Friday, March 21, 2008

Hope Springs Eternal

Perhaps it is nature’s way of informing that she is magic. This time of year we cannot escape the life’s lesson nature offers us. Each succeeding day we see her deliver beauty from the barrenness of winter. In Flemington it is first apt to be seen in the blossoming of the forsythia. There are so many forsythia bushes that bloom here you cannot miss this event. I have thought about this cycle of beauty that illogically emanates from that which is not so beautiful. Logical or not, inescapably, we see it in the seasons, as we do with spring that follows winter.

Spiritually, we live, each of us at one time or another, barren or void of joy. I recently went through the trauma of total double knee replacements after several years of painful decline in my knee joints. You lose some snippets of your life when you live several years like this, as I did so very young. Awake through the nights that followed, I worked to figure out where to put these legs that felt like painful logs until morning. No amount of support can take this trauma from you. Out of this barren angst blossoms some strength of character. So many people who are ill or traumatized health-wise know that out of illness and human suffering can come recovery and bountiful insight into our own humanness, blossoms of a different sort.

This cycle, reviving life from the barren, is evident in our social lives. This past week in the presidential campaign it surfaced that an acclaimed, dear acquaintance of presidential hopeful, Barack Obama, had made remarks some time ago that were potentially fatal to his campaign due to their close affiliation. Whether he ascends to the White House or not, from that deadly context, Obama gave a speech that I think brings hope in resolving race issues that have been deadlocked for years, new life to resolve on old problem.

This week before Easter we in our family usually visit family gravesites. So my sisters, my mother and I went north to clean up my father’s grave. We planted our lilies and hyacinths. We left a bunny and a note that we missed him quite a lot. The barrenness of his illness and his age were too much to overcome. This cycle of life after void is over for him as it is for us all eventually. As nature manages its perfect balancing act, perhaps he knows that had he lived, he is on the verge of becoming a first time great grandfather to the grandson/nephew/son my family will adoringly embrace this summer.
“ Something's lost and something's gained in living everyday…” as the song goes. Nature's balance is maintained.

Christian ideology recognizes that out of the barrenness of the mind, body or soul, comes resurrection, spiritual and physical, as it is celebrated this week with literal new life out of death, transcending physical death. Christian ideology believed or not, the idea of resurrection of the dead is consistent with the cycles of nature…life continues from what seems lifeless and dismal and not pretty.

Nature perennially instructs us that life is generated from sources that seem lifeless--- the cold earth, our broken bodies, our threatened social aspirations, literal death or our tried and tired spirits. At some point in our lives, as part of nature’s way with us, I believe that all of us navigate adversity, isolated, alone in desperation. At those moments like the French existentialist, Jean-Paul Sartre, we may wonder what is the point of our existence. How should we define ourselves? I know the answer for me but each I think goes the road alone here answering this quandary, maybe taking a lifetime to do so. Aware of this predictable cycle, I have learned that absolutely out of the barren comes the blossom, like the forsythia that blooms here each year out of the frozen ground. This is nature’s way. So when life seems to fail us, we have to hang on because it is nature’s way that from the depths of this lifelessness, life is renewed and regenerated in ways we often cannot imagine. Relief does not necessarily demand all the right circumstances coming together perfectly because barrenness is fertile grounds for regeneration. The loveliest wildflowers that yield the most savored honey grow in the ashes on Mt. St. Helens. Magic? Perhaps, no. Maybe we need to understand that what seems infertile to the naked eye is replete with an exquisite set of circumstances for great growth if we play our hand well. Maybe barrenness is not void of opportunity but rich with opportunity.

Stay tuned.

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