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Reflection - October 2016

posted Nov 16, 2016, 1:18 AM by Nancy DeBiasi   [ updated Nov 16, 2016, 1:58 AM ]

Image result     In Blessed Among Us Robert Ellsberg's depiction of Black Elk, the far-seeing Lakota medicine man, reminds me of Linnea Good's song, There Is a Time. This song contains the lyric, "There is a time when each will lose a dream most dear." How true this was for Black Elk. When just nine years old, he received a powerful vision calling him to help his people. Black Elk gave himself generously to this vision but eighteen years later the dream shattered when the U.S. army killed over 300 of his Lakota tribe in the massacre of Wounded Knee. With his vision torn to shreds, Black Elk felt devastated but he did not buckle under the pain or give in to bitterness and revenge. Instead, he gradually moved forward to be of service in another way. Twelve years after marrying a Catholic woman, Black Elk joined her church, blended parts of his Lakota spirituality with hers and became a catechist, traveling extensively to share its teachings.

     Rarely does a person get everything they want and envision for their life. While dreams contain wondrous opportunities for possible happiness, dreams can also disintegrate quickly. A healthy body suddenly gives way to endless medical complications; a mother miscarries the child in her womb; plans for extensive travel with a retired spouse fall apart with sudden death; the well-established home is sold due to a required move to assisted living; the hope of a long-lasting marriage never happens; one's best talents fail to find a place in employment; the vision for a compassionate church fully embracing diverse membership and equal opportunity for ordination fails to occur.

    The lives of Biblical figures, as well as other historical persons, tell of unfulfilled dreams. Many are the courageous people who dedicated their lives for a vision that remained incomplete in their lifetime. What can we learn from them? What inspiration might we draw from their efforts and their response? One insight especially stands out: the human spirit houses an amazing resiliency. In spite of the utter failure of his vision, Black Elk found a loving companion, a faith that sustained him and a meaningful way to share it. It wasn't anything like he envisioned but he had the bigness of heart to be led in another direction. Even though cherished dreams die, the ability to attain satisfaction is possible when we open ourselves to prayer, supportive relationships, and a desire to give from what remains of value in our life. 

    All may appear to be lost but the innate hope stored in the human spirit endures. I find a surprising similarity between Eccles3 ("There is a time for everything...") and the Buddhist concept of equanimity ("to remain centered in the middle of what is happening"- Gil Fronsdal). Both are reflected in the parable Jesus taught about the birds of the air and the flowers of the field (Lk12:22-32) Each teaching urges us to let go of fear and worry, to be calm and trust that all shall be well. Each speaks to the reality that we do not always get what we envision but we can still contribute for the benefit of the human race. We can deliberately respond to broken dreams in a way that enlarges our heart of love and moves us toward peace.  

    Black Elk's heart grew larger. His compassion expanded. Perhaps this is the time to review the cherished dreams of ours that have been dashed against the rocks and look for how this led to an expansion of our hearts.   

Abundant peace, 

Joyce Rupp