There was a farmer who had a lot of fields, and he kept all of the birds and creatures away from his crops with traps and fences. He was very successful.
But he was also very lonely.
So, one day, he stood in the middle of his fields to welcome the animals. He stayed there from dawn until dusk, with his arms outstretched, calling to them. But, not a single animal came.
Not a single creature appeared.
They were terrified, you see, of the farmer’s new Scarecrow.
This story of the farmer is from the movie The Doctor. The movie tells the story of surgeon Jack McKee (William Hurt); an aloof, self-centered heart surgeon who treats his patients like numbers on a list. Then he gets sick himself—cancer—and is not prepared for the invitation and the paradigm shift: that his sickness (and his vulnerability) gives him the opportunity to change his life.
Yes, I will admit that I prefer my fields orderly. There is something comforting about a tidy world. Lord knows, free from commotion and disruption, and “creatures”. Life feels understandable or manageable that way. And there is an artifice of control.
See (I somehow assure myself), my world (my script) is in place.
The story resonates because our yearning for control (or grasp) has a special import in today’s binary world, where we live by the paradigm that the other (you know, anyone we call “them”) is considered an enemy, and to be feared. So, our approach to each encounter ends up skeptical at best, and adversarial at worst.
I can relate to the farmer, the feeling threatened part. Although that’s not quite the right word; more like undefended or vulnerable. Meaning that if I do expand my world, open my fields, invite them (or another) into this world, I (and my heart) am exposed to touch. To connection. To kindness. To empathy. To wounds. To love. To untidiness. To generosity. To loss. To bounty. To intimacy.
And what if? What if these creatures—whatever or whoever they represent—may not handle me or my world with care?
So, here’s the deal: Deep down, maybe I don’t really want intimacy. Maybe I just want security.
To be sure, it’s easy to see how in our current world, security is the temptation. When division takes its toll, I feel the temptation (pressure) to close down rather than open up and make space.
The 1988 film Gorillas in the Mist tells the story of Dian Fossey, courageous field biologist, as she managed to befriend a tribe of gorillas. Dian had gone to Africa in footsteps of mentor, George Schaller, a renowned primate biologist who had returned from the wilds with more intimate and compelling information about gorilla life than any scientist before.
When his colleagues asked how he was able to learn such remarkable detail about the tribal structure, family life, and habits of gorillas, he attributed it to one simple thing: he never carried a gun.
You see, all previous generations of explorers and scientists entered that territory with one assumption: the gorillas were dangerous. So, the scientists came with an aggressive spirit, large rifles in hand.
The gorillas could sense the danger, and therefore, kept their distance. What a surprise…
Although, if I’m honest I get it, as I do enter many (okay, most) of my relationships “well-armed”. (Just in case.) And I wonder why guardedness takes root in my spirit.
I like that Fossey always moved slowly, gently, and above all, respectfully toward these creatures. Sometimes sitting still, hour after hour. This does my heart good. Arms down, the power of presence, making space.
It’s not easy when a part of us wants both. You know, I want my field free of creatures (who knows what they will do). And I want the creatures to be my friend (but why are they so suspicious of me?). It’s a tug of war between the unknown (the mystery) and the need to be held very tight and told, “You are okay now.”
In The Doctor, McKee is telling his friend June–fellow cancer patient–about his difficulty connecting with his wife; living a life full of misunderstanding, apprehension and wariness. And how it constricts his heart.
How he no longer wants “an empty field.”
He wants company.
“I’ve kept her out here for years,” he says with his hand and arm raised and outstretched. “And I don’t want that anymore. But I don’t know how to get my arm down.”
June writes a letter to Jack (delivered after her death), with the story of the scarecrow. And closes with this invitation: just let down your arms, and we’ll all come to you.
Tell me again…
Just let your arms down.
