At Home in the World

Modified on: April 1, 2019

“O tell me Poet what you do? – I praise.
But the deathly and the monstrous,
How do you bear them, how resist? – I praise.” (Rainer Maria Rilke)

Under the stars, I stand at the edge of our continent, listening to the dark sea. It is my daughter’s birthday. We have celebrated all week, culminating in a day of joy. But far away a friend is in crisis. Another friend, only a short time ago, questioned why she was in the world at all. Why stay in a place of such pain? The beauty and darkness of our entwined lives fills my thoughts.

In grief at the death of her hero and friend, Maya Angelou praised the life of Nelson Mandela:

“His day is done….
The news came on the wings of a wind,
reluctant to carry its burden….
Born into the brutal embrace of Apartheid,
scarred by the savage atmosphere of racism,
unjustly imprisoned
in the bloody maws of South African dungeons.
Would the man survive?
Could the man survive?
His answer strengthened men and women
around the world….
He had not been crippled by brutes,
nor was his passion for the rights
of human beings
diminished by twenty-seven years of imprisonment….
He has offered us understanding.
We will not withhold forgiveness
even from those who do not ask….
Nelson Mandela’s day is done,
we confess it in tearful voices,
yet we lift our own to say
thank you.”

From pain, strength and praise. Darkness overwhelms each of us, and in each of us undiminished light shines. They are not separate. Light and dark are the fullness of us, trying to find a way to live in this difficult and beautiful world.

When our time to leave this strange home comes, may the word we utter, and the word sung by our friends, be just this: “Thank you.”

— Scott

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