My friend David submitted a post on Facebook this week that struck a deep chord within me.
David works, lives and practices in a spiritual community. His post was a thoughtful reflection on the ongoing impact of his mentor and teacher, Steve. “…I’m surprised at how much he continues to teach me, even since his death. In some ways, his teachings are more alive and profound to me than ever before, with an expression that has become strangely, physically resonant and palpable… Deep gratitude for his ongoing presence and support in my life.”
I commented on David’s heartfelt post how helpful it was to read these words… his experience of his teacher reminds me of several of my mentors who have now died and yet they live on as a soul-force in my life.
Lines from a poem that arose from memory came to mind… an underground network… I have italicized the words that arose from memory from Wendy Maclean’s poem…
The Chaos of Rhizomes
Do not be afraid of the tangling, wandering chaos of rhizomes. You do not own the green of the grass You cannot make the rain court the tender blades You are not the keeper of the seeds
The strength that breaks through concrete is only a grass stain or a tickle in your nose when you’re lying in a meadow
The network is underground like the prayers of long-dead saints working miracles out of season.
You do not know where you start or where you end in this clump of earth. So just enjoy the growing and the dandelions that interrupt your plans with yellow disdain for certainty.
The poet offers me two playful possibilities about this underground network of long-dead saints.
There is the ancient Christian understanding that the saints intercede for the living- they advocate for us and their constant love for us activates grace in the world.
The other understanding for me is that their love has been ‘time-delayed-activated’… their actions, intentions, prayers and love have an emerging effect… almost imperceptible… invisible… indiscernible… until they are revealed in the present moment as miracles out of season… small active tendrils of reality that continue to grow deep below the surface until they break through the cracks of the world… these roots surface as you and me. And so it will be with my love and prayers someday… offered for the next generation as an underground network of compassion.
And so Steve’s loving presence continues to push through the surface of David’s heart in a way that is ‘strangely, physically resonant and palpable’.
As I was pondering this, I have been reading over the Christmas break from Jean Vanier’s Community and Growth… although this reading below is about the living people of deep prayer and practice, I wonder if ‘hidden pumps irrigating dry land’ might also include our mentors who are no longer alive in body. And so I begin this new year with a deep gratitude for all my ‘lightning conductors of grace’…
I’m deeply convinced that people of action can do nothing unless they are in communion and rely on those who accept their own suffering, immobility, and prayer, and offer these to bring life. Men and women of prayer, hidden in monasteries and hermitages, sometimes living in great pain, are like hidden pumps irrigating dry land… people who are old and sick and offer themselves to God can become the most precious members of a community- lightening conductors of grace, secret pumps. There is a mystery in the secret strength of those who bodies are broken, who seem to do nothing all day, but who remain in the presence of God. Their immobility obliges them to keep their minds and hearts fixed on the essential, on the source of life itself.