Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Of Mice and Tigers

Long time ago, in Bethlehem -  oops - in Boston, at St. Margaret's Convent on Louisburg Square - I created a mouse. Named Pierre. Pierre came from Montreal, was tiny, cute, shy, cautious, thoughtful, prayed a lot, hid in dark places, spoke for me of what it meant to be little. Pierre was an image I  held of myself - a mouse - small enough to fit in Jesus' hand. Hung out by the crèche during the Christmas season. Stood at the foot of the cross and - well - I wasn't as aware of the empty tomb and resurrection in those days as I was of suffering. So foot of the cross pretty well summed things up. 

Now I'm not putting Pierre down. Pierre taught me so much both during convent days, and after my break-down/break-through he helped guide me creatively through the first years of therapy... Be good had been high on the list. Don't be angry. Don't cry. "Who was I, anyhow?" Pierre helped me ask. Gradually, Pierre began to make forays out into a world where 'negative' emotions could be expressed and seen as part of who I was - who we are as human beings. I had returned from Haiti extremely angry at the injustice, though I didn't know it. It is still difficult to shop in our massive grocery stores. I had returned from Haiti with the beginnings of awareness of being an em-bodied spirit. Long, long journey into these truths and others. 

Lo, and behold, though Pierre played a role in my journey, my truest self began to emerge reflected in the tiger. Alive! Vibrant. Fierce, yet tender. (Tigers make great Mums.)  Grace-full. Unpredictable and predictable. Mysterious. While Pierre might be cowering in a cave, my tiger has learned to speak up. One of my favourite sayings is: "Speak your mind (or heart), even if your voice shakes." 

Owning my anger means I can be direct in ways I couldn't have imagined. Owning my anger and understanding its roots means owning my passion. And, of course, anger is often a mask for other more frightening emotions :  terror, grief ...

Thich Nhat Hanh in Taming the Tiger Within : In the beginning you may not understand the nature of your anger, or why it has come to be. But if you know how to embrace it with the energy of mindfulness, it will begin to become clear to you."

THE TYGER (from Songs Of Experience)    William Blake

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright 
In the forests of the night, 
What immortal hand or eye 
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies 
Burnt the fire of thine eyes? 
On what wings dare he aspire? 
What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art. 
Could twist the sinews of thy heart? 
And when thy heart began to beat, 
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain? 
In what furnace was thy brain? 

What the anvil? what dread grasp 
Dare its deadly terrors clasp? 

When the stars threw down their spears, 
And watered heaven with their tears, 
Did he smile his work to see? 
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright 
In the forests of the night, 
What immortal hand or eye 
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry? 


"... the tiger evokes a reverence, dread, and wonder accorded no other animal." Spell of the Tiger : the Man-eaters of Sundarbans  by Sy Montgomery ... she continues to describe some of the religious links with the tiger... "some of the gods choose the tiger as their vahana, or vehicle. In Hindu mythology, a vahana does not carry a god in the ordinary sense that a car carries a passenger. Rather, as religious historian Wendy Doniger points out, the mount carries the god "in the way a breeze 'carries' a perfume." The tiger is permeated, saturated with the god's force and power, imbued with the essence of the god itself." "I love it. I just, just love it," as the little curly haired girl in the apple sauce commercials used to say ... 

I'm not about to switch faiths - though I truly believe every faith is a path to God ... but I'm reminded of Francis Xavier, an Anglican priest who came to us from Sri Lanka, telling us, "We western Christians have taken the Lion of Judah, de-clawed him, and turned him into a tame pussy cat." Might God speak to us through a tiger as well? God certainly speaks to me this way. :-)

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