In one of her blog posts, Maria Shriver wrote, “In the spirit of fall, I’ve been thinking about the idea of falling in to every part of life. So many of us hold ourselves back from really letting go and falling in. We are scared that if we fall in fully we will get hurt or be disappointed. We are terrified that there will be nothing there to catch us. There is always a chance of that but I’ve come to believe that standing back is far scarier than falling in. Standing back and being aware of it makes us feel stuck, makes us feel afraid, makes us feel less than. When we let ourselves fall in, we fall into our courage. We fall into our strength. We fall into our power and our worth. We fall into ourselves and our joy and meaning.”
Yes and Amen. So, let’s make this our invitation and paradigm shift this week. We are not attempting to create something out of sheer willpower or adding something to our life we do not already possess. “Letting our arms down”, we give ourselves the permission to fall into (embrace) our strength, fall into the enough of what is already there.
In the words of Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes…
“We do not become writers… dancers… musicians… helpers… peacemakers.
We came as such. We are.
Some of us are still catching up to what we are.
We do not learn to love in this sense.
We came as Love. We are Love.
Some of us are still catching up to who we truly are.”
So, tell me again… Just let your arms down.
In our neck of the woods, our winter clothes have found their mission in life again. And the fireplace warms the chair waiting with a book and a glass of wine.
Quote for our week…
You become freer to be yourself not because you finally found a place where you are protected from feeling what you don’t want to feel, but because you welcomed those unwanted feelings and lived to tell the tale. Maybe your idealized image of yourself didn’t survive, but you did. Kim Rosen
Today’s Photo Credit: “Thank you for your sharing. I so appreciate it. This is sunrise at Long Branch, NJ,” Joan Hornick, ASC… Thank you Joan… Keep sending your photos… send to terryhershey.com
Yes, your gift makes a difference… Donation = Love…
Help make Sabbath Moment possible. I write SM because I want to live with a soft heart; to create a place for sanctuary, empathy, inclusion, compassion and kindness… a space where we are refueled to make a difference. SM remains free.
(NEW address by check: PO Box 65336, Port Ludlow, WA 98365)
UPCOMING EVENTS —
December 9 – 11 — Franciscan Renewal Center, Scottsdale, AZ, Men’s Retreat
Letters that do my heart good…
–Terry, so we’ll said and done…but We Are Never Done, to shine the light from within our very own and even complex and uniquely stumbling, mumbling, and numbing minds! It’s like the earth has music if only we listen! Patti
–Thank you. Your writings refuel and restore me! Diana
–Dear Terry, for all than you share in Sabbath Moment—the stories, poems, quotes, songs, emotion, reminders, encouragement, openness and brokenness—I thank you. (Oh, I forgot to mention wisdom!) You continue to be a blessing and wonderful presence in my life, in my days. With a soft and full heart, Mary
–Dear Terry, Your stories always lift my heart, especially on days when I need lifting up! Do not despair that you are not reaching anyone with your words– your words carry more healing than you know. Keep writing and sharing; it’s the sharing that makes the difference! Thank you for being who you are! It matters more than you will ever know! Love and blessings on you and peace to you, Beth
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough.
George Washington Carver
A day so happy.
Fog lifted early, I worked in the garden.
Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers.
There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.
I knew no one worth my envying him.
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.
In my body I felt no pain.
When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.
Deep within our being where truth and peace yearn to reign over chaos and confusion; we pause to listen
In the midst of our daily activities and the many thing to do that haunt our calendars; we pause to listen
Among the people who come into our lives–our loved ones, our friend, our colleagues and companions, even our enemies; we pause to listen
As we move into the heart of prayer and hear the call to be more in union with you; we pause to listen
When we feel empty, distraught, frustrated, and lost; when we wonder in what direction we are to go; we pause to listen.
God, give us ears to hear You as we listen for Your voice
in calm and in the wind
in busyness and in boredom
in certainty and in doubt
in noise and in silence
in this day to pause with you and others on the journey.
Accept our gratitude for the many times you have sought us
and have invited us to recognize you
in the home of our true self.
Sisters of Charity, Cincinnati