abolishing, leveling,strongholds

There is a field out beyond right and wrong; I will meet you there.     ~Rumi

Rising early, my father wheels to his desk to begin work before breakfast.  For months, he has steeped himself in the history of the Berlin Wall; thick books are veined with his red pen, tracing its surprise overnight rise, its 27-mile outrage severing the lifeblood of a city, and its equally staggering fall.  He once lived in close proximity to the border, and later, when the wall still knifed its way through the heart of a common people, he wrote a book wound around that image calling church and society to dismantle the strongholds that divide us by race, religion, sex, social class. 

Now, thirty years later, Beyond the Barriers is being reprinted; and he is churning through major revisions.  He is making his way through the fallen stones to touch the scar on the landscape, to feel what barbed wires still remain, constrain, and wrongly invade our amplitude.  His weakened hand presses pen to paper the old-fashioned way, slowly, slowly, but with a fierce force of will.  He is devoted with the full length of his life to reconciliation.  To the Oneness we are and can yet be.

There is urgency in his hand, for he is living in close proximity, now, to another wall – the one between the living and the dead. Our cultural mind can no longer imagine this, as perhaps people once did, a permeable boundary.  We have failed to imagine it natural, or graceful, to cross over, trusting the hospitality of the other side.  Death’s realm is severed from us, a fortress surrounds it; and we rarely speak of it, though it cuts through the heart of everything.

Even this week, as a wall is going up in my garden – a strong, tall stroke of definition; my father is leveling his own final barrier to wholeness.  In the mysterious world of ALS, one is allotted time, mercifully or not, to approach the perimeter between life and death, to peer over, to become acquainted, as it were, with the other side – not as an enemy to oppose but as a mystery to enter. One is asked, with each muscle lost, each word eroded, each freedom clipped, to put down that particular stone. One by one.  To dismantle one’s life; slowly dismantle one’s life, and walk knowingly into what is beyond. 

One day, my father will be on the other side of this dividing wall, while I yet grope toward it, darkly.  I want to believe it is not as impenetrable as we think, this wall between us.  That even across this great divide, we are somehow yet joined in a mystery I dare not name. 

There is a place, as Rumi says, out there beyond right and wrong, beyond male and female, black and white, even, I want to add, beyond the living and the dead.  There is a field with no walls at all, where all is one, and reconciled. To my father, I want to say now, I want to say in all the years to come:

I’ll meet you there.

I’ll meet you there


~ by Stephanie on 03/11/2010.

4 Responses to “abolishing, leveling,strongholds”

  1. Oh Susan, this is so lovely. The stroke of definition, the permeable mystery. Words may erode, but yours enliven.
    thank you, friend,

  2. Susan,

    Bill, fortunately, sent me a copy of these stunningly beautiful words. I appreciate so much about what you have said, but your tone of theological humility about the “mystery” that you dare not name claims me as much as anything in the blog.

    Few days get by without Bill and Wylodine invading my thoughts.

    Buddy Shurden

    • Buddy,
      Thanks for your generous words. It means the world to me that you are keeping my father’s mind active and animated and engaged in writing projects. Thanks for being such a good friend to him.

  3. you are the most extraordinary of daughters! to speak to your father with such knowing, such wisdom and such hope. He is a lucky man!

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