Sunday, November 30, 2008


Girl on Horse
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao
This morning as I did my asanas I listened to Rachel Naomi Remen being interviewed on Speaking of Faith. The program closed with this story.

The most important questions don't seem to have ready answers, but the questions themselves have healing power when they are shared. An answer is an invitation to stop thinking about something, to stop wondering. Life has no such stopping places, life is a process whose every event is connected to the moment that just went by. An unanswered question is a fine traveling companion. It sharpens your eye for the road.

In some fairytales, there is a magic word which has the power to undo the spell that has imprisoned someone and free them. When I was small, I would wait anxiously until the prince or the princess stumbled on the formula and said the healing words that would release them into life. Usually the words were some sort of nonsense like "Shazam." My magic words have turned out to be "I don't know."
Rachel Naomi Remen, Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal

I’ve posted here some teachings regarding stories. Byron Katie is huge on how they hide us from the Truth about ourselves. We tell ourselves stories and make the situation worse. She encourages us to look closely at what we say and ask, “Is that true?” Usually, we must reply, “I don’t know.”

Well, Rachel Naomi Remen takes just about the exact opposite approach. But, it doesn’t mean she comes out in so very different a place.

Here is a story regarding tikkun olam, “restoration of the world.” I have also posted about tikkun before.

In the beginning there was only the holy darkness, the Ein Sof, the source of life. And then, in the course of history, at a moment in time, this world, the world of a thousand thousand things, emerged from the heart of the holy darkness as a great ray of light. And then, perhaps because this is a Jewish story, there was an accident, and the vessels containing the light of the world, the wholeness of the world, broke. And the wholeness of the world, the light of the world was scattered into a thousand thousand fragments of light, and they fell into all events and all people, where they remain deeply hidden until this very day.

Now, according to my grandfather, the whole human race is a response to this accident. We are here because we are born with the capacity to find the hidden light in all events and all people, to lift it up and make it visible once again and thereby to restore the innate wholeness of the world. It's a very important story for our times. And this task is called tikkun olam in Hebrew. It's the restoration of the world.

It's a very old story, comes from the 14th century, and it's a different way of looking at our power. And I suspect it has a key for us in our present situation, a very important key. I'm not a person who is a political person in the usual sense of that word, but I think that we all feel that we're not enough to make a difference, that we need to be more somehow, either wealthier or more educated or somehow or other different than the people we are. And according to this story, we are exactly what's needed. And to just wonder about that a little, what if we were exactly what's needed? What then? How would I live if I was exactly what's needed to heal the world?

You can find the complete transcript of the interview with Dr. Remen here. It’s good.


Johanna said...

For another perspective on story, try also

The second dialogue starts:

I'm not in the don't-touch-it school. Maybe it's my Italian heritage. I call it Mediterranean satsang. I say, "Come here, poor little story!" If the story keeps coming back, it means it's desperate for a little loving attention.

If you are always going, "Oh, it's just story," of course it's going to renew its effort: "No, I'm not!"

. . .


Pat Bralley said...

I like that! I like it alot.