Skyline, Fall - 2003

By Diane Pendola

Our Field Of Love

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing
There is as field
I’ll meet you there

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Here at Skyline, a group of us have been gathering once a month to celebrate what we call “Earth Liturgy”.  “Liturgy,” derived from the Greek, has sometimes been translated, “the people’s work”.   So we come together to celebrate our work as earth’s people: the work of love, of awareness and of conscious communion with the entire web of life. We share, in a sacred way, our prayers and our fears, the sources of our hope and the essence of our faith, rooting our circle and ourselves in our shared love for this earth: our common ground.

We used these few lines from the sixteenth century Persian mystic and poet, Rumi, as the organizing theme for one of our Earth Liturgies. It has been running through my mind ever since. I have been thinking particularly about the “field” beyond wrong-doing and right-doing, especially in this time of ever greater polarization within and between families, communities, religions, political parties, nations and the world community. I am certainly aware of my own tendency to collapse into one or the other of these poles within myself: right or wrong, good or evil, true or false, and the desire to defend my own position at the expense of another. We witnessed the devastating effects of this polarized thinking in the nineteen men who were convinced of the rightness of their cause when they commandeered planes filled with ordinary men, women and children, and flew them i nto buildings full of more ordinary men, women and children. In the aftermath of that devastating watershed event, and the great changes that have ensued in the United States and around the world as a result, I ask myself, what is this field beyond wrong-doing and right doing?

What is this “third” underlying the polarity of right and wrong? Is it something greater than us, greater than our individual identities and opinions? Is it something that holds us in relation despite ourselves, despite our hunkering down on our own positions and perspectives? Beyond right doing and wrongdoing there is a field. Beyond “doing” there is a field where we can meet. It must be the field of “being”, that place where we share a common source, a unity, a place where we are in relation one to the other. Call it a “web of life” a “communion of subjects”. Call it the “silence beneath the word”. Call it the “formless beneath the form.” Call it the “field of Love.”

The discovery of this field implies both an inward and an outward journey. An inward journey because it is through entering my own interior depths, and becoming familiar with the patterns of my thoughts, the inner territory of my mind, the habits of my heart, that I come to understand the passions that drive me to identify with one pole or another. It is at that point of identification that I lose the field. But, if I am self-observant, it is precisely in this moment of identification that I can “let go” of my point of view so as to access the field  that underlies it, the field of love that holds the polarities. This quality of awareness and detachment is the subject of contemplative practices across the spectrum of religious traditions. It is why I pray, meditate, ritualize and worship.

But I am not an isolated individual. I am part of an interdependent web that involves my family and community, my nation and my world. I do not exist alone. No matter how reclusive a life I might live I am always at the center of an inextricable web of relationships. So it is not surprising that the passions and polarities, the battles and conflicts I experience within myself are also mirrored in the larger world around me. And conversely the wars and violence raging in the world are engaged within my own being. The more deeply I enter myself, the more deeply I enter the world of which my “self” is constituted. It is in transforming my “self” that the world is transformed. To live more and more fully in the field, in the non-dual, in the present moment, is to find myself as integral to the whole. There, divisions cease. I think it is what Jesus meant when he said: Love your neighbor as your self. Listen to the whole of Rumi’s poem:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing,
There is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
The world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
Doesn’t make any sense.

(Rumi, Open Secret, p 8)

In this field the inner and outer journey become one journey as I recognize the essential unity that Love implies. Even the phrase each other doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t make sense if I know the whole of the human family, even the whole of creation, as one body, as my body. In Christian language this is the Body of Christ. The whole of creation, the whole of the cosmos, labors to give birth to this conscious awareness of our basic unity in the field of Love.

This laboring, this birth giving, entails suffering. The cross can be a meaningful symbol of this intersection of the inner and outer, where my personal suffering meets a suffering humanity, a suffering earth. As I take into myself the suffering of the world, I also suffer. In Christian theology this suffering becomes redemptive precisely through the crucible of love through which it passes: the human heart. In Buddhist terms, I realize that my own desire to be free from suffering and the causes of suffering is shared by every sentient being. By allowing the suffering of other beings to touch my heart I learn the meaning of compassion and through my practice of compassion recognize our common suffering and work for our shared liberation. Somehow it seems our willingness to “suffer with” is itself a transformative power.

Today I am aware of too much suffering. I’m certain that each of us reading these words suffer greatly in the awareness of the pain, loss, grief, war and hatred that runs through our planet like blood through our veins. It spills into our living rooms and cars and public places through the airwaves and leaves us feeling bereft, angry, fearful, numb. How do we find the field? How do we find our common ground? The Iraqis and the Americans; the Palestinians and the Israelis; the right wing and the left wing; the Catholics and Protestants; the Muslims and the Hindus: we all share one Earth. We share the one thin living atmosphere that cradles the earth and beyond which is the vacuum of lifeless space. We share the waters that fall through that atmosphere as rain, that gather in rivers and lakes and streams, that flow into our oceans and are gathered again into clouds to fall in eternal return upon the land. We share our dependency on the gratuitousness of the plants and the animals that feed us, the beauty of the flowers and the humming birds and the sunsets that sustain our souls. We are held in the curve of the gravitational field of this living planet, held in its orbit by the sheer attraction of love, by the bond that holds each thing in the universe to everything else in an inescapable togetherness of things. (The Universe Story, p.25)

In the end, we may find that the field of Love transcends space and time. We may find that it shares its essential nature with that intelligence that gave rise to our universe and our living planet out of apparent nothingness. But for us embodied beings, this planet is our common ground. Without it all poetry, all music, all prayer, all worship, all family bonds, all duty to country, all national loyalty, all beauty, every thing that makes our lives worthy of living, is naught.

We each need to take our stand in this world. We need to speak our truth. But as we do, let us remember the ground upon which we stand. Let us remember we do not own or possess it. It is our common ground. It is our field of Love.

Sources: The Universe Story, Brian Swimme & Thomas Berry; Second Simplicity: The Inner Shape of Christianity, Bruno Barnhart; Open Secret, John Moyne & Coleman Burks. Recommended Film: Winged Migration

©Diane Pendola, Fall 2003. 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.

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