Friday, November 04, 2005

Dancing in the Light

Today I am going to share a story I read on a favorite website this morning. Please excuse my blatant plagiarism, but indulge me as well. This account reminded me of the piece I wrote earlier this week about heartburn. I hope you enjoy it. I certainly did. Peace, Gail

"Heliopher" is based on a Russian legend recounted by Maxim Gorky.

Once upon a time there was a race which was lost in a great, dark forest. The trees stood so close together that the light of the sun could not penetrate the thickly entwined branches. There were also numerous wild animals which fell upon the people, especially the children, when they wandered too far from their parents while they were playing. So everyone lived in a constant state of fear of death and destruction, and a hopeless despair took hold of the hearts of the folk.

Continuous black darkness had strangled all the light in their hearts. They could not love one another any more. They even hated and murdered one another in their rage. Yet they were forced to remain together, for it was impossible for any single man to defend himself against the attacks of the wild beasts. They had lost all hope of ever finding their way out of the forest. Many of the young people did not believe in the light they had never seen, and they mocked their elders, when, with a last weak light gleaming in their dim eyes, they recounted tales of the festive, sunny days of their youth.

Among the people however, there was a young man called Heliopher. He was very much alone, grieving over the misery of his people, and seeking a way of salvation. He bore in his heart an endless longing for light and love in the desolation which surrounded him. Heliopher left his people to seek the sun. For many months and years he wandered through the dangers of the forest and of his own soul, and often, very often, nearly lost all hope and confidence. But Heliopher bravely withstood his enemies, whether within himself or around him, and at last he reached the edge of the forest and saw the light of the sun. In terrible amazement he fell into a swoon, and when he awoke he saw in the twilight that he was watched over in his slumber by beautiful people. In the green meadows stood the simple huts of the sun-people, and Heliopher lived with them in peace and endless joy as the most beloved amongst living men.

Then Heliopher went back to the forest to seek his people. “Come, brothers and sisters,” he said to them, “I will lead you to the light.” At this there was murmuring and frowning, wavering and hesitation, wonder and questioning, incredulous laughter, and finally a jubilant “Yes!” And then, at last, the longed-for departure.

Then the light of the sun shone in Heliopher’s eyes, but the way was long and difficult, and demanded much suffering and sacrifice, and murmuring arose among the people. Some spoke and said, “Let us murder him, the betrayer of the people!” And the dark glow of hatred was in their eyes. Others were wiser and said, “No! let us judge him in the presence of all, for it is dangerous to give the people a martyr.” And Heliopher spoke to his people, and talked about light and love. But the wise ones answered, “You lie! There is no light, there is no sun, there is no love. Let us be darker than the forest and more cruel than the wild beasts. Then we shall be masters of the forest!”

Heliopher answered in great pain, “O believe not, ye wise men, that ye can be victorious over darkness by being more dark, that ye can overcome the wild beasts by being more beastly. Only love is stronger. Only the light of the sun can drive away darkness.”

“Be silent!” said the wise men. “There is no light, there is no sun!”

And the people shouted, flinging their arms about in raging despair, “There is no light, there is no sun!”

But Heliopher called out, “Follow me!” Then, with his nails, he tore open his breast, and his heart burned with love, and it glowed and shed its beams through the dark forest. He took it in both hands, held it high over his head, and strode forth in front of the people.

In reverent wonder and silence the multitude followed the burning heart. (Emphasis mine.)

As they came out of the forest, the people ran in jubilation towards the sun, dancing in its loving rays, and loving one another. But Heliopher knelt down at the edge of the forest, and with the last strength of his outstretched arms he held up his loving, pulsing heart to the light of heaven, and gave his last smile to his people.

Did you feel it? Did you feel Heliopher's deep love and desire to lead his people from darkness into light? Did you see the truth of how love is stronger than war and pain and the enemies that try to drag us into the darkness? When will we stop killing ourselves and each other with our anger and jealousy and fear? When will we stop calling ourselves "wise" and pay attention to those who walk with the light of love, peace, grace, and mercy as their guides? When will we stop the arguing and one-upsmanship long enough to notice that there is a burning heart of love to follow out of the dark forest?

I believe that love and joy and fellowship are possible in this world. But in order to get there, I must be willing to lay down my prejudices and personal vendettas. I must be willing to forgive those who have called me crazy and foolish and naive. I must continue to seek peace and pursue it. I must receive the love of God and then share it with others. I must never stop crying out in the midst of the chaos and fear, the anger and bitterness, the finger-pointing and shouting - crying out that there is another way. There is Light. There is Love. There is Peace. There is Laughter. There is all this and more - more than enough for everyone who cares to imbibe. There is a Fellowship of The Burning Heart that welcomes each of us to enter.

The truth is that none of our worldly goods, none of the physical or financial wealth can protect us from the sorrow, the doubt, the self-loathing, and the despair that we all face in the car, in the office, in the shower, in the closet, at the table in the fine restaurant, at our own kitchen tables, at the mall, in the museum, at our desks, at our easels, and in the dark when we think everyone else is asleep. If our wallets, bank accounts, and pantries are full, why do we still feel so empty? If our waistlines, double chins, and thighs are so large, why do we still feel so small? With such neat answers to life's tough questions, why do we still feel so messy? If none of the old ways, the old goals, the old ideals are working for us, why not consider a new way?

I pray that I will be willing to live as Heliopher did. May I be willing to wander away from the crowds, follow the dappled beams of light back to the Source, and then be willing to return to those still fighting so fiercely in the dark to lead them home. May I be willing to rip out my own heart again and again, and hold it up for the world to see the love, the strength, and the beauty that resides within because of the Light that has shone down on me. May my final act on this earth, like Heliopher's, be to point people towards the light of the Son, the open fields of grace, and the eternal dance that we all long to join.

"I hope you'll dance."

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