“You must give birth to your images.
They are the future waiting to be born…
Fear not the strangeness you feel.
The future must enter into you long before it happens.”
(Rainer Maria Rilke)
One of my favorite eco-comic strips is a picture of a man standing at the grocery check-out. A voice beyond the frame appears in a bubble proverbially asking, “Paper or plastic?” The bubble above the customer’s head bursts forth, “Suddenly Jon realized he didn’t want paper OR plastic. He wanted something new, something fantastic!”
I love this because it illustrates a sentiment felt by most of us at any given time: “I don’t want this and I don’t want that.” Perhaps we want some combination of the two, or possibly (my personal tendency) we want something altogether different, something out-of-the-box. “What’s behind Door #3?”
In India’s Vedic scriptures there is a Sanskrit phrase, “Neti, Neti,” or, “Not this and Not this.” It is used by spiritual teachers when pressed by students to define the way things are, or to comment on the nature of Self. When things are neither ‘this way’, nor ‘that way’; when we are neither this, nor that—then who and what are we?
As the Schoolhouse Rock song of the 70’s put it, “Three is a magic number.” Never in our evolution have we so needed that which is waiting behind Door #3.
For all its magic, three is also tricky for us dually-inclined humans. Three introduces something new to my clean straight line. Now I’m not simply traveling from here to there. Now there’s a less familiar route on the map, twisting toward a destination that is less certain, possibly foreign.
Our spiritual traditions have supported us on these divergent, curious, exciting albeit nerve-racking adventures to the mysterious territory of three. I’m thinking most obviously of the Trinity in the Christianity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), but also of the Egyptians’ sacred geometry and the Triple Gem in Buddhism (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha), as well as the Triune of deities in Hinduism (Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu), ever creating and destroying life’s dance. Our religious beliefs and faith traditions illustrate and model for us that, uncomfortable though it may be, the third way often leads to expansion, liberation and spiritual depth.
On Nov. 4th, citizens across this country walked up the front porch steps and stood bravely in front of Door #3. (For some, it took a leap of faith, while for others it was as simple as…well, 1, 2, 3.) Drawing from a diverse community of ideas in clean technology, renewable energy and green jobs, Barack Obama’s vision is to create a more sustainable way of living for all of us on multiple levels: in Iraq, in our bank accounts, in the air we breathe and in our relationships to and with others. This means that, beginning January 20th, the United States will have a leader who claims he will be incorporating ideas that are a giant combination of “Yes We Can,” and, “Neti, Neti.”
Our nation elected Obama in the wake of the harvest, a time of earthly abundance painted in vibrant Fall colors, bursting with fertile fruits—apples, maize and squash—and wrapped in the special cast of Autumnal Equinox light. Now the season has changed, and the Solstice is upon us. Solstice brings to us both its gift and a special invitation.
As stewards of Creation, we have a lot of work to do. Be we fearful or of great courage, scientists cannot paint the picture with any more clarity: last Summer, in the Arctic Circle, an area the size of Colorado was melting every week. In the words of NASA scientist, James Hansen, “If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted….carbon dioxide will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm (parts per million) to at most 350 ppm.”
Given American culture’s emphasis on Christmas, I would like to reflect on the potency of the Solstice season, pairing it with Christianity. Let’s begin with the gift of Solstice—the incubation period it provides. Unlike any other season in the earth’s calendar, the Solstice season creates holy time to pause, recollect and consider the journey ahead.
In the Christian calendar, this season is called “Advent,” or “coming,” markingMary’s Immaculate Conception and pregnancy. Christians are invited to use this time metaphorically, tending the fruits of our soul’s womb. Like tulip or amaryllis bulbs waiting in the cold, dark earth, we plant our hopes and prepare for what is to come. Different from the hibernating response of bears, humans in the season of Advent prefer to warm one another and to stand firm in the conviction that the light will return. We do this by lighting candles, singing songs, and exchanging gifts to celebrate the birth of the Divine.
As we move into the darkest hours of the Solstice, journeying through to the return of the light and the inauguration of one who stands ready to make decisions on behalf of how we care for the health of our planet and our future with one another, Door #3 awaits. It invites us to knock and walk through. It is “soulstice” midwifery. The Holy Spirit is seeking to be born through you in this sacred season.
What “new thing” is waiting to be born in you in the coming year? Might it take you on the road less traveled? How, in the next weeks, is it asking to be tended in your soul’s womb? And what is it asking of you to bring to our hurting world?
How will this season lend you space to innovate and practice? Perhaps, it is calling on you to join with others. Why not use the simple sweetness of the Solstice season to practice ways of sharing, collaborating and weaving community?
At the threshold of Door #3, our future calls us to bring our divine gifts with trust, joy and gusto. In this season of holy incubation and Divine birth, prepare yourself and those around you for the great joy that is to come. Good news indeed!