Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Cry of the Heart

 It is the edge, with the abyss just behind one’s back, that evokes the cri de coeur cutting through every balanced presentation.
--James Hillman

We are hearing the cri de coeur, or cry of the heart, far too often these days. There is not a direction to which one can turn nor a life into which one can probe, without hearing this primal wail. It comes in daily emails from organizations seeking to right the balance in the environment or in the realms of social justice or political accountability. We are confronted with this cry from neighbors suffering foreclosure or struggling with bankruptcy or a child with a drug problem. We see the cry in the haunted eyes of Somali refugees half a world away or of the homeless on our own streets.

We would like to pretend that it is business as usual, to give a “balanced presentation,” but in truth, we are deeply disturbed by a world out of balance. This is the world of “Koyaanisquatsi: Life Out of Balance,” a film by Godfrey Reggio, created between 1975 and 1982, presenting an apocalyptic vision of technology and its impact on the natural world. Created at a time when many of us were just awakening to the abyss at our backs, it remains a somber and poetic vision for the present day and the future.

Is there a remedy to this perilous, vertiginous position, with our heels hanging over the edge, while a keening wail arises from our hearts? Hillman says, “the new opposition, the real one in this generation, is between the soul and all that would butcher or purchase it.” Hillman asks what may be the most important question for any human being to ask: “What does the soul want?” This tiny 5-word question is a portal to an immense panorama of personal inquiry that can last a lifetime – or perhaps several. One thing is sure: we all are fairly certain the soul does not want to plummet into the abyss! And yet, it is this very peril that opens our own authenticity to us.

In the next few days, we will consider here just what the soul’s longing might look like and how we might avoid a personal or communal plunge into black and unconscious realms where war hatches its ugly brood and life loses both value and meaning. Until then, let’s meditate on this essential question: what does my soul want? The answers may surprise us!

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