Global Priors Council
I've always wondered why saints have haloes and certain Hindu
deities have blue faces and enlightened Buddhist monks have swollen,
shining foreheads. I've always wondered why Lord Buddha has that
peculiar expression on his face. Not anymore.
I met a young fellow this year who once was part of our group
and he threw up his hands and said, "Why, Maureen Jenkins,
I never thought I'd see you again in this life " And inside
myself I said, "You didn't." And as we shook hands,
he was saying to himself, "I didn't." I'm sure my head
wasn't shining, and as I look around this room, none of you are
sporting anything like haloes, but something about all of us is
at least as visibly different as if our faces had turned blue.
When one is engaged in the world with radical integrity, there
is a severe propensity to fall into effulgence when that engagement
becomes intensified or integrity is intensified, unless one prevents
it by self-depreciation, cynicism or just fear of going too far.
Effulgence is no occult thing. If you'll pardon the metaphor,
it's more like athlete's foot than magic.
I'll describe this phenomenon in four ways, as shown on your chart.
Sometimes, in the midst of one's suffering, one is flooded
with gratitude for the very universe which is such pain. This
is effulgence. Kelapa Dua setup began four days before the Consult.
It was the damnedest chaos you've ever seen. After Sunday's opening
night feast, we decided to move the plenary tent 1/2 mile away.
Between 11 PM and 7 AM, the entire operation -- tent, tables,
chairs, decor, blackboard -- just shifted out into the middle
of this big plateau. We showed up the next morning to start and
all you could say was, "What colleagues we have! What did
I ever do to receive the honor of working with people who do things
I was talking to another colleague one time about some of
the people she knew who had left the Order. All of a sudden she
said, have you ever counted the dumb things like washing dishes
or making a few phone calls that came up just when you were about
to walk out the door, and you ended up staying? And a scenario
started in my head that went on for days, just sheer gratefulness
for meaningless little events, gratitude that took my breath away,
for the way it's all happened.
Sometimes the 20th
Century itself seems to take on an identity all its own. I used
to teach CS-I and LENS and so forth, but I feel as if I've just
met the 20th
Century recently, that it's walked into communities on legs and
strode about. People recount especially the past 30 years again
and again -- the railroad was taken out, the cotton was mechanized,
the Dutch finally were driven out, the Germans occupied, the Americans
occupied, the farms no longer make it. Some small towns became
great metropolises and some small towns got smaller. You listen
to the pain and the pain and the pain of it and you sit in an
opening feast and watch the people of these times take all that
pain and sing about it. What a time to be alive!
And sometimes, in the midst of your weakness, you experience shocking power in your very impotence. This is effulgence. I guess many of us have gone to more funerals this year than any year we can remember, Funerals for the community, our colleagues, our consultants. And never have we watched so many just give up hope and die inside in the face of today's suffering. And you who remain find yourself just moving. Not so much out of heroism, sometimes, as fear. You find yourself engaged -- not just working, but loving the village, the town -- admitting its claim on your life. You find yourself living in the same contradiction that lives in the village. For a contradiction without always sends spies within your ranks, like the Trojan horse. The community in which the major contradiction was fragmentation was the same place where the team couldn't bring itself to meet even once and the Auxiliary couldn't possibly work together. You show up engaged. When you turn, however, to tactics, it's sheer liberation. You do the tactic that goes the way history, the community and all your forces are going and suddenly tactics are spinning a mile a minute. Some of you may remember a Monday night back on the West side when a truck hit a butane tank over at the bus barn. Crash from the truck with the
ba-room That's what happens with tactics. It's such power
that you just want to crawl under the table. I can't count the
number of times that people have turned to me lately when things
were really breaking loose and whispered, "Is it always this
chaotic?" I say, "I sure hope so."
This power does two things to you. First, you acquire a breathless
respect for the thrust, the trends, call it the face of the mystery
that lives in the community or the group. Absolutely nothing else
is even remotely interesting. You find yourself a fanatic about
the contradiction, like Sherlock Holmes. Secondly, you show up
utterly confident in what you're doing. I don't mean relaxed.
