Most of us, most of our lives, spend our time and energy at the surface of things. A spirituality that’s worth anything at all is a spirituality of the depths—that is, it’s soulful, aware that there’s much more to us all than meets the eye. It’s a way of life necessarily conscious of the inner journey, a journey we must all take if we’re going to become our full and vibrant selves. That path to fullness, wholeheartedness, as Brene Brown is apt to call it, runs through the stuff most of us would rather avoid—the pains, mistakes, fears, peccadillos, and confusions that we have no interest in keeping in our consciousness; therefore, we often hide them away behind lock and key.
William Butler Yeats said, “Why should we honor those that die upon the field of battle—one may show as reckless a courage in entering into the abyss of one’s self.”
I’ve just finished a draft of a long, narrative and prose poem that explores all this, thirty poems in all. Here’s a taste of it, the first and twenty-fourth poems. The whole thing is called, “What’s Hid Beneath the Bones of this Great Tree.” It’s the mythic and lyrical tale of a journey from the sterile plain of a dull and unconscious life into the depths of discovery, death, and new birth—a soulful transformation taking place imaginatively in the wondrous root system of a great tree.
The First of Thirty Poems:
Somewhere deep inside the Earth, something familiar lives.
I feel it in my bones.
The bitter spirit of the age has shut the heavens tight. And now the old sky gods are dead or fled the temple ruined by their blind and self-protective tyranny, their rejection of those parts of us they were determined not to see. On this thin crust, where Earth and heaven meet, we toil and brood and serve the old because we do not know the new that breathes deep beneath the darkened sun.
I felt something sigh just now—a gasp that rises from the Earth beneath my feet, as if some sad and hidden thing tried desperately to let itself be known. A wisp of memory darts through my brain, then flees and leaves a mere hint of what it tried to say. I taste the color blue; midnight in its hue and bitter in my mouth. Suddenly I’m cold, and sad, a sorrow deep and unexplainable. This sadness is a heavy weight; it pulls me down, my cheek pressed to the ground in grief I neither want nor understand.
The stars have fallen from the sky. The old gods dead or gone.
But something living’s hidden deep among the bones of this Great Tree.
. . . . . . . . . .
The Twenty-Fourth of Thirty Poems
There is an alchemy at work deep in the Earth. As God once hid in one of humble birth, so too the thing of greatest worth conceals itself inside the basest stone. Gold is made when what we think we are, or hope to be, or proffer to the world so carefully, falls before the door of pain so bitter to our minds we thought we’d locked it up for good and thrown away the key.
One who’s waking from the trance induced by life upon the plain above, must face the truth that what we hate, hide, or wish to disavow is the stuff we must reclaim. Down in the dark is where we start our opus magnum—the rescue of our souls, our transformation into gold, a gesture toward the healing of the Earth.