You and I,
Together we suffer,
Recreate each other.
—Pierre de Chardin
It was the morning of the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. Derived from Old French, the term solstice refers to the sun appearing to stand still and thereby taking a stand.
Hmm. How curious. My rose bush also chose June 20th to make its stand.
That morning, the morning of the solstice, my routine was interrupted by this display of red roses. While there is nothing unusual about rose blooms in June, I was nonetheless startled. Until that morning, this climbing rose was contentedly sprawled along the white fence, behind this snowball tree. Once stretched out like a lazy sassy cat, this rambling rose was no longer attached to the fence! A sudden shift in the wind changed everything. A recent rainstorm barreled in with a persistent force that somehow released the woody arms from its hold to merge with the snowball tree. Uniting with it. Converging with it. Existing together. Recreating each other.
After some consideration to neighborly advice to bind the rose to the fence with garden twine, I thought of what Pierre de Chardin might say. The two plants are conjoined. After all, do they not suffer the same storms? Thrive in the same soil? Drink from the same well? Now they exist as one, bathed in and standing in the same light. Solstice.
A Revelation: Shining in the Sun
On the corner of Fourth and Walnut Streets in Louisville, Kentucky, is a plaque commemorating a mystical event that took place there in 1958. Thomas Merton, Trappist Monk and spiritual writer had an experience on that very spot that changed his life. In his book, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, Merton describes his transformative vision in this way:
In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness… This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud… I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.
How Do We Get There?
Are we there yet? That is the ultimate question of the wandering nomad. Then, of course, existential questions follow: Are we supposed to get there? And, If so, how do we?
A Journey of Thorns
I will never forget the 30-minute drive from Munich, Germany to Dachau. It was 1986. My friends and I were touring Bavaria. Four of us decided to make the gut-wrenching side trip to view the concentration camp in which over 600,000 Jews and 200,000 prisoners were murdered. The taxi driver, being a lifelong resident, gave us this account of the town, and why the townspeople of Dachau voted to keep the name, a name synonymous with unspeakable evil and man’s inhumanity to man. He told us that after the war there was a movement to cleanse the stain by renaming the town, thereby ridding the townspeople of the terrible stigma. He told us that as early as the 1890s, the town of Dachau was an artist’s colony, attracting painters and musicians from all over Europe. After many town meetings and open forums, a vote was taken and the residents of Dachau chose to keep the name. Why? He explained that simply put, we are artists. Artists reveal. We do not conceal. We will face our inner demons so that we can stand at the entryway to a new world, a world that rejects what happened here but will not hide from it. That is the only way we might begin to honor those who died here. Art is its own revelation. As with the rose, revelation often comes with thorns.
Something Brewing and About to Begin
“Winds in the east . . . mist coming in . . .Like somethin’ is brewin’ and bout to begin. Can’t put me finger on what lies in store . . .But I fear what’s to happen all happened before.” That was spoken by Burt in Mary Poppins.
We have been here before. Our country was founded on lofty ideals, yet our advancements are born from painful labor. The ugly cannot and should not be concealed. Secrets, injustice and societal ills can temporarily hide from view, swallowed up by the dark. But in the fullness of time, comes a new wind; a wind that breaks us free, releasing evil’s grip, and comes a time when we scrape off the barnacles and stand free in the sun.
Solstice. Recreating as One
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
Related post: See also Prayer: A Space Without Words https://gloriasstories.com/2019/09/18/prayer-a-space-without-words/
Merton, Thomas, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander. 1968. Doubleday. Garden City, NY.
https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/5387.Pierre_Teilhard_de_Chardin; accessed on 6.28.20
https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/evil; accessed on 6.28.20
https://www.quotes.net/mquote/59652; accessed on 6.28.20