THE LEGEND OF HELIOPHER

Once upon a time there was a people that was lost in a great, dark forest. The trees stood so close together that the light of the sun could not penetrate the thickly entwined branches. There were also numerous wild animals which fell upon the people, especially the children when they wandered too far from their parents while they were playing. So everyone lived in constant fear of death and destruction, and a hopeless despair took hold of the hearts of the folk.

Continuous darkness had strangled all the light in their hearts. They could not love one another any more. They even hated and murdered one another in their rage. Yet they were forced to remain together, for it was impossible for any single man to defend himself against the attacks of the wild beasts. They had lost all hope of ever finding their way out of the forest. Many of the young people refused to believe in the light they had never seen, and they mocked their elders, when, with a last weak light gleaming in their dim eyes, they recounted tales of the festive, sunny days of their youth.

Among the people, however, there was a young man called Heliopher. He was very much alone, grieving over the misery of his people and seeking a way of salvation. He bore in his heart an endless longing for light and love in the desolation which surrounded him. Heliopher left his people to seek the sun. For many months and years he wandered through the dangers of the forest and of his own soul, and often, very often, nearly lost all hope and confidence. But Heliopher bravely withstood his enemies, whether within himself or around him, and at last he reached the edge of the forest and saw the light of the sun. In terrible amazement he fell into a swoon, and when he awoke he saw in the twilight that he was watched over in his slumber by beautiful people. In the green meadows stood the simple huts of the sun-people, and Heliopher lived with them in peace and endless joy as the most beloved amongst them.

Then Heliopher went back to the forest to seek his people. “Come, brothers and sisters,” he said to them, “I will lead you to the light.” At this there was murmuring and frowning, wavering and hesitation, wonder and questioning, incredulous laughter, and finally a jubilant “Yes!” And then, at last, the longed-for departure.

Then the light of the sun shone in Heliopher’s eyes, but the way was long and difficult, and demanded much suffering and sacrifice, and murmuring arose among the people. Some spoke and said, “Let us murder him, the betrayer of the people!” And the dark glow of hatred was in their eyes. Others were wiser and said, “No! Let us judge him in the presence of all, for it is dangerous to give the people a martyr.” And Heliopher spoke to his people, and talked about light and love. But the wise ones answered, “You lie! There is no light, there is no sun, there is no love. Let us be darker than the forest and more cruel than the wild beasts. Then we shall be masters of the forest!”

Heliopher answered in great pain, “O believe not, ye wise men, that ye can be victorious over darkness by being more dark, that ye can overcome the wild beasts by being more beastly. Only love is stronger. Only the light of the sun can drive away darkness.”

“Be silent!” said the wise men. “There is no light, there is no sun!”

And the people shouted, flinging their arms about in raging despair, “There is no light, there is no sun!”

But Heliopher called out, “Follow me!” And with his nails he tore open his breast, and his heart burned with love, and it glowed and shed its beams through the dark forest. Then he took it in both hands, held it high over his head, and strode forth in front of the people.

In reverent wonder and silence the multitude followed the burning heart.

And the people went in jubilation toward the sun and danced in its loving rays, and they loved one another. But Heliopher knelt down at the edge of the forest, and with the last strength of his outstretched arms he held up his loving, pulsing heart to the light of heaven, and gave his last smile to his people.

Source: First published in Plough’s Winter 1938 issue
based on Maxim Gorky’s story
“The Flaming Heart of Danko.”

CONSIDER THIS

“I wish each of us Easter eyes, able to perceive in death, life; in guilt, forgiveness; in separation, unity; in wounds, glory; in the human, God; in God, the human; and in the I, the You.” – Bishop Klaus Hemmerle

THE BOAT RACE

There was a great race between a team of the wise and a team of the foolish. The wise people won by a mile. So the foolish people hired a expert to figure out what went wrong. He reported that the wise people had one person steering and eight people rowing, while they had eight people steering and only one person rowing.

“Aha,” said the foolish people who immediately restructured their team: Now they had one senior manager, seven management consultants, and  one rower. In the rematch, the wise people won by two miles!

After further intensive consultations, the foolish people fired their rower!

Source: unknown origin

CONSIDER THIS

In the above story reality was staring the  team of the foolish in the face, but they just couldn’t see it. The fully lived life is all about seeing, seeing differently, seeing things as they really are.  It has been said that “We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are.”

“The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust

FILL IN THE BLANK

A successful businessman was invited to address a group of young executives on the subject of opportunities. He began his talk by tacking to the wall a big sheet of white paper and placing a black dot in the middle of the sheet. “What do you see?” he asked, pointing to the paper on the wall. “A black spot,” called out everyone in the audience. “Yes, I see a black dot too,” replied the speaker, “but none of you saw the much greater expanse of white. This is the point of my talk on opportunities.”

