Friday, April 20, 2018


Some people say: 'Alas, sir, I wish I stood as well with my spiritual life and devotions, that I had as much devotion and were as much at peace with the Spirit as others are, I wish I were like them, or that I were so poor'; 'I can never manage it unless I go here or there, or do this or that. I must get away from it all, go and live in a cell or a cloister.'
--advices from Master Eckhart

Eckhart, spiritual guide and mystic, wrote on the subject of finding peace and comfort in the world. From his view it's dependent upon the fact that the reason for unease lies entirely with yourself and with nothing else, though you may not know it or believe it: restlessness  arises in you as the self-as-it-wills; whether you own it or not.
We may think a person must avoid certain things or people; that they seek other places, people or methods, company or activity.  Yet according to Eckhart, none is the reason why you find yourself held back: it's you yourself in the pursuit of those things which prevents one, 'for you have an inaccurate regard towards things."

Therefore he recommends one start first with oneself. Observe yourself.  In truth, unless you let go first of yourself, whatever you try, you will find obstacles. There will be indecision and restlessness, no matter where you are. 
If people seek peace in outward things, places or methods or in people or in deeds, the elimination of other people, poverty, humiliation, however great or small, is all in vain because it garners no peace. Why? Eckhart would say that its lack is due to the pursuit, rather tyhan opening ones' hand in the stillness of the world many seek forcefully to acquire.

 What does often result is that this chase, the pursuit of the desired result itself becomes the focus, a sort of ends though not one which often results in spiritual or other peace.
Observe yourself, and wherever you find yourself, leave yourself: that is the very best way, because we often find ourselves in ways and places we did not first imagine. Yet we are there, and that may not be a poor place to be. The spirit moves as it will. May we move likewise.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

*Maya Angelou Crackers Sometimes

"When they go, Ghana will be here. They are like mice on an elephant's back. They will pass...He is just part of Africa." --All God's Children Need  Traveling Shoes by Maya Angelou

The American writer and poet, Maya Angelou was among the last of a generation who were raised under the full weight of segregation. As a child in rural Stamps, Arkansas, Ms. Angelou was privileged to be the grand daughter of a land owning woman with an independent business in the village of Stamps. From her relatively secure position, she became educated and an inveterate reader of all types of literature.
Steeped in the ways of the old South, by necessity, Ms. Angelou's early life formed a resolute character that later supported her as she forged forward to New York's Harlem in the 1950's. A supporter of Martin Luther King and later of Malcolm X, she earned her "radical" stripes early.

Reading her work chronicled together as an autobiography is an eye-opening journey with a brave and determined woman. But she also shows herself to be like anyone anywhere; Ms. Angelou is not perfect.
She repeatedly retorts with prejudices of her own youth and despite her extensive literary style, does at times pejoratively refer to some as "crackers". For the casual reader of Ms. Angelou, this may come as a surprise. She, these days, is perhaps equally well known as one whose words accompany Hallmark greeting cards. Yet a more thorough reading of her works reveals a woman who is complex and honest enough to admit her thoughts and what she learns.  
All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes has many nuggets; one in particular is when as the focus of the tale, Maya emigrates to Ghana, intending to leave all the strife behind in America. In Ghana she is surprised and repeatedly confronted with the unexpected:

"Professor, why you let them disturb your heart?"
 I stuttered... 
"They were insulting my people. I just couldn't sit there." 
His smiled never changed. "And your people, they my people?"
"Yes but--I mean American Blacks."
"They been insulted before?"
"And they still live?"
"Yes, but... they also insulted Ghana, your country."
"Oh Sister, as for that one, it is nothing..." 
He said, "This is not their place. In time they will pass. 
Ghana was here when they came. When they go, Ghana will be here. 
They are like mice on an elephant's back. They will pass."

She is then astonished that a simple Ghanaian man could be so secure in this knowledge that he could ignore another's rudeness. 
He concludes his thought with the observation, that even that man, he is also a part of Africa, a place made of many nations, peoples and cultures. Despite many false starts, Ms. Angelou comes to learn that she too has a place while not as a returned African, but as a living, breathing "Black American" in Africa.
This story tells her tale. Spiritually it is poignant in her struggle for understanding of herself and others; she makes sense of the precept of meeting one another on level ground, neither better no worse, telling her experience as she perceives it.

*Ms. Angelou observed her 86th birthday April 4, 2013