Living in the Layers

"By means of all created things,
without exception, the Divine assails us,
penetrates us, and molds us.
We imagined it as distant
and inaccessible,
when in fact, we live
steeped in its burning layers."
~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Chardin was a Jesuit scientist - a brilliant paleontologist, geologist, and philosopher, whose works were at times banned. His insights and reflections were well before its time and helped pave the way for more recent philosophical, theological, and scientific discourse. He was silenced by the Church, and yet he did not lose his faith. He was born in 1881, and died in April of 1955, just a few months before I was born.

These words came to me precisely at a time when I have been reflecting on how the very essence of our beings seems to be comprised of layers. All the significant issues in our lives are similarly constructed of layers, and somehow we must revisit them again and again and again...

This poem came to me yesterday, and it captured my heart, resonating with my internal musings, and evoking so much for me than I could adequately share. Yet, somewhere, juxtaposed between Chardin's quote and this poem, my reality is nestled...

The Layers

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art 
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

~ Stanley Kunitz


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