Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Still Small Voice

  Great ideas come into the world as gently as doves. Perhaps then, if we listen attentively, we shall hear amid the uproar of empires and nations, a faint flutter of wings, the gentle stirring of life and hope.

                       -- Albert Camus

      Are we listening attentively? Unless we are, we'll miss the summoning, the wake-up call, the beaconing voice of a New Consciousness which is struggling to birth right now, right here, at any moment of our lives. But what could be harder, while careening along on our globalized, digitalized, information superhighway, than to take the next exit and pull over; to simply stop and truly listen? And listen for what? For nothing out there, "amid the uproar of empires and nations." But rather--for a still, small voice like the faintest fluttering of wings--whispering from the innermost depths of our souls.


Not the barest swaying of a small branch
in the breeze this morning, not that. Not
a starling stretching out one wing, pecking
at its feathers. Not the thought of you
with both hands cradled around your
first cup of coffee. Not even the silence.
No, none of these...Not a single ant
crawling across the tabletop. And not
the farthest galaxy wildly cartwheeling
from the Big Bang! Not any kiss. Not
every tear. It can't be named by these...


      Another name we might use for this mysterious voice, however, is "intuition" -- a knowing which transcends emotion, imagination, conscience, intellect, will, senses, desire, instinct and experience, yet somehow encompasses all of them. There's only  a single, interior "bull's-eye" where the contradictory priorities of each of these many different poles of our beings can ever finally be integrated and reconciled--the human soul. Here alone the Timeless intersects time, the Infinite overarches space. Yet in a supremely materialistic age such as ours, in which the soul itself has been virtually rationalized out of existence, our task of radical rediscovery can scarcely be more difficult, or more essential. 

At the still point of the turning world.
Neither flesh nor fleshness;
Neither from nor towards:
At the still point, there the dance is.
But neither arrest nor movement.
And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered.

                      -- T. S. Eliot

     It's from Eliot's "still point of the turning world," where the dance is, that the still small voice of our intuition addresses us. And just as only a condition of completely open and attentive stillness may enable us at last to participate in that intuitive dance, so a comparable state of completely open and attentive silence is necessary before we can truly hear and respond to that intuitive inner voice. 


What we have no words for, never
stops speaking to us strangely inside,
although its voice is so terribly small,
so easily drowned out by the clamor
of pain, desire, or even some brief,
minor irritation, like a fly in the soup.

But there comes a moment when,
despite ourselves, awe spills across
every barricade we erect to repel it.
The ecstatic murmur of the universe
swells subversively, waking our souls,
and we shudder, flooded by grace!

Here's the huge, scandalous secret
we sleepwalkers still carry around.
Bit by bit, an incomparable lodestar--
our luminous wisdom, a holy gift!--
got shunted aside. Now we worship
things, money, power, status, self.

Ever since I realized this, I began to
die, over and over. And each time
I'm changed, reborn! The only way
I could recover the treasure I'd lost
was to break free from possession--
that suffocating armor of my fears.


     Nothing drowns out that still, small voice more drastically than fear. As long as I'm mesmerized and obsessed by my own particular demons of terror--or repressing them such that they control my life from the shadows--I can never hear the gentle, wise, intimate, redemptive, divine voice of my soul. So part of the unavoidable spiritual spade work I must do, is first to honestly face and then to courageously come to grips with, my worst, most crippling and addictive fears. As Carl Jung wrote: "There is no coming to consciousness without pain." But this also is true:

The pain was great when the strings
were being tuned, my Master!
Begin your music, and let me forget
the pain, let me feel in beauty
what you had in your mind
through those pitiless days.

        --Rabindranath Tagore


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