June 2 – Tragedy and Peace – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening
Too many prints in the same place, because the heart’s a narrow path and our arms its only gate.
At times, so many memories trample my heart that it becomes impossible to know just what I’m feeling and why: my first love laughing in a park whose name I can never recall, my grandmother dying near her dirty bricks in Brooklyn, the dizziness of the Rockies telling me to go back among the living, my ex-wife’s shoulders slouching tired in the rain, the old dog I used to live with chasing her tail… and a thousand more.
That all the ways we’ve been touched merge in the ground of who we are is a blessing, a gift of being human. It is what the sages of all traditions have called peace – the elusive moment that all things become one. That we can’t sort our feelings and memories once the soil of our experience is tilled is the nature of staying alive. That we insist on keeping old wounds alive is our curse.
Yet, as Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us, “Our mind of love may be buried deep under many layers of forgetfulness and suffering.” The difference, I’m learning, is in what we focus on. When I focus on the rake of experience and how its fingers dug into me and the many feet that have walked over time, there is no end to the life of my pain. But when I focus on the soil of heart and how it has been turned over, there is no end to the mix of feelings that defy my want to name them.
Tragedy stays alive by feeling what’s been done to us, while peace comes alive by living with the results.