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To Bloom Where You’re Planted—or Not?

My old friend the acclaimed ecstatic poet Paul Goldman and I often debate differing points of view on where today the world is headed.  While he believes we’re transitioning into a golden, harmonious state for humanity, I, on the other hand, am of the persuasion that, although humankind may get to “collective heaven” eventually, there is hell to pay in the short run.  That, to me, simply seems self-evident everywhere one looks!  Recently, to bolster his case, Paul recommended I peruse a new book titled The Four Sacred Gifts: Indigenous Wisdom for Modern Times by Dr. Anita L. Sanchez, a Mexican-American consultant (of Aztec heritage) devoted to infusing timeless indigenous insights into modern science and culture aimed at promoting a more spiritually fulfilling and socially just world.  (I should probably mention that part of the appeal for Paul might be his belief that his spirit guide is a native-American chieftain.)

Dr. Sanchez describes how in the early 90s an indigenous tribal elder had a dream about a sacred hoop gifted “from above” and adorned with 100 feathers circumscribing four principles of ancient wisdom.  If propagated across many peoples, the hoop with its principles of spiritual power would generate peace and understanding around the globe.  This elder shared his vision with others of the tribe and it was decided to actually build the hoop and then commence a series of journeys and ceremonies attempting to fulfill its conceptual promise.

Now, a spoiler alert!  The four sacred principles alluded to above are as follows.  The first is to embrace forgiving the unforgivable, the power of “letting go.”  Not to forget, nor to eschew legal justice, but rather in one’s heart to fully forgive transgression.  The second consists of accepting and furthering the unity of all humankind.  We are not merely brothers and sisters in humanity, but ARE actually one another and not “separate” or “other.”  Therefore, what is done to “another” is done to one’s self.  The third is the blessed gift of healing.  This is seen as a communal affair, reestablishing health and balance among the members of the group through mutual care and succor. Finally, the fourth is the vital attribute of hope, the energy engine within us that strives to work toward a better tomorrow.

In a related vein, the speaker at a recent Muslim interfaith brunch held at a Turkish cultural center in Kansas City was another old friend of mine, the Reverend Vern Barnet, DMn (author, lecturer and founder of the Center for Religious Experience and Study).  Vern’s topic was “Has Science Eclipsed Religion?”  During the course of his lecture, he related an Hasidic story from the Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav.  The gist of that narrative may be summarized thusly.

A poverty-stricken rabbi residing in a hovel began to experience repeated dreams about a treasure buried beneath a bridge in a faraway city.  Finally he decided it might be a sign from above as to how he was meant to overcome his poor circumstance, and he struck out on a journey to find the bridge and uncover the treasure.  After traveling a great distance, he did indeed find the very bridge of the dream, but observed to his dismay it was guarded most days and nights by soldiers.  He began to lurk near the bridge hoping to seize an unguarded opportunity to dig underneath for the treasure.  However, the captain of the guard took notice and questioned him as to his intentions.  When the rabbi confessed how he had come to be there and why, the captain laughed and explained he too had had dreams of a treasure, but one buried beneath the floor in the modest dwelling of a poor rabbi.  To his utter shock, the rabbi recognized the captain’s description as pertaining to his own home in his own village.  So, he hurried back to his abode and began digging in the dirt floor, and, lo and behold, there he found the treasure that would sustain him comfortably the rest of his days.  Now, the moral to the story, Vern elaborated, is that we all have within us the life’s “treasure” we seek, but we must journey and explore and test other options before we come home to discover it.

In reflecting on Vern’s presentation and Paul’s foray into Native-American lore, I found that some interesting parallels presented themselves.  Concerning Sanchez’s emphasis on the importance of “forgiveness,” I discovered on one online site 20 references to the same in the New Testament.  For example, consider Ephesians 4:31-32: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  The same (21 references) with Sanchez’s stress on “unity”—1 Corinthians 12:12-13 offers one compelling instance: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”  Ditto with the question of “healing” as addressed in James 5:14: “Is anyone among you sick?  Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.”  In fact, the Catholic Church considers the anointing of the sick as one of the seven sacraments.  And finally, concerning “hope,” we read in Romans 5:4-5: “Perseverance [produces] character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

The entrepreneurial editor/illustrator Mary Engelbreit has popularized the aphorisms “Bloom where you’re planted” as well as “Happiness must be grown in one’s own garden”—echoes of both the apostle Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians and Voltaire’s advice on gardening.  And I recall a spiritual guru opining during a television interview that one needn’t leap about from religion to religion looking for ultimate answers, but rather dig deeper and more thoroughly into one’s own religious heritage because all answers come from the same underlying wellspring.  So perhaps we just need to stand where we are and dig a little deeper?

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Mark Scheel

Mark Scheel grew up in east-Kansas farm country. He attended both Kansas State University and The University of Kansas, majoring in psychology and English. Prior to writing full time he served overseas with the American Red Cross in Vietnam, Thailand, West Germany and England, taught at Emporia State University and was an information specialist with the Johnson County Library in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. His stories, articles and poems have appeared in numerous magazines including The Little Balkans Review, Kansas Quarterly, The Cincinnati Poetry Review, The Kansas City Star, Heritage of Kansas, Samisdat, and Poet as well as many sites online such as Common Ground News. His literary activities have also involved membership in The Kansas Authors Club, a seat on the board of directors for Potpourri Publications Company and an editorial position with Kansas City Voices magazine. He co-authored the book Of Youth and the River: the Mississippi Adventure of Raymond Kurtz, Sr., and his collection of stories and poems, A Backward View, was awarded the 1998 J. Donald Coffin Memorial Book Award. His most recent book is titled The Pebble: Life, Love, Politics and Geezer Wisdom.


10 comments to To Bloom Where You’re Planted—or Not?

  • Peg Nichols

    In a response to his critics, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is reported to have said, “Where the goat is tethered, there he must graze”.

  • Mark, I am even less sanguine than you about a “golden, harmonious state for humanity,” short OR long term. If all the love and virtue in the world hasn’t banished hate and violence in centuries of civilization to this point, it’s wishful thinking and beyond belief to expect that human imperfectability will magically be cured in coming centuries (though there is always hope in individual cases, if not on a macro level). As Winston Churchill put it, “The power of man has grown in every sphere, except over himself.”

  • Richard A Cahill

    Or you can live in San Diego, where the weather is nicer. My choice.

  • AJ

    Mark, linguists are adept at fogging over what they want to push. ‘Socially just’ wreaks of socialism. Socialism is pushed upon the masses by the greediest capitalists amongst us.

    Generation after generation, those disposed of controlling others pursue this quest with its generation of improved tools and weapons. We know this us going to happen, yet the masses refuse to admit this reality, let alone take any action. This stated, who us more at fault, the attackers, or those attacked who do nothing to prevent the attacks?

  • Mark,

    I agree that there will be a golden harmonious state for humanity but unfortunately I think it’s called End of Days. The Planet is a hostile environment and it always will be. We may have figured out how to build great shelter from most of its ravages but it remains a hostile environment. The philosophers leave out, ambition, greed, trying to bring about the greater good, sociopathy psychopathy and a whole host of other non functioning humans but this is definitely a worthy discussion. Don’t forget half the time I’m wrong and the other half of the time I don’t know what I’m talking about.

    Don

  • markscheel1

    Peg,

    Ah ha, that one fits, doesn’t it, although sounds a little stifling. Thanks.

    Mark

  • markscheel1

    muse,

    Yep. I’ll let you debate Paul next time. You articulate the dilemma well.

    Mark

  • markscheel1

    Ricardo,

    Indeed, as I think I’ve mentioned before, I lived in La Jolla for a while after departing the Red Cross many years ago. Loved it. But family responsibilities intervened and paradise was lost! LOL However, now I’d worry some earthquake would dump me into the ocean or Kim Jong-un vaporize my hide. Nope, I’ll stick with KC for now.

    Mark

  • markscheel1

    AJ,

    Thanks for your trenchant observations. I do admit, I seemed to detect in places in Four Sacred Gifts a whiff of socialist thinking. A recent column by Coulter blamed unrestrained immigration for our demise of freedom. But today we have unnumbered targets for the blame game, don’t we. Appreciate your input.

    Mark

  • markscheel1

    Don,

    You may be half-in-half, but your revelations always make me smile and say to myself, damn, I didn’t realize that was out there–hmmmm, gotta give that some thought! LOL

    Thanks,

    Mark

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