Widening circles

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.

I circle around God, around the primordial tower.

I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?

Rainer Maria Rilke
Book of Hours
translation by Joanna Macy
and Anita Barrows

The beautiful face and gentle voice of the Benedictine Brother David Steindl-Rast always comes to my mind when I read Rilke’s ‘circles’. With unfailing generosity of spirit Brother David’s heart is big enough to encircle humankind, with all its various faith traditions, and the wider creation too, as one.

Today’s world news tells of further terrorist atrocities, deaths and hostage-taking – this time in Mali. And of growing calls to “close down borders” in France and elsewhere. I’m thankful for the voice of one young Frenchman who told a news reporter “that is not a solution. We must think together as a continent and not just as a country”. I’d want to say something very similar of the world’s philosophical and religious traditions: we must learn to think together as one …

“… life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.”

All of us “circle around the primordial tower.” It ill-behoves any or all of us to insist, to pretend, that there’s one straight path and that, surprise, surprise, it just happens to be the one that we’re on. “A great song” must eventually embrace and include everyone. The sooner, the better.

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