Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Lady Poverty

This week, I've been much struck by this passage from Christian Wiman's, My Bright Abyss.

'The endless, useless urge to look on life comprehensively, to take a bird's-eye view of ourselves and judge the dimensions of what we have or have not done: this is life as landscape, or life as resume. But life is incremental, and though a worthwhile life is a gathering together of all that one is, good and bad, successful and not, the paradox is that we can never really see this one thing that all of our increments (and decrements, I suppose) add up to. "Early we receive a call", writes Czeslaw Milosz, "yet it remains incomprehensible,/ and only late do we discover how obedient we were"'.

What resonates for me particularly is that 'endless, useless urge to look on life comprehensively'. I am so often seeking to know what it all means, or will mean in the end. And yet I know that the deeper knowing of the whole comes not from this 'bird's-eye', observer's view, but through participation. And truly to participate, to be present beyond self-consciousness, demands the surrender of that 'observation point'.

St Francis speaks, I am told, of embracing 'lady poverty' - embracing the void of unknowing, the loss of the 'I' who sees, becoming 'poor' in this radical way of self-dispossession. In the same way, John Main speaks of saying your mantra and being content to say your mantra - so becoming the eye that sees but does not see itself.

Yesterday in spiritual direction, and this morning on retreat, I practised this embrace - feeling still my resistance, and yet also drawn to this deeper embrace of no-thingness.

The trees are yielding themselves in the loss of their leaves - unable to do anything but enact trust that life breaks through on the other side of death, of winter. Embracing Lady Poverty ... on a winter's morning.


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