Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Whodunnit? Why?



The list of enemies without is nearly endless, the default list we go to when asking why.

The list of enemies within is more problematic, much more difficult for us to see and confront.

Discipline yourselves, keep alert.  Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, steadfast in your faith...  1 Peter 5:8-9  NRSV

Peter uses the metaphor of the lion only because he didn't know the metaphor of the booby trap, the Bouncing Betty mine, the IED, the sniper, the Stealth fighter, the Predator drone and the Hellfire missile, or the backpack pressure cooker.

At least a lion roars and breathes. The things that lurk inside us are quiet. The first thing they go for is the window shades, the curtains, the blinds. If these can be drawn around our minds and our hearts isolating us from our common humanity, we can be led into anything. We can be walking in the broadest daylight with 20/20 corneas and retinas and yet be stone-cold blind, enveloped in darkness. Let us pray for light and the ability to see.

Over a century ago, Black Elk prayed a good prayer:

"Grandfather (Tunkashila), Great Mysterious One (Wakan Tanka), You have been always; and before You, nothing has been. The star nations all over the universe are yours, and yours are the grasses of the earth. There is nothing to pray to but You. Day in, day out, You are the life of things. Grandfather, all over the world the faces of living ones are alike. In tenderness, they have come up out of the ground. Look upon your children with children in their arms that they may face the winds and walk the Good Road to the Day of Quiet. Sweeten our hearts, and fill us with light. Give us the strength to understand and the eyes to see. Help us, for without You, we are nothing. Hetchetu aloh (this is true)."


Hehaka Sapa (Black Elk, "Joseph Black Elk" after his baptism) was truly a seer whose words we do well to ponder. One of the most sacred spaces I have ever visited is the little Lakota prayer garden built outside the little Neihardt Museum in tiny Bancroft, Nebraska. It was there that newspaper editor, poet and author, John G. Neihardt, wrote of Black Elk's life and the end of "Sioux" culture, after visiting Black Elk whose life spanned from the Civil War to the candidacy of Dwight Eisenhower. He was nearly blind, but certainly able to see. The composite prayer above written by Neihardt is basically a summary of how Black Elk saw himself, life, the Creator, creation and humankind. It's a timeless creed for life that I know by heart and say frequently to remind myself.

No comments: