A Caress of the World

Hear me read this post.

My grand­fa­ther was a part-time orchardist and a part-time painter. This was at a time, close to the Great Depres­sion, when being a good water col­orist still meant a chance to paint for the cov­ers of well-known mag­a­zines. One fam­i­ly leg­end is that he would sell on the street the brown bag lunch made for him by my grand­moth­er so that he might buy more paints. 

He said this: If you want to know what col­ors go togeth­er, you only need to look as far as nature, for there all col­ors com­bine grace­ful­ly. At their edges, for exam­ple, the blues of the sky and the greens of the riv­er make togeth­er a fine turquoise that reminds me of the hun­dred year-old Nava­jo bracelet I often wear.

There is spe­cial pow­er in us, pow­er we do not under­stand. If you go to the Grand Canyon and look into the walls of stone you see for­ma­tions that evoke ancient store­hous­es of wis­dom left for us, but not yet tapped. It is a holy place, where what you send out into the air above the canyon feels like­ly to come back ten-fold. Light beget­ting light; dark­ness and empti­ness beget­ting a fore­told dawn. One day I watched as a flock of moun­tain blue birds flew not par­al­lel to the canyon floor but straight up out of the canyon against its walls, just tilt­ing my mind enough to rec­og­nize the pres­ence of magic.

When you grab hold of your own life-force, your inner Desire to live — and trans­mute it, trans­fig­ure it, release it — into some­thing that is in ser­vice to the world, to human­i­ty and to what is divine — then sure­ly the right flow will find you and you will join that flock of birds. When you reshape your own suf­fer­ing into con­tri­bu­tion, learn­ing to love unselfish­ly; when you wel­come the hand of the sculp­tor to make of you who and what you are meant to be, there comes a point when you know that there is real­ly only one Voca­tion, which is to love the world and to offer it in what­ev­er way you can your own caress. That is your gift, your gen­uine pow­er. Don’t let this wis­dom stay locked away in stone.

Caress is a sim­ple word mean­ing a gen­tle, lov­ing touch. Per­haps this is the only thing required of us in order to save our­selves and the world. Caress comes from Latin for “dear,” a feel­ing, yes, but bet­ter said, an ener­gy that may be cen­tral to the very flow of nature, hold­ing us and the oth­er right col­ors togeth­er, just as we are meant to be. 

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