each person to open their eyes and see.

While the efforts at bettering life may be fleeting, the efforts at facing life are more lasting. And so, it is our turn to put out the fires and to quiet the storms and to open our hearts beyond our prejudice. The pain of needless suffering will always be with us. Yet we can mitigate its sharpness by enlarging our sense of things and by enlarging our expanse of heart and fortitude.

When we accept that all things are true, we are not condoning cruelty but enlarging our heart and mind in order to hold it, the way the sky holds a storm to its completion. And in addition to the wisdom we receive for the deepest and longest view of life, we are graced with the comfort and strength of being held by the Eternal Oneness of Heart that has endured and outlived the worst of life on Earth.

This larger perspective enables us to venture into the fallen world with all its travesties and atrocities, not to reframe it or to be defined by it. But to hold it in the oldest part of our being until a deeper logic of Spirit is released by which we can stitch what rips us apart.

There is a profound and disturbing moment in Elie Wiesel’s memoir, Night, which recounts his captivity in Auschwitz. As a 15-year-old, he woke one morning to find a boy hanging, dead, in the yard. The silence of his body swaying from the rope had the scent of hell. The older man next to Elie said in disgust, “Where is God?” And, without a thought, young Elie uttered, “In the boy hanging.”

This proved to be a spiritual riddle that Elie Wiesel carried with him the rest of his life. As the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber said, “The world is incomprehensible, but it is embraceable.” This horrific moment is a compelling example of how all things are true, though not always fair or just.

That God is in the boy hanging defies ordinary logic. Only a life of truth and compassion can begin to release the meaning that subsumes this painful moment. Only a life of steadfastness and kindness can remediate the trespasses of human dignity we create and trip on along the way. In the integral embrace of all life has to offer, we continue, by facing and holding the paradox of being human. In the hope that we can open our hearts one more time than pain closes them.

This excerpt is from Mark’s book in progress, The Ocean of Being: Living in the Deep.

Questions to Walk With

  • In your journal, describe your own struggle between love and fear. Then describe the struggle of our society, as you see it, between love and fear. What choices in your own life and in the life of our society can move us from fear to love?
  • In conversation with a friend or loved one, describe something in our time that you find incomprehensible and how you might embrace it to better understand it and move through it.
Holding hands

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