The book leapt off the shelf and into my hands. The Mole People chronicles journalist Jennifer Toth’s time among the underground homeless of New York City. Forgoing the dangers of life on the streets, these people make their homes in train and subway tunnels far below the towering buildings of the city.
Mac is one of them. An erratic and often paranoid middle~aged man, Mac catches rats by their tails for dinner, and collects pieces of wood and scraps of metal for he knows not what.“‘You may not be able to see what its purpose is,’ Mac tells Toth, ‘but everything has a reason for being.’” Wise words, and ones that place Mac in very good company, indeed.
In Everything Belongs, Franciscan priest Richard Rohr writes “Everything is sacred if the world is a temple.” He encourages us to develop the vision to recognize “the divine image in all created things,” including each experience.
As we develop this clearer sight, we become more skilled in fashioning our own unique and honorable response to what comes our way. And the way we work the raw material of our lives determines whether we become wise or bitter, loving or harsh, deeper or given to pat answers and easy excuses. Thus, we are given the opportunity to become active participants in the shaping of our spirits.
In a recent commencement address at a local high school, former teacher Heath Higgins referenced the two numbers traditionally inscribed on tombstones, the year of birth and of death. He reminded the graduates that these numbers are separated by a dash representing a life lived, with all the experiences encountered and the choices open to each of us. He urged his former students to “Make your dash count.”
It’s so easy to get lost in the hubbub of our busy lives. Luckily, we have spiritual practices that slow us down, ones that help us orient to that which is eternal, as well as to what Rohr calls “the sacrament of the present moment.”
My thoughts travel now to Peru and to Puma, the medicine man I studied with last year. He urged us to live each moment fully awake and in harmony with the flow of the divine that is palpably present always. As we do so, our lives will unfold in such a way that we can say, in Puma’s words, “We have made of our lives the very best medicine, the best offering back to God.”
So, there ya have it…a homeless schizophrenic, a Franciscan priest, a history teacher, and a Quechua holy man all offering similar wisdom for living a rich life. Find the usefulness in everything. Honor all as gift. Receive those gifts fully. Make them count, by crafting a worthy response to what comes our way. And let that response be our very best medicine.
And it is so.