First off, don’t forget! Going into the Dark is just about a month away, and there’s still time for you to arrange calendar, relationships, obligations to give yourself the gift of a day of love, a day of peace, a day of depth. Go to Going into the Dark at The Way of the River to learn more!
Dear hearts –
The expression amor fati was first taught to me by a friend of mine, a young man about to turn 24, who was spending time with me in the Center for Women Students at Penn States. We would hang out there and discuss this and that and the other thing.
It was September of 1991, and I was 19. I was in the grip of the up-and-down of bipolar disorder. As in most autumns, I was rarely depressed. And besides, around Anthony, I regularly found my mood elevated. Who needed sleep when you could have poetry? Or time at dawn to learn to count in Russian by marching across campus, saying the numbers in time to our steps? Or play chess in the little, then-all-night diner on Pugh Street, the one that kept changing hands?
I wrote and wrote. I wrote about Queen Elizabeth the First, the Turning Year, burning down the cities of my relationships, the necessity for subtleness. (By the way, in case you’re new around here, and welcome to you, that subtleness I thought was so necessary is a concept, a way of being I have never achieved, not even a little.)
And it was from Anthony that I learned the concept of amor fati, the love of fate, as it were. In other contexts in which I’ve written, you might hear me refer to it as the embrace of one’s Wyrd, one’s destiny, the mission one was built for.
It is in these times that I find myself thinking a lot about Wyrd. What is my destiny—not my unchangeable, inexorable fate, not what is written permanently anywhere in any book—but what is it for which I am built?
My friend who has worked in places with disaster preparedness, hurricane and earthquake recovery and unaccompanied minor refugees is someone who is truly realizing his Wyrd. He is built to run toward the burning building; not for him to stand on the curb and watch.
One’s Wyrd is seldom easy. We wonder about free will – do we have it, or must we just act as though we have it? If things were different, as I like to say, things would be different.
I am the product of millions of years of life and longer on this planet. While I am unique in all of history and time (and of course, so are you), what is most important about me is that there is nothing, nothing about me from which I am separate, like it or not. There is no one, there is no thing—living, dead, sentient, “inanimate,” from which I can be divided. In Stone Circle Wicca, we call this reality, “sacredness-connectedness.” Perhaps not the most felicitous of language, but it gets to the heart of the matter.
Battles and bloodbaths. Buttercups and butterflies. The girl and the pirate who rapes her, as Thich Nhat Hah writes so compellingly in his poem “Call Me by My True Names.” I am part of all of these, and so are you. You cannot escape it. Reality only wins 100% of the time. And as Byron Katie says, it is better to fall in love with life, with reality, than to come to it with our hands wrapped for boxing.
I do not believe there is any “escape” from this Wheel, and I do not desire it. Instead, I remember that connection is an empirically observable reality, and that reverence is how I approach that reality, naming it sacred. And so sacredness-connectedness.
I say aaaaaalllll of that to say what Parker Palmer says: Let Your Life Speak. What are you built for? What can you do? In these times of unquiet desperation, how can you be one of the helpers Mister Rogers always advised us to look for? What is your platform, as it were, no matter how small? Even if you have limitations—and hello, Blanche, who doesn’t?—even limitations the world calls debilitating, you can be a way, you can do a thing, you can “get and spend” with wisdom and with care. You can be one of the helpers.
Because we are all connected, all actions have genuine consequences. If you act, speak, withdraw, jump in, make art, choreograph, wash dishes, tend wounds, inspire others, whatever it is…what it your Wyrd? Is there a dream of our ancestors that is yours to do? Or do you try to bring something new out of your heart, something never seen before?
You get the idea.
There is no point in resisting sacredness-connectedness – and that is not to say we are the Borg, Star Trek fans. Just because we are connected does not make us the same or interchangeable. On the contrary.
But accepting that things you hate about yourself act in your life just as much as those from which you do not recoil…this is a hard lesson, because those ugly things, those pieces of your Shadow, are part of your Wyrd, as well. How are you coming to terms with looking at your own neediness—is it power, love, domination, validation, fame? Neediness is more often than not from where the Shadow is. The Shadow—itself part of sacredness-connectedness—is nevertheless a place that is constantly sucking us away from our kinder impulses. Once we know it, confront it, do not turn away from it in ourselves or in our loved ones, then we are beginning to achieve some measure of wisdom, I think.
And if it is hard to admit in ourselves, it may be even harder to see in our loved ones. That is the case with me, at least. I want to believe the best, the highest, the deepest of those I love. But none of us is free from what is called evil. Not one of us has avoided hurting another—and sometimes we have known we were doing it and did it anyway. We have been wantonly cruel. And sometimes our Shadow has been driving the bus and we didn’t even know it, and we left a wake of suffering (pain that seems to have no end).
Speak for yourself, Catharine! I’m not like that. Perhaps you protest. And you are welcome to, of course. But I think I have made myself clear.
Your Shadow is ever with you. But so is your Wyrd, and I pray it is for good. And moreover, most important, we are connected, you and I and all the rest—as the song says, I need you to survive. You are sacred, you are holy, you are blessed and blessing.
Be well, beloved –