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  • Writer's pictureJaime Howell

Building a Cathedral in the Forest of Knowing

Excerpt.

Everything except us humans seems to be tuned to an inner knowing. I project into the lithe swing of the salmon tail that she is whole and fully alive as she threads the dark streams following her instinctive knowing. And I want that too and I know it is here. How did we loss faith in the feeling function, this live wire of instinct, life force?



She said..” I look for two things in a human, generosity and curiosity…” I put three small dots after that sentence, I packed them with nothing, that it may halt your pace, ring you like a bell, pause and let it in.

I am caught in their stark simplicity, like wings of a bird we need both to avoid flying circles. I added a third, Wonderment and let the bird go. A capacity to be dumb (heavenly close to the scared fool) founded, awed, enchanted. To catch the scent of something wildly intelligent and have our thinking strategic slip its cogs in favour of a few stunned moments of spell binding wonder.

We talked more, she spoke of two essential skills to the art of living. The boldness of the claim reminded of a brother who says “It is entirely possible to live a shit life and get other tangled in the mess. So I am listening, ear pricked, tell me what 2 things are things… the willingness to be initiated by solitude and the craft of becoming a good friend to ourselves.

It strikes me that a modern human is fraught with choices. How skilled the high priests of consumerism are, they know how get our attention and hold it enough that we lose the possibilities of an initiation into the wisdoms of solitude. Born as we are in solitude, dying as we do in solitude, this edgy, illusive womb of becoming is so easy to give away. A moment of emptiness gone for impulse to check a messages, or the pulse to passion and the promises of intimate relating.

The second is this craft of becoming our own good friend. Put aside for a moment the non dual nivarnic peace of oneness and sit down with yourself. There a voice that has been walking you the whole way. A presence, a conversation. When Rumi say people are coming back and forth between the two worlds, I am guessing he knew also that the self narrating is endless. I turn to Derek Walcott and his sweet instruction to feast on your life.


Love After Love


The time will come

when, with elation

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror

and each will smile at the other's welcome,


and say, sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you


all your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,


the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.


At first I believed I may learn to love myself in a weekend workshop, then a realised maybe a perhaps a season, then humbled a year it is harder than I thought. David Whyte brought me tantalising close with his poem the Faces of Bragga... " If only we knew how the invisible carvers hand can bring the deep grain of love to the surface..." Alas I am thinking this is a life times work because the self shifts, because the trauma is pervasive, the darkness deep, because everything I know is changing except the knowing itself. I am complelled by the idea that in each of us lives both a wild innocent child and older well seasoned elder. These two support one another, their alchemy and tempering is a good medicine for the soul, the alchemy could be one way we may learn to a good friend to the self.


These things spoken, the three qualities of generosity, wonderment and curiously and the life long apprenticeship to solitude and being the good friend, are hallmarks of inner work, the art of being a true adult. Amazing that such things are missing from our educational institutions, our work places, our modern lives.


I want to end with the final thing this wise woman said. She spoke of building a cathedral in the forest, yes, this is the fruit of the inner work. Our cities are full and the cathedral are empty, Jung said something like, and I when asked myself to what myth do I live by? and there was a silence... I do not think he was just speaking only about himself but the frontier of human evolution, rolling on the wheel of agriculture industrial technology revolutions to a point where we have no myth to live by, no guiding archetypal framework to orientate us, no maps to help us remember who we are and what we are born to know and do.

I am building a cathedral in a forest. It has been working me and I am guessing you if you are reading this since our brith. Modern culture is falling under its own weight, I am falling, the rambunctious adolescent tribe of conformation consumerism is falling. And with it an opening is happening to be enchanted again.

The salmon knows where to go, so to the travelling bird, the glow worm, the spider architecture. In fact everything except us humans seems to be tuned to an inner knowing. I project into the lithe swing of the salmon tail that she is whole and fully alive as she threads the dark streams following her instinctive knowing. And I want that too and I know it is here. How did we loss faith in the feeling function, this live wire of instinct, life force? The very thing that knows it way through the labyrinth of a vast evolving wholeness. She tells me of some humans scheming to re-negotiate progress so that the salmon may follow her callings home. If only we can get a scent for the salmon, have it swim in the red veins, enter the chambers of our hearts, be carried on flood of moral imaginings in the dreaming of generations to come. This is not a time to play small.





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