Saturday, October 4, 2014

Distilling Distraction: Contain the Longing


Usually the atmosphere surrounding the telling of Teig, “The One Without a Story,” fills with fun: the exuberance of fiddle playing, speaking with tongues, the magical surgeon’s touch, and the flights of fantasy. This time, however, the classroom during our fifth week together stayed heavier, with tired-out eyes, bodies willing to work but giving more sighs than laughter. Perhaps I should have anticipated this based on my ride a day earlier when Leg’cy was unusually sluggish. On campus, the initial spurt of the semester winds down and other activities, like rush, create distractions.
         Well, the theme of containment does carry the element of endurance. For Teig, the basket maker, to take the next step in a life’s career requires going past fun and on into matters that require just holding on, that demand persisting until transformation happens. If you were to fill in the blank, what would you write after this stem? Hold your ________________ .
         When I asked my wife, she immediately said, “hold your horses!” I was shocked she got that one and I didn’t. My first response was “hold your temper!” and we both got “hold your tongue!” I also seemed to recall something like “hold on to your pocketbook.”
         Early promptings from parents and others emphasize the theme of holding with guidance to control our anger and manage our money wisely.  For example, the deferral of immediate gratification allows us to turn an impulsive wish for ice cream into a more authentic purchase or investment. Finding the pearl of great price may depend on patient waiting; time is required for sand to polish the raw desire down to the true, the authentic, the perfectly rounded pearl.
         We know what happens when we don’t hold our temper, but what about when we do? Anger sometimes gives way to the deeper truth of sadness, and the endurance of grief works the desire for something lost or perhaps never fully had. A hydroelectric system includes a holding system, especially featuring the dam, and a release where the rush transforms the movement into electrical power.
          I wonder about this act of containing and about the process of transformation. Does holding always lead to change? One thing comes to mind that we are asked to hold that doesn’t seem to transform: the longing. The dimension of longing, of yearning, reminds me of the David Wilcox song “Break in the Cup.”
I cannot make you happy
I'm learning love and money never do
But I can pour myself out 'til I'm empty
Trying to be just who you'd want me to
I encourage you to follow the link and listen to the whole song, several times, to take in the progression of longing that Wilcox tells.
         The containment of longing also provides the tending of the field of resonance. I believe we are given that resonant magnetic connection with destiny, as we have explored in Good Stories; but, like any gift or talent or garden, it requires care. Antonio Machado’s poem teaches this. Without consulting my notes, Machado’s Spanish along with Robert Bly’s translation into English comes back into my memory this way:
Llamó a mi corazón, un claro día,
con un perfume de jazmín, el viento.
The wind one brilliant day called to my soul
with the aroma of jasmine.
In exchange for this jasmine odor,
I’ll take the roses of your garden.
No tengo rosas, all the flowers of my garden are gone.
Then I’ll take your dried-up stems, the waters of your fountain,
and your dusty petals.
Y el viento huyó—and the wind left.
Mi corazón sangraba—my heart broke and I wept.
Alma! I called to my soul.
What have I done with the garden given to my trust!


         The longing each person is given makes for a sacred gift connecting with the source. The resonant core needs tending, like a garden. One particular story comes to my mind to take us further as we explore with care this theme of longing and to guide our embodiment of our destiny. The Kuan Yin story tells of a culture that is possessed by distraction and how a visitation leads to love. Transformation of the superficial state requires memorization, understanding, and actualization or embodied living. This is gardening our lives and stewardship of the pearl of longing.