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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Wag 'N Bietjie Bos (Wait A Bit Bush)

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Garry and Edward Viljoen
A friend told me the story of her visit to a far eastern spiritual teacher, a very sage and very old man who spoke to her group for about 40 minutes. When done, he opened the floor for questions and one truth-seeker asked the sage for his thoughts about the state of the world with all of its conflicts, crime, poverty and war. The teacher sat in silence and considered the question, and the said quietely shaking his head, "So sad, so sad." My friend said that for a brief moment it was as if she could see the world through his eyes.

So Sad, So Sad

I love the story of this sage and his utterance "So sad, so sad." I don't feel the slightest bit discouraged knowing that it is possible to see the world's conditions as they are while simultaneously knowing a higher truth. The paradox of simultaneously valid realities that are opposite to each other is something that fascinates me.

My friends' story reminded me of a poem by Ernest Holmes:

When death shall come
And the spirit, freed, shall mount the air,
And wander afar in that great no-where
It shall go as it came
Freed from sorrow, sin and shame;
And naked and bare, through the upper air
Shall go alone to that great no-where
Hinder not its onward way
Grieve not o'er its form of clay
For the spirit, freed now from clod
Shall go alone to meet its God.

Re-Educating My Mind

As a young seeker of spiritual understanding I struggled with the phrase “sorrow, sin, and shame;” because I was in that phase of development where replacing everything with positive language seemed necessary to re-educate my conditioned mind. I was inclined to replace the poetic words of Amazing Grace’s “wretch” with “soul” or “saw a saint, like me.” Now I’m not so inclined to do so because of people like the sage, the poet and the author of Amazing Grace, John Newton, who were telling the story of humanity’s journey through the valley of the shadows, and who I believe at no time were confused about the amazing grace available at all times simultaneously.

Life itself, filled with places where it is easy to get stuck in these paradoxes. In the land of my birth there is a thorn bush called the Cat-thorn in English and Wag-‘n-bietjie (meaning “wait a bit”) in Afrikaans and nSondelanganga (I believe is the Zulu name, meaning approach and let me kiss you). The point being that if a hiker doesn’t pay attention, the bush is going to occupy more of her time than she intended, because it will catch on and hold tight until it’s done kissing you with its pesky thorns.

I am glad to let the paradoxes of life cause me to wait a bit and consider how they can be simultaneously valid. It’s far more pleasant than being stuck in a wag-‘n-bietjie bush’s embrace.

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