Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Journal of a Soul 6

Cross on old ruined Church, Badolato Marina
The early Christians spoke of their being “in via,” or on the way to Heaven or the Kingdom of God.  In this last sentence, it is the beautiful and succinct Latin phrase “in via” that I want to highlight.  All cultures and all religions, which by definition are cultural phenomena, speak of the metaphor of travelling, or journeying or making a pilgrimage.  I have always liked those rather reflective and quirky Westerns starring Clint Eastwood, because they captured the lonely soul on his/her way or journey.  However, the Pilgrim in question is more often than not a very misguided soul, and yet the example stands in the sense of our travelling through the wilderness of life. In fact, in some of those Westerns the term “Pilgrim” is used quite frequently. 
In American literature and films, one gets the sense of the early Pioneers striking out into the unknown deserts, mountains and prairies in search of a “Promised Land” so to speak.  I have always felt that the case of the Native American Indian was never given fair treatment in 99% of those Westerns.  Indeed, in actuality, it appears to this rather ignorant writer on the far side of the great Atlantic Ocean that the poor Native American Indians got treated harshly, all too harshly by the so called enlightened early Pilgrims.  However, as I say, that is an uneducated view from afar.
Anyway, my point here is that the Spirituality of these Native Indians is very attractive and grounded in the cycles of the Seasons.  Theirs is a rich and pure spirituality with a wisdom all its own.  Again, over the years I have only got the vaguest glimpses of it in this or that rare film or in this or that rare novel.  Then, those of us in any way au fait with the Ecological or Green Movements in any of their incarnations will be very aware of the great speech of Chief Seattle which is quoted very frequently in such literature.

Lizard at the top of ruined church, Badolato
We are very much creatures of the earth, bound to the cycles of its movements about the great and sustaining Star called simply Sun.  As I type these few reflective words in the South of Italy the Sun is high, very warm and burning of the skin at some 32 degrees Centigrade.  There are no signs of the little lizards which come out along my back patio in some numbers in the calm of the less hot evenings.  As I sit and rejoice in this retreat time in the South far away from the colder Northern climes of Ireland, I am reminded here also of the closeness of humankind to the Seasons.  These are very much a peasant people here in the Mezzogiorno, a people who work slowly and surely to the patterns set down as paradigms by Nature.  These are a people in harmony with the world, just like the American Indian or like the Irish peasant, of whose origins I am proud to be.

It is so hard to have a spiritual sense in a large city.  Or as I remember reading somewhere once: it is hard to put down roots in a concrete jungle.  A lot of our cities, especially in the poorer quarters where human beings are forced to live shoulder to shoulder, eyeball to eyeball, one on top of another with very little “elbow room” as the great John Henry Cardinal Newman put it.  He was describing his freedom to research and his freedom to think for himself actually, but his words are lovely and indeed apt for our purposes here, are they not?  What little elbow room all those children have to be themselves in the modern concrete jungles of our cities.  This writer, as you have long since discovered, is a romantic and indeed a peasant – or countryman – at heart.  The words of a local woman, who is the landlady of small agriturismo lodgings, come to mind here.  Proudly she told me in her native language – “Sono Contadina” – “”I am a peasant.”  To her, I replied simply, “Anch’io, sono contadino nella sangue” – “I, too, am a peasant in the blood.”
To bring these few words to a conclusion, I will mention here a wonderful Irish novel that I am reading.  It is called That They May Face The Rising Sun, and it is written by one of the greatest twentieth century Irish novelists, the late great John McGahern.  This is a novel written in the simplest and easiest of styles with a flow that only closeness to nature could have begotten.  McGahern is of all too obvious obvious peasant roots.  He writes like an angel, inspired by the movements of the earth around our great Sun Star.  He writes with a consummate ease that can plumb the depths and scale the heights of the human heart and soul.  As any observer and lover of nature will know: everything in its province has its time and its season.  Just as surely as the sun goes down it will rise again tomorrow.  Just as surely as an old cow dies another calf will delight the on-looking eyes of a farmer’s child.  Just as surely as the storms and rains come the calm of the cloudless skies will return.  Those of us close to nature will realise that we, too, are part of that very same cycle.  We humans come and go.  No sooner has one poor soul ceased breathing on this earth of ours than another soul will be born into the bounty of the earth.
The sad thing is that it takes us a lifetime to learn the simplicities of life, the simplicities which our forefathers acquired ever so easily because they were so close to nature.  We have lost a lot in gaining such advancement in technology.  Not that I am decrying technology here as I use the Internet a lot and find it comforting and useful, and even sometimes distracting and even rewarding.  I am no Luddite.  My point is simple – we moderns have become so alienated from our true nature as part of the cycles of the Seasons.  We moderns have become alienated from our real Selves, what it means to be truly human in this wonderful, if at times painful, world.

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