[The words of this sonnet are printed below.]
This poem and reflection follow the poem and reflection How to Walk on Water.
Astronauts look back at the earth from the moon and see how tiny it is in relation to space, like a lifeboat on an endless ocean. Today the lives on that boat are in great danger. We have created a violent storm that threatens to sink us. Our thoughts and desires have created the storm, expressed in the way of living our societies have promoted.
Humanity has caused this danger and humanity can prevent it, but not without a higher power of wisdom and creativity than we currently possess. As Albert Einstein said, speaking of one aspect of the entire storm: “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe…. A new type of thinking is essential if [humanity] is to survive and move toward higher levels.” (New York Times – May 25 1946, p.13 – ‘Atomic Education Urged by Einstein’)
The wisdom of the 12 Steps lays out a practical, tested way to transform human thinking and behavior. The first step we need is to acknowledge that our wisdom, our strength of will and our current level of thinking is inadequate to save us from the insanity that threatens to destroy our life—and this is true whether that insanity be addiction to alcohol or shopping or nuclear weapons or fossil fuels.
The assumption that we can fix ourselves can sink us. People who are suicidal need higher power to attain a new way of seeing, understanding and functioning in their life. They need the higher power of wise guides and psychological tools and spiritual practices to help them transform their consciousness and behavior. It takes a higher power to save suicidal societies as well as individuals.
We need to change the way we live to keep life on earth afloat, we need to change governments, businesses and homes, and we need to change fast, but no material change will be possible without humanity changing its heart, mind and spirit sufficiently to transform our dominant culture.
The success of the 12 Steps depends on believing that a higher power can restore us to sanity and we by ourselves cannot, and then turning our will and our life over to the care of that higher power, however we define it. The 11th Step is to increase our conscious connection to the higher power through meditation and prayer, seeking its guidance and the power to follow it.
Secular and spiritual mindfulness and meditation practices transform the brain in ways that neuroscience is able to document. Thomas Keating co-founded the Christian forms of heartfulness and Centering Prayer, and he observed over decades that the real transformation they created was visible not as much in the inner experience as in the way people lived.
The fruits of mindfulness and meditation are the very changes we need in order to save life on earth: an evolution toward universal compassion and unconditional love based on a new perception of the oneness of all beings and all the earth.
This is what Gandhi saw released when people ‘reduced themselves to zero,’ as he did through his own contemplative practice. It is the power that enabled him to change the thinking and behavior of the greatest culture the planet had yet seen, the British Empire.
Human consciousness has evolved in miraculous ways in the past, and we seem to be on the verge of the next leap. The wisdom and power we need are in the boat with us even now, they are latent in every heart and mind, asleep in the stern while we are flailing desperately to avert disaster by our old way of thinking and working. This poem is about waking the power we need.
Waking the Power
A storm was raging on the inland sea,
heaving and swamping open wooden boats.
They would have all gone down and drowned, but he
who rules both swirling galaxies and motes,
the Sacred Way, whose nature is to save
and hold together, conqueror of death,
commanded, “Peace! Be Still!” He calmed the wave
and gentled winds with one slowed, mindful breath.
He did it all to save a few frail souls,
but now humanity itself is raging
and causing storms beyond its own controls—
a war against ourselves that we are waging.
Go wake the power sleeping in the stern.
Go slow your breath and help his peace return.
based on the story in Mark 4:35-41
copyright 2020 Thomas Cary Kinder