You write about that wonderful line from Blake, that we are here to learn to endure the beams of love. Some have recoiled at the thought of that.
It’s just awful. I really think it’s the hardest work we do. That and letting go, letting go, letting God, letting go. I’ve always said that everything I’ve let go of has claw marks on it. And it's true--even though it gets a little tiny bit easier every year. So letting go and enduring the beams of love are the challenges.
We’re really girded against being that open and that permeable for obvious reasons. You protect yourself as a child and as a teenager and from the pain of love and the pain of being hurt in love and the pain of the death of people that you are so, so, so dependent on.
Everything in us teaches us to put up walls and get the surface just right and never go out without the armor on. Then we come into circumstances where the armor and the wall won’t work anymore--either because we’re so sick, or because someone we love intimately is so sick, that we don’t have the luxury of keeping the walls up and the surface looking nice and enviable.
It turns out to be, as my friend said about his facial disfigurement, an elaborately disguised gift from God. …I have had the shield come down and it’s like the wonderful Leonard Cohen song that there are cracks in everything and that’s how the light gets in.
If I’m doing an event on stage and talking about the heart or talking about grief, I become very quiet. I’m not trying to be funny or cute or erudite. The response from the audience feels like those beams of love or like water coming into a tide pool.
I’m a very isolated person, left to my own devices, which is why I’m so grateful that I have a God and a spiritual life and a beautiful circle of friends and a community.
Left to my own devices, I’m like a tide pool, with these little crabs and animals struggling for survival. I run out of soul food or emotional nourishment. Then from the audience or from my church or whatever, I can feel the tide come in and bring with it little bits of seaweed or krill or nourishment. It’s gentle but it’s startling--the cold water is startling and it brings with it everything I need.
I’m a worried person and that’s why I think it’s such difficult work. Our whole lives have been practicing not being startled or surprised by water and by the baptism. That’s why baptism is so profound—you’re submerged, you can’t breathe, and you sputter for a minute--but when you come out, you’re a different person.