The Wine: Dorsay Rose, France
The Winery: Lisa’s Lovely Living Room
The W(H)ine: The Great Unknown
I find myself recently obsessed with the NEEDTOBREATHE song lyrics:
The road is long,
The first days of the war are gone,
Take back your former throne and turn the tide, ‘
Cause if you never leave home, never let go,
You’ll never make it to the great unknown,
Till you Keep your eyes open, my Love.
(Song title: Keep Your Eyes Open, 2011)
The Great Unknown. Some longed-for place as everything I have ever known and has known me leaves me wanting.
I wonder if what lies within supersedes (and precedes and predicts) any outward glory finding place we are beckoned to make it to. Is the Great Unknown a Person, place, or thing?
One college professor stood out from the rest. When I first pranced into the hallowed halls of his Hiram College setup, only one word came to his mind, causing him immediate (and perpetual) pause: “Fortitude.” He was (and claims still is) moved powerfully by some aura I unknowingly emitted that surely stemmed from the precipitous path to get to said classroom.
That wandering way wrought with relational strife, material losses, false starts, and self-doubt. The “first days of war,” according to the song author, I suppose.
I recently explored the extraordinary essay compilation by Elisa Gabbart aptly entitled, The Unreality of Memory. In describing our American culture’s seeming obsession with all things disastrous, dastardly and destructive in “Magnificent Desolation,” she describes the literal fallout viewed by millions of us on September 11, 2001. We stared stoically, steadfastly at our screens as “debris” fell ever so delicately, and deathly from the top floors of the towers, indistinguishable as to whether paper, plastic, or people.
That word, debris, derives from the French debriser, meaning “to break down.” Sometimes it’s all we can do during times of internal or external war, to gaze at a confusing presentation, unsure of what exactly we are watching unfold, but unable to transform our staring into stirring action of any kind.
We. Get. Stuck. War does that to us.
But, what response have we? Are we born kind, strong and wise? I feel like I earned my fortitudinal stripes. Oh, so many times.
The Ecclesiastical author arranged “A time to heal” just before “A time to breakdown.”
Why on God’s ashen earth does the Biblical author order these experiences so?
That’s. Just. DUMB.
Or, is it? Must we first be ready, acknowledging a need for healing before we allow any form of breakdown, coming apart, seeking help, letting go, debris notwithstanding? If the debris defines the breaking, then has healing already started before the attack?
If we Keep Our Eyes Open, my Loves.
Eyes open; widely, at that. And not just our physical eyes. Especially not them. But the eyes of our spiritual understanding, our Inner Wisdom, our Great Known.
In his devotional entitled “Chronic Too,” my dear friend, spiritual guide and former mentor, Dr. Cornelius May, likens ashes to my aforementioned debris:
Fires whether started by nature or people, don’t change the outcome. There is one constant - ashes. Not much to build upon, or even build with, for that matter. From childhood to adulthood, we can describe our lives as a series of fires. Breakups and breakdowns, quagmires and backfires, each fire deeply affects us and our approach to living.
Dr. May presumes we continue to approach living, albeit changed perspective, but approach nonetheless, even after breakup, breakdown, fire and ash. Such the optimist. Undoubtedly, he has tapped into the Great Unknown/Known.
What’s left after the unexpected fires set by assailing arsonists burn to the ground all we had to offer….or war’s bloody battles….or 2020…or the toxic relationship finally ends…
is a pile of embers, at best. Or the fractured splinters of emotional, political, or relational fallout.
In his contemplative reflection, Falling Upward, A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, Richard Rohr builds a future from the debris, the ashes. He proclaims: Loss is actually Gain. We grow more by doing wrong than by doing right. By breaking down rather than building up.
More so, he implores that if our spiritual eyes are open, if we enter a conscious willingness to change, and if we allow aging to attend to the process, our un-doneness (my word), our proverbial breakdowns, our griefs, losses, failures and foes may provide exactly the fertile ground needed for the greatest personal growth available to humankind. A Divine Encounter, based not on our merit, but re-built in the Great Unknown despite, and perhaps because of, our meanderings, our negations, and our omissions. The fall is part of the rise.
Our Breakthroughs begin with Breakdown.
Once upon a ponderance, I leaned into what I thought would serve my soul in a constructive, fix-it way: I left home and household for the solitude of a three day monastic retreat. No speaking allowed. No business. No busy-ness. Bare-walled barracks with single cots and sterile sheets, with only Scripture and scribblers available bedside.
I lost my shit, in unwitting silence.
The only out-loud communication in my triadic, tragically tuned-out weekend came when the monk visited Friday afternoon for a one-hour lecture. He offered what I felt at the time seemed heretical heeding. The Catholic, Christian monk quoted Eckert Tolle and his Power of Now manuscript, then unabashedly, and at the time was certain unorthodoxically proclaimed the following, “I am absolutely certain God relishes in being Divine, and expects us, mere humans, to be, well, human.”
Because if we do not at some base level need the Universe to prop us up, then we may never honor, respect and proclaim Divinity’s real role in the carrying us to and through the Great Unknown.