Monday, June 8, 2009

The Absence Of God Is The Presence of God

The words we use to describe the world rarely grasp the richness of a given moment. Nevertheless, the power of words can still be real.
In the context of the Gnostic path of love, Cynthia Bourgeault expresses her teacher´s wisdom (we highlighted a few inspiring sentences):
Rafe began his hermit life. It was an exhilarating time for him in its new found freedom, but the strain of loneliness and disorientation -not to mention the sheer physical brutality of the site- gradually took its role. Late one afternoon he was in a thickly tangled, rock-strewn field, trying to move a large boulder to clear a site for his cabin. He strained and strained with pickax and crowbar, but the boulder wouldn't give.
"And suddenly I burst into tears" he said. "I was so tired; it all just felt so lonely, so totally useless. I sat there on that rock and said to myself, 'Listen, God didn't ask you to come here, you came here yourself'.
"I'd never felt that way before. It was an ache all the way to the end of the universe. I realized this must be my 'bare self'.
Over those next long months, Rafe said he gradually became acostumed to it. That ache all the way to the end of the universe was how things would be, how they had to be. "God can only work in us through our bare self", he averred. "At that place, if a person is really willing to wait there, god says, 'Aha! now we can get down to work. At last there is something to work with'".
Later, in an astonishing observation, Rafe added, "we only think it's bare because the light is so intense that it blinds us".
Again and again Rafe taught me to work this way, not flinching from those moments of utter unremitting emptiness. "You have to endure the tedium until something gradually emerges in it" he told me, the lesson of those long, empty winters up at the cabin. In it, not from it, he insisted. It is not the incubator of the new; it is the new itself, in the beginning of its own dimensionality, stark and pitilessly embracing.
Sometimes, he said, he'd cry out with terror. With the ache and futility of it. With a life wasted, a God far away. "That's the beginning of it. That's when you're getting somewhere. If you can only just stay present in that bare self, you'll begin to discover how the absence of God is the presence of God".
We are human. We want to jerk away from that moment. Fill it with distraction and activity, with our own meaning. In my case, run up the hill to Rafe's cabin, fill it with a person, sitting in his chair in his lonely winter watch -a person, my heart told me, who would too soon be gone. Fill it with a conversation, a cappucino, the energy flowing between us, the joy of times shared, the glow of human love. But to live in that world, to warm oneself only by its fire, means to be stranded in unbridgeable, wrenching loss when that fires flickers out. To find the eternal communion, one must not be afraid to venture into that dark, black sea of what seems inexpressible absence. More painfully, one must 'choose' to venture out, while the fire is still burning on the shore. For only what is truly begun here can continue in eternity.
Dwell in it...endure the tedium until something gradually emerges in it. Often now, I lie in my bed and simply ache. But I try to remember that this ache is what is given to me in this moment to express the presence itself; to paraphrase Rilke, it is the beginning of a love I can just scarcely bear in human form. In the cosmic sphere everything is a two way street. By that very ache I know I am still connected in love; it is the bridge on which I cross. I remember Rafe saying, "it seems bare only because it's so full of light".
"If I can love you across the space of a mile, I can love you across the space of eternity" excerpted from the book Love is Stronger Than Death

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