Source: Ralph Woods, Wellsprings of Wisdom
C. R. Gibson Co; 1st edition (January 1, 1969)

CONSIDER THIS

While it is so easy to focus on the “black dots” – the immediate tasks that face us each day – how often do you grasp the opportunities that no one else notices in the white space?

You might be tempted to say that you don’t have the time to notice the white space. Do you ever find yourself daydreaming? When you do, you’re visiting the big white canvas of possibility. The question is: Do you recognize your ability to bring those daydreams to fruition?

Try making a list of the urgent longings of your heart, your dreams, your desires.  Write them down. When you finish, place an asterisk next to the five you would most like to accomplish or experience.

Finally, make those five items the “black dots” upon which you will focus your attention until completed. Once identified, it becomes much easier to concentrate your attention on them. Opportunity knocks!

THE EYES TO SEE

A writer arrived at the monastery to write a book about the Master. “People say you are a genius. Are you?” he asked.

“You might say so,” said the Master with a smile.

“And what makes one a genius?” asked the intrepid reporter.

“The ability to see,” said the Master.

The writer was betwixt and between. Scratching his hair with one hand and rubbing his tummy with the other, he muttered, “To see what?”

The Master quietly replied, “The butterfly in a caterpillar, the eagle in an egg, the saint in a selfish person, life in death, unity in separation, the divine in the human and the human in the divine.”

Source: Based on Anthony de Mello, One Minute Wisdom
(Image; Reprint edition, 1988)  page 206

See also Peter  Van Breeman,  The God Who Won’t Let Go (Ave Maria Press, 2001) page 98

CONSIDER THIS

In the Easter letter before his death, Bishop Klaus Hemmerle of Aachen wrote, “I wish each of us Easter eyes, able to perceive in death, life; in guilt, forgiveness; in separation unity; in wounds glory; in the human, God; in God, the human; and in the I, the You.”

 

 

TWO BAD BRICKS

After we purchased the land for our monastery in 1983 we were broke. We were in debt. There were no buildings on the land, not even a shed. Those first few weeks we slept not on beds but on old doors we had bought cheaply from the salvage yard; we raised them on bricks at each corner to lift them off the ground. (There were no mattresses, of course — we were forest monks.)

The abbot had the best door, the flat one. My door was ribbed with a sizeable hole in the center where the doorknob would have been. I joked that now I wouldn’t need to get out of bed to go to the toilet! The cold truth was, however, that the wind would come up through that hole. I didn’t sleep much those nights.

We were poor monks who needed buildings. We couldn’t afford to employ a builder — the materials were expensive enough. So I had to learn how to build: how to prepare the foundations, lay concrete and bricks, erect the roof, put in the plumbing — the whole lot. I had been a theoretical physicist and high-school teacher in lay life, not used to working with my hands. After a few years, I became quite skilled at building, even calling my crew the BBC (“Buddhist Building Company”). But when I started it was very difficult.

It may look easy to lay a brick: a dollop of mortar underneath, a little tap here, a little tap there. But when I began laying bricks, I’d tap one corner down to make it level and another corner would go up. So I’d tap that corner down then the brick would move out of line. After I’d nudged it back into line, the first corner would be too high again. Hey, you try it!

Being a monk, I had patience and as much time as I needed. I made sure every single brick was perfect, no matter how long it took. Eventually, I completed my first brick wall and stood back to admire it. It was only then that I noticed— oh no! — I’d missed two bricks. All the other bricks were nicely in line, but these two were inclined at an angle. They looked terrible. They spoiled the whole wall. They ruined it.

By then, the cement mortar was too hard for the bricks to be taken out, so I asked the abbot if I could knock the wall down and start over again — or, even better, perhaps blow it up. I’d made a mess of it and I was very embarrassed. The abbot said no, the wall had to stay.

When I showed our first visitors around our fledgling monastery, I always tried to avoid taking them past my brick wall. I hated anyone seeing it. Then one day, some three or four months after I finished it, I was walking with a visitor and he saw the wall.

“That’s a nice wall,” he casually remarked.

“Sir,” I replied in surprise, “have you left your glasses in your car? Are you visually impaired? Can’t you see those two bad bricks which spoil the whole wall?”

What he said next changed my whole view of that wall, of myself, and of many other aspects of life. He said, “Yes. I can see those two bad bricks. But I can see the 998 good bricks as well.”

