You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
~Dream Work by Mary Oliver, published by Atlantic Monthly Press, © Mary Oliver
In her poem, Mary Oliver is setting the stage for a different way to enter 2021. Perhaps she is inviting us to soften our approach to 2021, to take a cleansing breath and “Pay attention. Be Astonished. Tell about it.” (Sr. Joan Chittister). What does it mean to be open, to “Love what it (life) loves”, and willing to notice life happening around you. What does it mean to be “heading home again”?
Everyone is talking and writing about the challenges of 2020, and how much they are looking forward to leaving 2020 and moving into 2021. We move forward with anticipation, hope and curiosity. What will it be like? What will be different and what do I hope will remain the same? I know I am hopeful and feeling a sigh of relief as I notice an important shift in perspective, I hear hopeful words and they appear to be based in love, compassion and empathy. I have missed these words and what they mean.
Ignatian spirituality informs us about freedom and detachment and that freedom helps us to make good decisions. Ignatius invites us to be contemplatives in action and with the many challenges from 2020 there will be more than enough opportunities to take action, and within that action, to notice God in all things. The actions will help to deepen our awareness and relationship with God. Renewal in 2021 will be based in love, love that is crying out to be noticed, lived and shared.
How often did you find yourself confused or crying for others in 2020? Were you surprised? You were feeling/experiencing God’s compassion. This is how God communicates God’s compassion for others, His compassion is given through you. We all heard and may have experienced in 2020, a deep absence of compassion in our communities, families and our world. When seeing a crying child and parent as they were separated, people in our communities living in tents because they are homeless, food banks running out of food, so many people dying from Covid 19 and so many people shouting, raging at each other with verbal and physical violence toward one another. How will you allow God to use your heart and spirit to bring His compassion to others who are afraid, hurt, frustrated, sad and grieving? The New Year can be your time, your moment of bringing God’s compassion to those God brings to you.
Empathy, according to Brene Brown is “simply holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of you’re not alone.” Sounds so familiar; a similar message has been shared by the God of our understanding, the Spirit that moves within each one of us to hear and notice where love is absent, compassion is denied and empathy is missing. Empathy allows us to “hold space”, to experience the freedom to listen without attachment to an outcome, detached while being in connection with the other.
Wild Geese….”you do not have to be good, tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on….the world offers itself to your imagination…” Welcome to the NEW YEAR!