I want to tell you a story, a very old story, that I heard from Laurens van der Post.* It speaks to the necessity of embracing paradox. Of the suffering caused by dualistic thinking, when things are either this or that. When you are either going to succeed or fail. When anything or anyone is either good or bad. When something is right or wrong. Dualistic thinking renders us unable to deal with the difficulties and paradoxes that life inevitably brings. Spending most of my daylight hours painting, I notice that I need to hold the paradox of having structure, alongside the need to be self-forgetting — the fool who jumps in.
This story begins in a recent class in New Mexico. One of the students arrived the first morning, only just making class because of a family emergency. For the entire week she chose to remain silent in her grief, only saying: I cannot speak about it. And so she worked, allowing her hands to give shape to her grief.
At the close of class we have an opportunity to share our work, or say something, or simply listen. Once again, this student told me, before the circle began, that she could not speak. About half way around the circle, I am not sure what prompted me to say: I want to tell you the story of “ja-nee”, the Afrikaans word for “yes-no”. This took us all by surprise, including me, as it did not seem to relate to our closing.
Once upon a time, in a faraway place…..Read More