there but for the grace of god go i: sunday inspiration

just musing over a few things here, inspired by some of the blogs i read …

at nourish, a bittersweet post about jacqueline du pres, one of the most amazing musicians of the last century. this genius young cellist graced the world of classical music for a short 12 years. then her blazing light was consumed by multiple sclerosis. i spent much of last night hunting down her videos, gobbling up the beauty and fervor of this fierce nordic goddess. “a glenn gould of the cello”, i kept thinking – something about the way she physically throws herself into her work, at the edge of being ridiculously dramatic; and like a true artist, she remains at the edge, drawing us there, into her magic. “her” magic; a magic conjured up by her but compelling because it isn’t just her little thing – it’s the stuff of gods, and thus a piece of everyone’s soul.

this grandness stands now beside the voracious power of multiple sclerosis. i was going to say it was swept away, aside, under the carpet but that’s not true. the grandness of her music remains, but not by itself. the illness claimed a big piece of this amazing woman.

from grand to small. another post i came across was this here, about a mother and her partner killing, slowly killing a beautiful child, baby grace. blond like little jacqueline when she first touched a cello. their demons consumed a child just like MS consumed jacqueline. why small? why do i want to call this small? perhaps when i think of “grand” i think of generosity, of a big heart, perhaps of jacqueline’s heart because only a big heart can hold music like that. only a small, shrivelled up, poisoned heart can do what these people did. “only”? what do i know, what do i know of hearts – but that is what i imagine. a big heart, i envision, opens its arms and says, yes! yes! a small heart closes in on itself, cutting everything short, within and without. after a while the opening and the closing becomes a habit. the arms throw open wide and the span gets larger and larger, grander. it becomes more and more unthinkable, undoable to spend much time with arms crossed and the heart closed. it goes the other way, too, i think. the shrivelling becomes more and more closed in on itself, and even the slightest opening of mind, heart, arms, eyes and soul is a threat that can only be met with armour and weapon.

a little child is always open. a threat extinguished by shrivelled hearts.

there but for the grace of god go i. there are myriad imperfections in my life. one, for example: i used to volunteer at an extended care home. there was a woman with MS, the same age as jacqueline du pres in her last years. i visited her often. one day, things became too busy for me and i stopped visiting. i never even really said good-bye to that woman. a sin for which i am ashamed to this day. there are many transgressions i have committed but i have never killed another human being.

i’m reading an interesting book right now, zen shin talks, by socho koshin ogui, the current bishop of the buddhist churches of america. one of the talks is headed, “are you grateful that you have not killed even one person?” in that talk, he cites shinran, the founder of shin buddhism (also called pure land buddhism) who talks to one of his disciples about why he has never killed anyone:

it is not because you have a good mind or even a good heart or because you are a good person. you are fortunate because present conditions and situations do not allow you to kill even one person. aren’t you grateful that your present conditions and situations are such that you do not have to kill even one person? if the conditions and situations changed, you don’t know what you would do.

self-righteousness does not work: being proud of myself for never having killed anyone does not make my heart bigger. humbleness and gratefulness give my heart a chance to grow.

which brings me to the last blog for today. sojourner is a beacon of humbleness.  it was her post there but for god’s grace go i that prompted me to participate in her sunday inspiration theme with these words here.

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