“The only dream worth having is to dream that you will live while you are alive, and die only when you are dead. To love, to be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and vulgar disparity of the life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.” ~Arundhati Roy
I was introduced to this amazing woman when I read her first and only novel, The God of Small Things, in 1997. In this book, Roy writes about the many varied faces of love…and there are many. Her words are beautiful. They are real. They are alive.
When I first read this quote, so many things jumped out at me. I had to read it over and over, letting what she was really imparting, that transmission between the words, fill me with its wisdom.
What I love about her words is the raw truth she shares. In a world that is filled with so many ways to turn away from reality, including the one I’ve flirted with for so long, that of being a spiritual seeker, she calls me back to reality. Reality in all its rapturous beauty, vulgar disparity, unspeakable violence. Reality where I am utterly insignificant – simply one of billions of people existing on this planet right now, and just one of a gazillion forms of life on mother earth.
In most places, we’re encouraged to see our specialness, to pump ourselves up with our own importance, breeding a kind of hierarchical sense to one’s existence. To never forget my own insignificance reduces that sense of importance and specialness. Somewhere in this insignificance is true humility…
What comes to me from this quote is her pure love for this life. And her inviting us to open our eyes, our hearts to the fullness of human experience. Opening to life fully, all of it. To embrace the paradox of joy in the saddest places, opening to beauty in the most raw, painful moments of life.
My seeking began at a young age. I grew up in a family without religious dogma. We did go to church, occasionally. At the same time, Mom and Dad had their own belief systems about God. How could you not, growing up in this western culture? The wonderful thing they did pass on was a thirst to know, a longing to know the real God. I remember the longing in my heart, as a young girl, filling me with ache. A longing that kept at me, and kept at me, and kept at me….
Throughout my early adult years, I was busy raising a family, working, building our own home, doing things people do in everyday life. Normal, mundane things. Sometimes the longing would peek through in these simple moments of the day. My heart would ache, tears would well up, a sense of emptiness would make itself known. Immediately, my mind would jump in, wondering what was missing. Thoughts would jump in, convincing me that there was something I had to find ‘out there’, something I would have to do one day, something somewhere that would satisfy this longing. My mind always looked to the future as the storehouse of what my heart was longing for. My heart simply felt emptiness, some deep sadness, aching, hungering, longing…
When my late husband died suddenly, at 4 in the morning, my heart was torn open. His heart gave out, mine tore open. It was a place of no mind. Just sheer raw pain. Enough pain to put me in shock. I wandered in this desert for a long time. I wished I could be more there, more present, more mother, more together; but, I wasn’t.
I searched for a way to live with this ragged, jagged heart, ’cause it wasn’t going away. If I tried to talk myself out of this place, my heart would have no part of it. It knew. It knows. The heart knows the wisdom of grief, the intelligence of the process of moving through it all, the joy that is waiting on the other side, the broken-open heartedness that is waiting if one is willing to keep inviting it in.
I realized the profound beauty in this process of grief and in this place of broken-open heartedness. Others I shared this beauty with couldn’t understand my use of that word. Beauty in grief? Beauty in death? Beauty in such profound pain? Yet, the profound aliveness I finally felt after 38 years of closed-heartedness was breathtakingly beautiful, because of just that…the profound aliveness that poured out of my broken-open heart.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not romanticizing death. I’m not minimizing the pain my children went through, my husband’s mother went through, our family went through, or I went through. Minimizing pain does not bring beauty. Feeling pain does. Indulging in pain, does not bring beauty. Experiencing pain does.
It would have been so easy to die while I was alive. A part of me wanted to. Simply to numb it and get on with life. Many people encouraged that. But something, and it certainly wasn’t my mind, wouldn’t let me…my heart knew the pain was my doorway in, the doorway in to that which I had been longing for.
Nothing in life is a straight linear line. Instead, it seems to move in spirals, in every increasing circles of wisdom and understanding. As the longing grew, I became a seeker. A seeker of that which would satisfy this longing. A seeker of that which would end the pain. A seeker of that which would fill the hole. I was pursuing this ‘beauty to its lair’.
All along I thought “I” was seeking, that I had the power to find this source of beauty. All along I thought my seeking was going to bring home the bounty of beauty, as if I could really find this beauty in its lair and capture it for my own pleasure.
The seeking was trying to ‘do’ the longing in the only way my very humanness could. The seeking was necessary, but it was never in charge. The seeker can’t find the lair. But the pursuit brings forth beauty. It’s the nature of the paradox of our existence. Both divine and human. Both heart and mind. Both being and doing. The paradox of seeking is that in the seeking we find that which could never be captured, and we find that seeking is really keeping us from that which we seek.
All along what I was seeking was right here within me, surrounding me, hidden in the one place I never thought to look. What I was longing for has been here all the time.
Sometimes it takes going on a hunt for it, pursuing it to land’s end, to know it has been right here all along. Here in the midst of the turmoil. This is the goddess. This is discovering light in all our broken places.
Beauty’s lair is all around us, yet we’ll only catch glimpses until we open to the grace that is always here, the grace that invites us to open our hearts to our own insignificance.
We are swimming in our own insignificance. Just look out your eyes at the wonder life is. We are a tiny insignificant part of this life, yet the paradox is when we realize our insignificance we realize that our being here is immensely significant.
The only thing that causes us to lose this dream Roy speaks of is the belief we are separate. The illusion of separation is what allows us to turn away, to get used to the unspeakable happenings of our time, to believe we are more significant than another being, or even the earth itself.
The only dream worth having is the dream that is no dream. It is the awakening to what is right in front of us, behind us, all around us…the infinite that has no edges, top, bottom…the infinite that is missing nothing, that holds everything.
In this great infinite that is reality, what I am is insignificant, and completely significant. What I have to offer cannot be offered by any other. And in the totality of it all, I am but a drop in the ocean.
My humanness, that insignificance, is the great gift, because there I find humility and awe. To embrace it all, even those things I desperately want to turn away from, is to be in right relationship with life. Joy can be found in those sad places. Suffering can be our doorway in, in to a place of lightness of being, and broken-open-heartedness.
As Roy says, “Another world is not only possible, she’s on the way and, on a quiet day, if you listen very carefully you can hear her breathe.”
This is the world of the goddess, the world we awaken to when we come out of our slumber enough to realize that all along we’ve been sleeping in beauty’s lair.
I’d love to know what you’ve discovered in beauty’s lair.