Planetary pilgrims, intertwined

Opinion: Ken Trainor

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By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children, as living arrows, are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Kahlil Gibran

The Prophet


Imagine a Friday evening, heading to Hyde Park to see August Wilson's extraordinary generational tragedy and powerful cry for dignity, King Headley II, and learning that your voice teacher, mentor, and artistic anchor of 50 years, from the time you were 12, has taken a turn for the worst and entered hospice and is not expected to survive. 

Imagine also being on birth alert as your son and daughter-in-law, past due, are expecting any moment your first grandchild.

And that these are not the only major life transitions converging in your life, conducting your emotions like so many parts of an orchestra. Imagine that when you mention all this to friends at dinner, one says, "Sunrise … Sunset," alluding to that most poignant of songs from Fiddler on the Roof:

Sunrise, Sunset, swiftly flow the days … swiftly fly the years. 

One season following another, laden with happiness and tears.

Imagine how swiftly that weekend would fly if your teacher died later that night and Saturday afternoon, your son and daughter-in-law headed to the hospital, and, after a pins-and-needles evening, early Sunday morning, under a full Harvest Moon, a beautiful girl child was born. And then you came across a blog post online with the aforementioned words of Kahlil Gibran, including that lovely line, "They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself."

Imagine such a weekend, laden with happiness and tears. A weekend laden with so little sleep. Life has a way of doing that. Life doesn't always respect circadian rhythms. 

We are all pilgrims, or at least so said Edward Hays in his treasure of a book, Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim:

"This is a handbook for a traveler on a sacred journey," he wrote in 1989, "a pilgrim who lives on a planet traveling in three different ways at the same time."

The first journey is the earth spinning on its axis, roughly every 24 hours, with its sunrises and sunsets. The second is the earth's journey around the sun roughly every 365 days — how swiftly fly those years. And finally, Hays writes, "Earth, as a member of a solar family composed of the sun and nine planets and their moons, is also racing outward into space at 43,000 miles an hour. … To what sacred destination is our planet traveling, together with the rest of our cosmic colony and the other colonies of stars and planets of this great universe?"

Hays adds, "Three great questions present themselves to those who travel and live upon this planet: 'Where did I come from?' 'Where am I going?' and 'Why am I here?' To seek a sacred answer to these questions is to be a planetary pilgrim. Such a person believes that all life came from the Divine Mystery and is forever on a spiraling journey back to that Sacred Source of creation."

Such pilgrims, he writes, are "cosmic amphibians," i.e. "a twofold mystery of body and spirit," just as the planet's 24-hour rotation is divided into day and night by our relationship to the Sun. One day we are born, and someday we die. Happiness and tears.

In his "Psalm for the Dying," Hays writes:

Relatives and friends, I am about to leave; my last breath does not say "goodbye," for my love for you is truly timeless, beyond the touch of boney death.

I leave myself not to the undertaker, for decoration in his house of the dead, but to your memory, with love. …

I give you what no thief can steal, the memories of our times together: the tender, love-filled moments, the successes we have shared, the hard times that brought us closer together, and the roads we have walked side by side. …

And all I take with me as I leave is your love and the millions of memories of all that we have shared. So I truly enter my new life as a millionaire.

Fear not nor grieve at my departure, you whom I have loved so much, for my roots and yours are forever intertwined.

Imagine such a weekend, the one a friend just lived. Farewell, dear Gisela. Welcome, sweet Jordan. One journey of love ends and another begins, as if the torch has been passed from one beloved to the next. Can you imagine? I imagine you can­­—and likely have.

Sunrise and sunset, birth and death, happiness and tears, planetary pilgrims, all of us forever intertwined.

How could life not feel sacred?


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