Rilke wrote, “I want to unfold, I don’t want to stay folded anywhere, because where I am folded, there I am a lie.” We got folded by trying as hard as we could to make everyone happy, to please everyone, and to fill every moment with productivity. Our grownups said this would bring approval, and approval would bring satisfaction, and they would like us more. But we also learned to sabotage ourselves so they wouldn’t feel eclipsed. We got folded and fooled into airless states of accomplishment, estrangement from ourselves, squandering our very short lives.
Self-importance fueled by performance anxiety, people-pleasing, sloth, and bad self-esteem, wrapped us into small crisp squares like professionally laundered shirts.
I was there this week. I liked it briefly, because folded feels like home, small, familiar, hugged. I like smells of soap and steam and starch. Then it becomes oppressive and disorienting. Even a lot of caffeine and cheery new curtains don’t help.
We got creased in those places such a long time ago that it seems hopeless to begin the great unfolding now. I am not sure we got strong at the broken places, although people love to say this happens.
When other people look hunched or pummeled, I know what to do and say, to help them recolonize their bodies and lives. I say: Stop the train. Be where your butt is. Maybe shift from foot to foot, as in chanting kirtan, or swaying a baby t sleep, because ritualized shifting keeps you a little shaken up- good shaken, unstuck. I would say: life can be painful, but I am right here, and you have a good heart. This heart is who you are, not your bad mind.
But this unfolding could man we miss deadlines, by days or decades, ending our careers and harming our standing. Our parents bit the bullet, stayed in bad marriages, kept jobs they hated. That is the American way.
The path away from judgment of self and neighbor requires major mercy, both giving and horribly, receiving. Going without either of them leads to fundamentalism of all stripes, and fundamentalism is the bane of poor Mother Earth.
There should be an app, with a checklist or map. But no, the way out takes admitting that you’re wrong and sorry. No, no anything but that. Forgiving people makes you weak. To have borne broken hearts and seen such broken lives around the world is what gave us a shot at becoming mercy people.
One has to be done with the pretense of being just fine, unscarred, perfectly self-sufficient. No one is.
mercy isn’t about proving your goodness or your platitudes…..it’s about raw wounds….
inquiry for today~ where will you seek mercy within the confines of your virtues?
We are flesh and blood and bone. There are those for whom this reality is not a homecoming but a matter of day-to-day survival. Mystics and monastics pray on embodied behalf of those who can’t. In a century of staggering open questions, hope becomes a calling for those of us who can hold it, for the sake of the world. Hope is distinct, in my mind, from optimism or idealism. It has nothing to do with wishing. It references reality at every turn and reveres truth. It lives open-eyed and wholehearted with the darkness that is woven ineluctably into the light of life and sometimes seems to overcome it. Hope, like every virtue, is a choice that becomes a practice that becomes spiritual muscle memory. It’s a renewable resource for moving through life as it is, not as we wish it to be.