I mean, you don't worry about whether the butane tank will go
sky-high if you hit it. You just don't. You worry about hitting
it right, but as for whether the thing will come off, you just
know it will. People say, "Aren't you worried about this
thing? What will we ever do if this doesn't come off?" And
you just yawn and tell them to watch carefully when the truck
Sometimes in the midst of life's humiliation, one is overwhelmed
by the abundance of his empty life. This is effulgence. When the
musical Peter Pan was on stage, Mary Martin did a lot of flying
with the aid of wires while singing. It was, I understand, glorious
from the audience. So are most of the events we put on -- schools,
councils, consults and forums. As the one whose job it is to stand
behind the curtain with the wires and pulleys, you get a little
jaded about these flying arias. Marge and I just really have to
pull like hell to get Steve Allen off the ground sometimes, let
alone floating buoyantly across the village. And it's tough to
get excited about David and Jon's glorious team numbers when you've
had to put them back on key once every line. And we all bear that
relationship to each other. But sometimes while you're tugging
at wires, you notice that it's just a phenomenal show. And there
you are, a part of it.
We had our son Jean-Paul in Philadelphia this year while we
traveled, and stopped in to visit a few times. We'd walk in with
GSD slides and the house and sojourners was going a million miles
an hour in New Jersey, inkinding, working out, with this preschool
brigade in the midst of it all. And we'd sit down and share campaigns.
You'd just begin to burst with the victories, the issues that
were being dealt with. The whole house tingled with the delight
of that campaign. I can't even imagine what New York or Maliwada
or Oklahoma City must be like.
Standing the other morning in the assignment room, Bob Vance
stumbled his way through Indian name after Indian name after Indian
name and then started Egyptians. The whole sleepy roomful of people
started to come alive and wake up. By the time he hit the name
of anybody in the room, we'd have gone anyplace. The joy of having
your name on the board really couldn't change that much by being
in one column or another column.
Sometimes, in the midst of resenting life, one finds oneself
in harmony with the world's assaults. This is effulgence. It's
the ten minutes in the outer office before the really big call.
It's sitting on the speaker's platform watching the faces of the
community. It is being poised to strike and terrified, knowing
your tactics are all done and waiting to watch them unfold. You
watch yourself like the coyote and the roadrunner dropping over
the cliff, and instead of falling, you're floating. You're floating
It happens when you really are assigned to do that thing you
dreaded -- the thing you just knew would show the world once and
for all what a real mess you are. You set out muttering to yourself,
blundering just like you knew you would, and sometimes notice
that it is in fact getting done.
Two mosquitoes were sitting on the edge of a pile of sewage
and one is crying and the other has its wing around her and says,
"Well, honey, you know wherever we are, is a pestilential
hole." And it's hard to get really scared anymore. Where
else would you be but in a village? The weather and the discomfort
and your disastrous mistakes sometimes just show up as your allies.
When the Consult got underway in Lorne, the snow which had blocked
us at every turn -- literally, just wasn't a block anymore. You
walked through it. Only the destiny of that village was there.
Effulgence is as human and ordinary as meat and rice but the
taste of it is what allows engagement to sustain us and those
with whom we work. It happens in the midst of engagement and integrity.
It does not happen through harder working, counseling, preaching,
and legislating. These are wonderful and good but effulgence transforms
life. Beware that you keep your eyes on life, on engagement, lest
you lose your eyes. In closing, I'd like to read one poem.
"When the Ripe Fruit Falls"
When the ripe fruit falls,
its sweetness distills and trickles away
into the veins of the earth.
When fulfilled people die,
the essential oil of their experience enters
the veins of living space, and adds a glisten
to the atom, to the body of immortal chaos.
For space is alive
and it stirs like a swan
whose feathers glisten
silky with oil of distilled experience.