Share it Please
Florence and Cecil Panaino
There is a light in the soul, Meister Eckhart wrote—a light that is uncreated and that cannot be created. * I call that light “ordinary goodness,” and I believe that the ultimate goal of life, if there is such a thing, is to express that goodness by letting it come alive in us. However, goodness, like love, makes us exposed and vulnerable. Yet we can no more withdraw from our natural-born goodness than we can withdraw from our inclination to love—not if we expect to live a life of meaning and worth. C. S. Lewis, in The Four Loves, warns that,
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become un‑ breakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable. **
Goodness is everything from love, gentle kindness, compassion, and generosity to moral distinction or virtue. It is strength and excellence and sometimes, as we will see later, a synonym for the Divine. Most importantly, I believe, goodness is already present in us, like a dormant seed waiting for the right circumstances to germinate and then take root. Moreover, when it does, it has immense power to inspire and instill hope, to help and nurture. When we do not allow it to spring forth, the consequences are worrisome— for a life not fueled by ordinary goodness must draw its strength from somewhere else. And the options are grim.
* Meister Eckhart, Selected Writings (New York: Penguin Books, 1994), 133.
** C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves (New York: Harvest Books, 1971).
January 3, 2017, my new book, Ordinary Goodness, quoted above, will be published. I'm excited to see it finally take form. I'm grateful tot he team at TarcherPerigee for walking me through the process of birthing the book. I'm grateful to my grandmother, the heroine of the book, who taught me what ordinary goodness means.