Skyline, Fall - 2002

By Diane Pendola

The Time Is Now

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I write this on the anniversary of September 11, although most of you will receive it on or about September 22, the autumnal equinox. The equinox is that time of year when the length of the day and the length of the night is relatively equal. Darkness and Light are in balance. But at the autumn equinox we anticipate the days shortening and the nights stretching toward the winter solstice. It is only then, on the shortest day of the year, we permit ourselves to celebrate the light. It is then we ritualize, in a myriad of ways and through a diversity of cultural and spiritual traditions, the victory of light over darkness. At the winter solstice the world turns again towards the light of lengthening days and the surety that light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. But at the autumn equinox we anticipate the long dark nights ahead, perhaps with some dread at our capacity to endure them.

What I have to say in this issue of Earthlines is nothing original, although it originates from a longing I perceive to be universal. But if you will permit me to speak personally to this longing, I will tell you for what I long. I long for kindness to fill our dark nights and courage and integrity to fill our days. I long for the time when the lion lies down with the lamb. I long for the time when nation no longer raises sword against nation. I long for the time when we study peace, not war; when our institutions are dedicated to waging peace and deepening peace. I long for the time when my country commits a billion dollars a day to cultivating peace and the works of peace: feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, liberating the oppressed. I long for the day when we take the words of Jesus to heart: to love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us. I long for the time when we honor the words from the Hebrew Scripture: “Go and learn the meaning of this, I require mercy and not sacrifice.”

At times like these, I fall back like a child on my mother’s breast, taking in the nourishment of the sacred words of the tradition into which I was born. But as an adult I am well aware of how this very tradition has been used and abused to serve nationalism, racism, murder and oppression of every kind and hue. And with 9-11 it appears that no religious tradition has been spared a reckoning with its own shadow.

So where am I to go? Psychologically sophisticated, educated to the pit-falls of religious passion, fundamentalism and fanaticism, to what well do I go to drink of the waters of Life? Where are the sacred waters now that our wells have been poisoned and polluted by the very traditions that were meant to carry them forward through time, quenching the thirst of a suffering world?

It seems to me I must go to the waters within myself. It seems there is a maturity being asked of me, of us, in and by the spirit of the very founders of the traditions that we honor: Jesus asks us to transform our own consciousness into the consciousness of Christ; Gautama asks us to awaken to the Buddha within our own nature. The Earth herself asks us to realize the inseparable connection of our bodies with her Body, our lives with her Life. We are asked to become spiritual adults, aware of the choices before us. The Hebrew Scriptures poise the choices succinctly: “I set before you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life, then, so that you and your descendents may live.”

At this point in our human story it feels like we are indeed balanced between darkness and light. With the on-going talk of war with Iraq and against terrorism will we choose blessing or curse, life or death? It seems that the choice we are facing could be the beginning of the end of life as we know it- and I don’t mean simply the end of our civil liberties or our American way of life. I mean the end of life for our descendents. I mean the end of the beautiful magnificence of our common earth.

There is a saying, “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.” I desire peace, even as I feel the un-peace in my own heart, even as I see my ability to create enemies to project my own un-peace upon. I long for peace and it is this longing that emboldens me to turn and face the shadow I carry within myself. I choose to face the violence within my own heart and touch it with something bigger than violence. I choose to turn and face the fear in my belly and touch it with something bigger than fear. I choose to touch violence with the tenderness of a Christ heart. I choose to touch fear with the spaciousness of a Buddha belly. I choose to touch the ignorance, the suffering, the madness within myself with the confidence of stardust in my soul and earthlight in my bones. I am convicted that the greatest contribution I can make to peace in the world is to make peace in myself. I know that it is not the quantity of my doing that will make any essential difference in the world but the quality of my being. And for that I am ultimately responsible.

Perhaps this is where the original longing comes from, spilling out from the great “I AM”, the Divine Source, God, Allah, Yahweh, the Great Mystery whose name is beyond all names, but whose attributes we all tend to agree upon: Peace. Light. Blessing. Life.

We have studied war for thousands of years. We have practiced war. We have experienced the curse, the death and the devastating consequences of war. I long for the time we pound our swords into ploughshares, our spears into sickles. I long for the time Christ returns to earth. I long for the time the Buddha awakens. The time is now. Now is the only time there is.

©Diane Pendola, September 2002. You are welcome to print or make a copy in electronic form for personal use or sharing with interested persons as long as the copyright notice is not removed or altered. Please do not print it in any other publication, or sell it, by itself or as part of another work, without express written permission of the author. Thank you!

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