diumenge, d’abril 24, 2005

Wisdom from strange places (English / Welsh)

I've had a lot to think about the past couple days, and I really don't feel like getting into the nitty-gritty of all of it in my blog, not really in any language. It's all too close to me still for me to be expounding upon it. Nonetheless the events of the past several days, generally positive, although periodically depressing to me in an entirely personal way, in ways which are difficult to communicate to friends or blog-readers, have reminded me that wisdom often comes from unexpected places, and even from undesirable places. Case in point, the story of St. Oran:

According to this very old island legend, Columba and his monks tried to build a chapel on Iona, but could not get the walls to stand. Frustrated, Columba turned to his friend Oran, who knew the old ways of the island. Oran suggested that he be thrown into the footers of the building to appease the ancient energies of the island. Columba did as he was told and the walls stood.
But three days later, Columba had Oran dug out of the foundations. Very much alive, Oran said that he had traveled to the Other World and began to describe the many strange things he had seen. (thumbnail of dragons book of Kells) Oran ended his story with a bit of cautionary advice for his friend, Columba. Leaning over to him, Oran whispered, "The way you think it is may not be the way it is at all."

Columba, the proud son of an Irish chieftain, did not take the advice very well. He promptly had Oran re-interred. But the incident survived in legend and islanders enshrined Oran's words as folk wisdom. Fourteen centuries later pilgrims who ponder Iona's mysteries are still likely to hear, "The way you think it is may not be the way it is at all." In the Hebrides and Ireland, when someone mentions an uncomfortable subject, it is still common to silence them with the phrase "Throw mud in the mouth of St. Oran."

The inscription in the St. Oran Bell Tower recalls this old legend and challenges the easy certainties of our modern world. Each time the bell rings it echoes Oran’s timeless wisdom:
"The way you think it is may not be the way it is at all."
(from: http://www.columcille.org/inspirations.html)

I'm never terribly fond of quoting Christian saints, but I'm not any more fond of quoting aspiritual cynics, and yet, again I find strength in the wisdom of another whom I would not generally cite. His name is Jerry, and he is so "devout" a cynic that he utterly refuses to concede even the possibility of a "higher power", and darkly embraces a kind of pragmatic nihilism that borders on oblivion. Jerry often points out that we live "in a world of sub-opitmal outcomes."

Add to Jerry's the words of Carlos Casteneda's nagual, a powerful native shaman, in The Second Ring of Power, who reminds the other characters and the reader that we "must accept our fate," presumably if we are to find anykind of inner peace, and I walk away from the events of the past couple days with three pieces of advice from unlikely quarters.

Tonight I fancy I will enter the dreamspeak plain of my mind and vision the Old Barn, and in it, Jerry, the Nagual and St. Oran, and we shall have a conversation. After which, I shall enbibe an unspecified number of imaginary Grey Goose martinis...