I took my title from a favorite book of blessings by John O’Donohue. As I paused to remember 9-11 last week, I wondered about the spaces between us and how to honor them with our best energies.
Space is an elusive idea. It’s not about “you,” “me,” or even “we.” It’s about an ephemeral meeting place where energy can exist and mystery can live. Space can be a container filled with qualities and values we want to foster like compassion, creativity, and kindness.
A wise friend of mine, Rev. Gisela Wielki, who lived in New York City at the time of 9-11, wrote a beautiful, provocative post on Facebook, where she asked:
“What good could live between you and me for the sake of us?”
I remember the first days after the Twin Towers fell. Friends came together to cry, share prayers, light candles. In Seattle, the community held vigils at the Seattle Center, site of the Space Needle. We mourned, walked in silence, and placed flowers. Even as a tragedy brought us together, the air, where we convened, was filled with a special, almost sacred, sense of connection.
For several days, we filled our spaces with love, compassion, and even forgiveness.
Then things fell apart.
As a nation, we blew it. Perhaps we weren’t ready for such a big opportunity to step into a new consciousness and a new future.
Rev Wielki wrote: How could it [that space] get so wasted by twenty years of war, not only without but also within?
A Grail opportunity
Gisela’s words brought to mind a mythic figure who also blew it big time: the medieval knight Parceval.
Here’s a super-simplified version of his quest for the Holy Grail:
At the beginning of his journey, Perceval is an immature, ambitious youth who yearns to be a knight. Forsaking his mother and her pleas not to go, he heads off to King Arthur’s court, becomes a knight, and makes a name for himself.
Along the way, he meets a wounded man fishing who invites Perceval home. The man is a king, the Fisher King who lives in a magnificent castle and waits for the person who will heal him by asking a question.
Perceval watches as men women parade by him, carrying the Holy Grail, a chalice said to have miraculous powers.
He doesn’t recognize what he is seeing. He fails to ask about the Grail, the court, or the King’s health. Instead, he stays silent and stuck in an old version of what he thinks is required of him: to not question.
He blows it and fails to heal the king.
In the morning, the castle has disappeared, Perceval’s opportunity is gone, and he will spend the rest of his life questing to find the Grail.
Perceval didn’t understand what he was seeing. He couldn’t comprehend what was being asked of him or the opportunity he had to step into a new, expanded way of being.
He wasn’t ready.
Just like we, perhaps, were not ready to step into the opportunity that opened for us following 9-11. Instead of expanding consciousness, we chose war.
Perceval never found his grail. We, however, can create new ways daily to bring light into the spaces between us. Among the many examples, I see everyday:
- Two men, Vietnam war enemies, come together for a tearful, healing, reunion.
- A community group on my island convenes to honor the Japanese forced into the internment camps of WWII.
- Volunteers work seamlessly to provide vaccines to a community.
- A town comes together to support refugee families.
- Friends join in dialogue to discover how they can acknowledge their privilege and address racism.
Stop. Still. Be silent.
With these steps, I can prepare myself to enter into a space of blessing:
Stop: Take a moment to notice. Open to the mystery. Perhaps set an intention.
Still: Step away from the hurry-about frenzy of daily life. Let the body be calm, the senses aware, and the intuition awake.
Be Silent: Honor the silence out of which right words can come.
A grail of possibility is available to us every day.
Can we see it and ask the questions that could tap its healing properties?
We blew it after 9-11. We can choose anew.
We can notice and bless the spaces that exist between us as individuals and as groups, (not to mention between us and the animals, nature, and the planet).
We can invite the light of kindness and compassion in.
Once upon a time, we weren’t ready. But now we can be. Because in that space is the energy we need to creatively heal the world.