The Christian feast of the Epiphany was last Saturday—the 6th. As I child, the story of three wise men, traveling on camels and crossing mountains, deserts, and verdant valleys, enthralled me. Sister Corita, who taught me in 4th grade, made a whole story of this journey with a chilled wind followed by shimmering heat. Listening to her, we fourth-graders felt that we had been along for the ride.
I don’t know how old I was when I learned that the word epiphany meant “a sudden revelation or insight.” Then it was that I began to have my own epiphanies. With some regularity, I’d have a moment of clarity and understand something that had previously eluded me.
While in college, I discovered the poem “Journey of the Magi” by T. S. Eliot. It spoke to me of birth and death and the cycle they encapsulate. Each January 6th, I reread Eliot’s poem and find myself examining my own life to see what is birthing, what is dying, and what is perhaps doing both.
This year, I sent out a New Year’s letter about what I hope is birthing within me. In the final paragraph I wrote:
In 2018, I want to look for and find that which surmounts the differences I have with others politically. I want to offer all whom I meet—friends, family members, strangers, candidates for political office, and those already in Congress and the White House—a listening heart and mind. Only then, I think, can I truly say that I believe in the Holy Oneness of All Creation.
A Minnesota friend responded to my letter with the following thoughts, which she has given me permission to share with you:
I’m not sure that a “listening heart and mind” are enough to change the course inflicted on us by political and corporate leaders, but I wish it were true. Given that fear and ego are pitted against compassion and reason, it’s hard to see any common ground. It would be a worthy challenge if you could chronicle this struggle and give us hope that “all is, indeed, well”!
With things as they are, it’s useful to remember that all is on a continuum. Light is balanced by dark; hot is on a continuum with cold; good is tempered by evil, etc. The “Holy Oneness of All Creation” is not just goodness and light. There is darkness there too. Depending on our core beliefs and our perception of reality, we have an affinity for one side or the other. Some of us glow with gratitude and compassion while others get their energy by sowing fear and chaos.
My perception of reality makes me want to see the good in others because everyone has some redeeming qualities and has performed some act of kindness. I’m having trouble seeing the good in people who mock compassion, heap their fears and frustrations on scapegoats, and destroy our planet.
I’ve given up on trying to understand them because we are on completely different wavelengths. It’s like trying to understand someone who’s speaking a different language. In the same way, they have trouble understanding my reality.
I don’t know what the answer is, but have been told that this polarity will continue to reap chaos until the extremists on both sides are neutralized—whatever form that takes. Only then can more stable socio-economic and political structure be formed.
For me, these words from one of my Minnesota friends are an epiphany. They help me understand the birth and the death we are witnessing in the United States right now. They also help me “see” that I need to plunge myself into a deeper understanding of Oneness. I trust that if I do that, I will experience surprising epiphanies in the weeks and months ahead.
Peace to you, pressed down and overflowing, and may you, too, have your own surprising epiphanies this year.
Photograph from Wikipedia.