The General Dance

When we are alone on a starlit night; when by chance we see the migrating birds of autumn descending on a grove of junipers to rest and eat; when we see children in a moment when they are really children; when we know love in our own heart; or when, like the Japanese poet Basho we hear an old frog land in a quiet pond with a solitary splash—at such times the awakening, the turning inside out of all values, the “newness,” the emptiness and the purity of vision that make themselves evident, provide a glimpse of the cosmic dance.

42-25254327

Credit: Gyro Photography

For the world and time are the dance of the Lord in emptiness. The silence of the spheres is the music of a wedding feast. The more we persist in misunderstanding the phenomena of life, the more we analyze them out into strange finalities and complex purposes of our own, the more we involve ourselves in sadness, absurdity and despair. But it does not matter much, because no despair of ours can alter the reality of things, or stain the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there. Indeed, we are in the midst of it, and it is in the midst of us, for it beats in our very blood, whether we want it to or not. 

Yet the fact remains that we are invited to forget ourselves on purpose, cast our awful solemnity to the winds and join in the general dance. (Thomas Merton, The New Seeds of Contemplation)

42-17792809

Credit: Bill Byrne

My wife Kathy is not a napper. I’ve sung her praises in at least one previous blog post, but she and I differ on the matter of midday oblivion. It occurs to me that she and I also approach shamatha differently. My calm abiding tends to be self-referential (i.e. naval gazing), while Kathy mostly looks outward at the world and others to find meaning. This is not to say that she lacks self-awareness and I am captive to my own reflection; rather, we have different spiritual styles.

It helps to acknowledge this. For a couple weeks my karma’s been cramped and bitter, and it may be because I’m stuck in my own awful solemnity, analyzing the phenomenon of my life into strange finalities. In other words, I need to get out of my naval and out into the general dance, which has been going on around me all these days of my funkification.

In fact, the cosmic or general dance—whatever you want to call it—has been getting a bit out of hand, especially in Kathy’s land of shamatha, the Coleman backyard. Check out this short gallery I took a couple weeks ago of God and Kathy dancing.

IMG_1085

Evidence of this being the Coleman’s driveway? A garage at the end; that’s about it.

IMG_1081

A clematis vine taking over the hedge and gardening tool shelf.

IMG_1080

Behind the foliage is a grill. When I cook, I look like Arte Johnson on “Laugh In.”

IMG_1079

Getting in the backdoor requires dancing with greenery.

IMG_1095

The dance isn’t restricted to the backyard. It plays inside, too, on the kitchen windowsill. You have to move plants to open the window.

IMG_1107

An orange tree took over the breakfast table until friend Claudia adopted it last week.

As plant life took over our property inside and out, pineapple-sized grandson-to-be has been shaking his groove thing under the firmament of daughter Elena’s belly.

photo

Elena with dancing future grandson.

No matter how much I try to turn the joy beating in my very blood to hot dog water, frogs keep inviting me to splash into ponds with them. Mint leaves wait for me to pick them and lift them to my nose. The clematis overtaking the hedge hopes I’ll stand still and receive its gladness. My future grandson is generally dancing and wants his gramps to join him. Kathy says, “You need to go outside and look!”

Forget yourself, Coleman. Go outside. Breathe. Know shamatha. Cast yourself dancing to the winds.

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “The General Dance

  1. Thanks for sharing the thoughts of Merton, and yours. Again I very much enjoyed the way you succeed in being both serious and light-hearted at the same time!
    – Just one practical remark: the font size of the text, particularly in the quote, is so small that it is hard to read, at least for my aging eyes…

    • Thanks for the kind words, Maarit. And thanks for the heads up about font size. I have to enlarge my screen to read it myself. I’m working on making the default size larger, but ugh. Peace, John

  2. John,

    I found another typo. Sorry. You typed in twice in Merton’s quote.”the more we involve ourselves in in sadness, …

    Have a great day me love. I can pick Micah up from therapy if you’d like. Gonna go to cycling class at 5:30,

    Sent from my iPad

  3. It is January 24 2017 and a wealth of writing (yours and Merton’s) have joined together with Richard Rohr’s in dance for me to find and revel in. A universe’s conspiracy of winking and waving and invitations to come out to play (Pema Chodron) again reaches me and eases my troubled heart. Thank you.

    • Hi, Leslie. Wow, Thomas Merton and Pema Chodron . . . two of my spiritual masters, from a distance anyway. I’m glad our paths have crossed. Peace and best, John

Leave a reply.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s