I was stunned. For the first time in over three months, I could see other bricks in that wall apart from the two mistakes. Above, below, to the left and to the right of the bad bricks were good bricks, perfect bricks. Moreover, the perfect bricks were many, many more than the two bad bricks. Before, my eyes would focus exclusively on my two mistakes; I was blind to everything else. That was why I couldn’t bear looking at that wall, or having others see it. That was why I wanted to destroy it. Now that I could see the good bricks, the wall didn’t look so bad after all. It was, as the visitor had said, ‘a nice brick wall.’ It’s still there now, twenty years later, but I’ve forgotten exactly where those bad bricks are. I literally cannot see those mistakes any more.

Source | Ajahn Brahm,
Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung?
(Wisdom Publications, 2005) pages 3-6

CONSIDER THIS

We’ve all got our two bad bricks, but the perfect bricks in each one of us are much, much more than the mistakes. How much life goes wasted, how much potential goes unexplored and how many relationships are damaged or broken because of an unhealthy focus on the “two bad bricks”?

THE OTHER SIDE

A drunk crossed the street and accosted a pedestrian, asking him, “I shay, which ish the other shide of the shtreet?”

The pedestrian, somewhat nonplussed, replied, “That side, of course!”

The drunk said, “Shtrange. When I wash on that shide, they shaid it wash thish shide.”

Source | Desmond Tutu, God is Not a Christian: And Other Provocation
(Harper One, 2011) page 5.

CONSIDER THIS

Where the other side of the street is depends on where we are. Our perspective differs with our context, the things that have helped to form us. Change your point of view, shift your standpoint and the whole picture changes!

THROUGH MY DAUGHTER’S EYES

I felt inadequate growing up; chubby, never pretty enough, bent on perfection, feeling like I always needed to be better. As a result, I spent a long, long time looking in the mirror, never seeing someone I liked.

Then one day all of that changed when I met for the first time a beautiful, passionate, and confident woman – myself …

It was a hot summer day and my daughter Jessica wanted to go swimming. I had a horrible headache and was feeling sorry for myself, having not yet lost the weight from my last pregnancy, eight months before.  I was on mommy overload  and had no energy left to go outside and play. I couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.

After an hour of Jessica begging me to at least try on my bathing suit, I agreed to take her swimming.  She sat on my bed, watching me try on two or three old bathing suits.

“That one’s beautiful,” she said, so sincerely.

“Oh no, this one is still a little too tight,” I replied, turning to look at the back of my thighs and then back to my paunchy stomach hanging over the seam. I was horrified.

“I like that one the best!” Jessie said, nodding her head for added enthusiasm.

“Yeah, I guess it looks okay,” I said halfheartedly.

“But how does it feeeeel, Mommy?” she asked.

I smiled at her attempts.

“Well, it feels pretty good. Let’s go swim.”

We ran out the back door and Jessica immediately jumped into the pool, begging me to jump in after her. But I like to go in the slow way, so I began inching my way in, toe first, then my ankle.

“Jump in Mommy!” Jessica squealed.

I was so hot, and knowing that I would have to start dinner soon, I figured, what the heck, and cannonballed into the water. Jessie was delighted that I hadn’t followed my normal routine, and she swam over to me splashing and kicking.  She gave me a big hug.

“How do you feel?” she squealed again.

“Cold,” I stammered, laughing and trying to catch my breath.

Jessica giggled and splashed around me some more, then threw her little arms around my neck.

“How do you feel now?” she asked.

“I feel great” I said with the enthusiasm I knew she was waiting to hear in my voice.

“See Mommy?” she said, smoothing my hair away from my face. “You do look beautiful.”

I climbed out of the pool and cannonballed in all over again. But this time, I left the old me standing behind on the deck – the me I never wanted Jessica to know. I felt young and happy again, cutting loose in the water with a new freedom …

I caught a glimpse of the way Jessica saw me, and I understood how awful she’d feel if she knew how bad I felt about myself.

Source | Marlo Thomas, Bruce Kluger, The Right Words at the Right Time Volume 2: Your Turn,
(Atria, 2007) pages 114-117

CONSIDER THIS

It is said that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”  Beauty is not inherent in anything – it’s how we look at things.

Beauty isn’t always something that you see; it’s also something that you do and that you feel –  laughing out loud,  dancing with gusto,  holding hands with someone you love,  reaching your goals,  running through the sprinklers, taking chances,  loving completely,  singing along with the car radio,   sharing your life with someone, knowing your kids think you’re funny, and cannonballing into a pool.

These things are beautiful.  They make you feel beautiful. Beautiful is not an adjective, but a verb.