August 14 – The Puye Cliffs – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

“I thought I could become wise, but it is much beyond me. Far away is all that has come into being and very, very deep. Who can find?” – Ecclesiastes, 7:24-25

Humility, which comes from the word humus, the soil, offers more than a bowed head. It gives us a connection with everything older than we are and so, provides us with a calming perspective outside of our daily worries, and often beyond our understanding.

I felt this deeply one day when visiting a friend in New Mexico. We drove an hour north of Sante Fe, where we found the Puye Cliffs, dwellings cut in stone where fifteen hundred Pueblos lived for twelve generations. We climbed the top, and, winded by what seemed the edge of the world, Carol said, “How beautifully insignificant we are….” We imagined the elders choosing this site 800 years ago because the vastness would keep everyone aware of the Creator.

The wind grew stronger, whipping in the little holes where native spirits lived, and they began to sing beneath the wind, and I thought of Carl Jung confessing that only in terms of the centuries did his life have meaning, and I realized that everyone who ever sought the truth of spirit has lived like this, looking out from their dark hollowed cave onto the majesty of all there is.

How we all climb through the trials of our outer life to the precipice of humility and in dwelling there on the edge of mystery. How we climb through our suffering to a place where we can carve out a tiny home from which to dizzy ourselves with the knowledge that we are small and the Universe is big.

Oh, I have suffered the climb, like climbers before me, to live high on the wall and wait. There we stood together and alone, worn by the days to exactly what we are. There, on the inner cliffs where humbled creatures meet to see what can’t be seen and know what can’t be known, we spread our arms like hawks to taste the ancient air. We spread our minds like trees rooted on the edge to accept the end of knowledge arriving like sun, not to instruct us but to warm us and help us grow.

Oh, we leaned into the vastness and spread our hearts in our simple chests, pounding beneath the wind, like a human thing three inches from its song.

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