December 30 – We Become the Earth – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening
In seeking what is essential, we become essential.
I have always been amazed how the deepest things are intangible: love, doubt, faith, confusion, peace, wisdom, passion. Where are they? They can’t be held in the hand like fruit or turned in the lap like pages of a sacred text. Yet they shape our lives. This has always been the driving mystery of all sacred wisdom: The only things worth saying are those things that are unsayable.
It is quite humbling to realize that we spend a lifetime gaining grain after grain of this wisdom, working to understand it and struggling to express it and share it, only to become more and more a part of it, unspeakable ourselves. Over time, we age into a stillness that breathes like stone, exposed beyond resistance.
Perhaps this is the most poignant of paradoxes, nature’s safeguard against letting too much of the mystery out. We take years of living to squeeze a few precious words from all that will not speak, and steadily, being shaped by our suffering and polished by our joy, we become the Earth, knowing more and saying less. Ironically, after a lifetime, we may finally have important things to say, just as we lose our ability to say them.Yet this doesn’t diminish all we try to say. For the fact that sound always ends in silence doesn’t make music any less precious to our souls.
It seems the more we live through, the less we can surface. I recall visiting Grandma Minnie when she was ninety-four. I had found the steamship ticket with which she had come to this country in 1912 as a girl. There was a strange and beautiful name on it, Maiyessca. This was her birth name, never spoken in this country. I put the yellowed ticket inher hand. Her eyes widened and I could feel the big old fish of her heart swim up near the surface, stirring waters that had been still for eighty years. Life times passed between us in silence. She trembled and coughed up a chuckle, saying only, “I forgot I ever came.”
There is nothing sad about this. Rather, it feels inevitable and holy that we should become what we seek.We start out wanting to know love and living long enough, we become love. We start out wanting to know God, and suffering long enough, we become God. Over time, the heart expands from within and all our skins thin until we become something elemental, rounding to the next grain of wisdom to be found.