October 1 – The Fly at the Window – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening
“Faith is the state of being ultimately concerned.” Paul Tillich
It can’t be helped. We return through different questions to the same central issue: How do we live fully? How do we live in such a way that the wonder of feeling out fuels the pain of breaking?
I’m not sure. I am only trying myself; each of us a tiny will striving to find and ride the Universal current without perishing. But faith seems crucial; the ability to inhabit the breadth and depth of our compassion, to know, even in the dark center of our pain, that somewhere out of view there is joy and wonder; that even when we tumble we are part of a current larger than our own design. This is a hard bit of consciousness to ask for. Yet, even failing, faith—the life of concern—is possible.
In actuality, the infinite coherence of all things and events continues like a great bottomless stream, and we like fish have but once choice, to find and ride the flow. That stream is God, or the Tao, as the great Chinese sage Lao-tzu terms it, and the strength that lifts us when our tiny wills merge with that stream of being is the sacred luminosity we experience as grace.
Once in the stream, the life of preparation ends, the life of defense ends, the measuring of individual traits ends. Fear somehow gives way to Trust. Control somehow evaporates into Surrender. The fish and stream are for the moment one. The sacred moment and God are always the same.There is nothing else to live for—even the declaration changes, for it is no longer a living for, but a living out. Always the inner out, and once out and kept open, the Whole flows in.
So, faith is no more than the willingness and bravery to enter and ride the stream.The mystery is that taking the risk to be so immersed in our moment of living in itself joins us with everything larger than us. And what is compassion but entering the stream of another without losing yourself?
I remember one summer I was at the window when a fly near the latch was on its back spinning, legs furious, going nowhere. I thought to swat it, but something in its struggle was too much my own. It kept spinning and began to tire. Without moving closer, I exhaled steadily, my breath a sudden wind, and the fly found its legs, rubbed its face and flew away. I continued to stare at the latch hoping that someday, the breath of something incomprehensible would right me and enable me to fly.