The Most Precious Treasure

Winter and the Cold Moon

Shabbat gratefuls: How do I feel? A mood changer. Thanks, Tal. Joan, such a bright lady. Alan in his tie dyed t-shirt for the Beatles shabbat. Luke’s dvar torah. His playing and singing in the service. A testament to his courage and growth. Breakfast at Dandelions, reopened under new ownership. Ackerman’s pick up of the couch. Reupholstering. Fixing Rigel’s deep hole. My son and Seoah.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Breakfast with friends

One brief shining: Got the new menu for Dandelions, three of them, one for Alan and Joan and me, went back to the table and took my time with it since I was still alone, noticed corned beef hash as an entree, two eggs, found a side of berries, and I had made my decision so I slid my menu away from me, picked up the cream and added it to the coffee, waiting.


A quote from the Zen calendar gifted me by Tom. From the Upanishads:

“God made the senses turn outwards, man (sic) therefore looks outward, not into himself. But occasionally a daring soul, desiring immortality, has looked back and found himself.”

Don’t know the context of this quote but by itself it tells a truth and a half-truth. The truth is this. Our physicality forces our attention out and away from ourselves. Oh, look! See that! Wow. Did you hear what she said? Hey, can you smell that? OMG. This is the best avocado toast ever. Yes, again. Right there.

The half-truth is only occasionally is there a daring soul who turns to the inner cathedral, that alembic of memory and thought powered by the fiery heat of the emotions. And that when they do they seek immortality. Some may, of course, search for the secret to life beyond life. But most of us stumble through the doors of our inner cathedral when a shock like grief, major illness, addiction, rejection, or several days in a row of gloomy inner weather force us down the steps into our vast private universe. We all go there from time to time over the course of a life. And look back, in rather than out. Unknown how many find themselves.

How can we learn from the experience? Socrates. The unexamined life is not worth living. I believed that the first time I encountered it and believe it now. That examen as the Jesuits call it is not for the timid; as any cartographer can tell you, here there be monsters. Yet it is those shadowy winged creatures of our soul who guard the real treasure.

Which suggests to me that Gandalf might well be our guide. I think of him in his encounter with the Balrog in the mines of Moira. Gandalf could have turned and run or at least not advanced toward the menacing creature. Instead he walks onto the narrow bridge that will carry him straight into the Balrog’s path.

Gandalf walked toward the bomb, toward the fight, toward the pillar of smoke and in so doing earned the opportunity to face a great obstacle rather than force it back down and away from consciousness. In the ensuing battle Gandalf the Grey dies but only after killing the Balrog. Later, he reemerges as Gandalf the White.

Whether Gandalf or Virgil or Moses or Tiresias or even Ignatius of Loyola, we need a guide, a companion as we wander the labyrinths of our heart/mind. I found John Desteian who walked with me through the tunnels and traps of my 28 years. I’ve found Ira Progroff and his journal workshops. Now Moses and the Torah. I’ve found Gandalf and Virgil, too. But the key companion all along has been the then existing version of myself.

I invite you to find the entrance to your mines of Moira. I invite you to take a deep breath and set your foot on the steps that lead down and in to your inner cathedral. Yes, there be monsters there, but they’re your monsters and they guard the most precious treasure of all: self-knowledge.