There is that in me—I do not know what it is—but I know it is in me…
I do not know it— it is without name—it is a word unsaid.
It is not in any dictionary, utterance, symbol.
Something it swings on more than the earth I swing on.
To it the creation is a friend whose embracing awakes me.
Do you see, O my brothers and sisters?
It is not chaos or death—it is form, union, plan— it is eternal life.
It is Happiness.
- Walt Whitman: Song of Myself
Yesterday we visited the goddess Fortuna spinning the Wheel of Fortune. But that wasn’t her whole story. When the souls gathered to be re-born on earth, she had a basket filled with wood chips from the Tree of Life. Each chip was called a “lot” and from this comes the word “lottery” and the phrase “our lot in life.” Like at a raffle, each soul stepped up and she mixed up the lots and randomly chose one to hand out. On one side, it was blank and that was where family and friends and culture wrote their mark on you in life, telling you that you were one thing or another, sometimes trying to direct your dreams, letting you know which part of you they wanted to see and which they didn’t. The other side was inscribed with a Divine word that was your deeper self, your accompanying Genius/ Daimon/ Soul’s purpose. It was in the conversation and tension between the two, between what society imprints on you and what your Soul requires, that the human drama begins. Happy incarnation!
The mark of a healthy culture is first and foremost that it acknowledges the existence of a soulful purpose, of the need to discover how you’re put together, the determination to feed and water it, the looking into what gifts you’re meant to offer up. And secondly, that the culture organize itself around helping you to that realization, through initiation ceremonies, community song, dance and ritual, meditation practices, the disciplines of time spent in the natural world.
With the loss of these practices in the growth of organized religion, the nation-state, “civilization,” such help comes through a second tier of spiritual guidance— books that carry the stories, ideas, poems you need to hear to awaken to your purpose, the art and music that speaks through images and sounds, the backpacks into the wilderness, the schools with teachers who work to see you and hear you and know who you are and might become.
And now with the loss of whole segments of culture that don’t read beyond the newspaper, don’t listen beyond the latest Pop pablum, go to schools without art and music programs, that addict you to the wasteland on the screen and pull you away from attending to trees and bees and flowers and flowing rivers, with schools that care only about the superficial right answers and leave no time for the essential right questions, we come to a nation in trouble. “The center cannot hold (Yeats)” because whole populations can’t locate their own center of being. They just move from one fleeting sensation to another in a world that seems random, chaotic, meaningless. Without being able to read the inscription on our given lot, we have lost the lottery and try to fill that hole by wasting our hard-earned money on buying the corner store’s lottery tickets.
But from “hole” to “whole” is just a journey of one letter. For all our impatience with and difficulty with our current Pandemic, it is a rare opportunity to step off the wheel of our often superficial busyness and dig down into those unlit corners of ourselves to remember what’s there. A time to read, to write, to lie down on the floor and listen with our whole being to Bach’s Mass in B Minor,Coltrane’s A Love Supremeor any other work that goes far beyond mere toe-tapping and booty-shaking and sound-byte riffs into the deeper layers of the Soul. A time to pick up that neglected instrument or paint brush or poet’s pen, a time to connect with old friends not just with chatty Zoom calls, but with some sense of their felt presence in your life even as you’re apart. Certainly a time to get out into the open air and if you can’t hug people, well, you still can hug trees. A time to notice all the things we usually speed past— the fluttering birds and the gurgling stream and the sun streaming through the leaves. A time to turn our lot over from the blank side now filled with the scrawl of people who don’t really know us to the divine word on the other side. We’ve been pushed to the edge of our previously known world and if we venture to that unreached horizon and pull our true lot back to the center, both personally and collectively, we can re-weave the unravelling world.
And that’s how we win the lottery.