Donkeys and Spiders
Yesterday was Palm Sunday, calling into memory an historical sequence of events that launched “Holy Week” in the Christian religious tradition. The significance of Palm Sunday goes well beyond remembering the story of a crowd waving palm branches to welcome and recognize a wisdom teacher unlike anyone else they had ever experienced. And it’s not just a commemoration of a past historical event either; Palm Sunday points to a dynamic that is present in our world and in my heart today.
In history, Palm Sunday was the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to face the human realities of his time and place, which would likely result in his execution. Even as he rode amidst the waving palm leaves, he was facing death. He could have run for cover, gone into seclusion to save his skin or decided to play a political game by doing a flip-flop of his message to mollify his oppressors. No, there was none of that. He stayed true to who he knew he was and what he knew his mission in life to be; he was showing his followers a way of being that was radical departure from what they received from their culture and many of their religious leaders.
Although Jerusalem on the Sunday of Jesus’s arrival was a far cry from a modern city, it is eye-opening to realize that the politics of power, corruption, and militarized law enforcement bear striking similarity to our own urban centers. Risking analogy, imagine that a person who belonged to a marginalized, sometimes rowdy ethnic group was processing into the capitol city bringing with him or her a significant crowd of followers. Such a gathering would certainly attract some attention.
According to tradition, Jesus was a “blended being” — completely human as well part of a seamless embodied relationship with the shimmering breath of all creation. With each step of his sandaled feet he carried not only the emotional, physical and mental reality of his humanity but also the embrace and knowing of the more expansive dimension of his nature. On Palm Sunday, this is what attracted the throngs to leave their homes and to come to Jerusalem. The stories and parables they’d heard called them to live in more compassionate, neighborly ways. Still ringing in their ears were phrases such as: “love your neighbor”, “turn the other cheek”, “forgive your enemies”, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, “blessed are the meek”, “blessed are the peacemakers”.
These teachings reverberate across time! Today this way of being, challenging as it is, has millions of adherents —despite all the disruption and political treachery. The inspiration today is to KEEP GOING! We are all interconnected, brothers and sisters of each other, stewards of our environment and bearing some individual responsibility for working things out with each other. Even in the middle of these discouraging times, many of us— across all faith traditions and outside them as well— know that living this way is the only way that makes sense. Despite instances of ignorance, confusion and power-grabbing, we must keep plodding along, weaving our lives forward in the way of love.
Let me tell you a little story. Yesterday I went into my kitchen to put a few utensils in the dishwasher. There, walking with verve and attitude across the open stainless steel door was a medium sized brown spider. She startled me; she didn’t belong there. I wondered if she was a young brown recluse; it would have been easy to smash the life out of her because I was afraid; but I couldn’t do it. Instead, I took a juice glass from the cupboard, grabbed a cardstock piece of junk mail and let the energetic spider crawl into her rescue apparatus. Why am I telling you this? Before setting her free in the backyard, I paused to inquire if there was a message. Yes, there was; she was a messenger. Spider reminded me that past, present and future are interwoven in a large web. The lessons of Palm Sunday vibrate across the strands into this moment. Even very small acts matter. Honoring the life of that brown spider was a small instance of connection to the teachings to honor life and all the interconnections. Who knows what insects that spider will eat outside in the yard that might have munched on my vegetable garden?
Over the weekend I attended an inspiring concert by dozens of local musicians, organized by a local activist and former co-worker. It was a benefit event for the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center and there was standing room only in the co-housing common house. Financial contributions were robust, reflecting the compassionate, clear headed, resolve to offer money, music and embodied action in support of harmony, justice and love. This sort of thing is happening in pods and communities all over the globe despite what’s going on in the empire of our government or being inflicted upon innocents by murderous tyrants, or endured from icy hearted people who have in my humble opinion lost their way. Never forget that Jesus himself was a survivor of infanticide sanctioned by a Roman governor.
So, I ride the donkey of my life—that humble animal nature that plods along dutifully carrying my burdens and heartfelt intentions. I aspire to carry on, to see the good in people around me and to recognize our many similar concerns. Although I’m not expecting to face death by the end of the week, there is no time to waste. The Way onward into the next days beckons.
Note: Photo taken January 21, 2017, Women’s March, Santa Rosa, CA