In his last newsletter, Patrick Rhone showed us where his cracks are. Patrick is someone I've followed and for some time now and you get to know someone through their words. Reading these particular words demonstrated the weight of his current challenges but also his grace and humanity. Thankfully, this particular struggle concluded as well as it could have.
As his writing often does, the closing of the newsletter caught my attention:
“Well, they are the gateways, Dad. You know when I sleep I sometimes travel to other galaxies, right? Well, I lay these out on the bedside table before bed so I have a map to find my way back.”
[His daughter, Zani] proceeded to lay them out and tell me about the various places and planets they represented. She then removed one from her thumb and handed it to me.
“This one doesn’t have a place attached to it. It represented nowhere. But I want you to have it because you’re now here.”
It was not until the middle of the long drive home that I realized that a space is the only difference between nowhere and now here. It’s a koan — a Buddhist riddle meant to transmit a lesson. Nowhere is where all things begin and where all shall return. Now/Here is the space in between — the present moment.
When I read Zani's koan, I immediately thought of this snippet of conversation between Krista Tippet and Father Greg Boyle. In particular, his translation of the Desert Father's mantra "today" to "Now, here, this."
Here's the full context:
FR. BOYLE: And that was sort of my experience when I went through leukemia and greatly liberating. But because I’ve had to bury so many kids, 183 kids — and kids I loved and kids I knew and killed by kids I loved. I mean, boy, if death is the worst thing that can happen to you, brace yourself because you will be toppled. And the trick is not to be toppled. The trick is to compile a list of all of the fates that are worse than death, but also compile the list of all the things so numerous to list, all the things that are more powerful than death. You know, that’s what Jesus did. Jesus sort of put death in its place.
MS. TIPPETT: Was it after your diagnosis that you discovered the story about the desert fathers and mothers, the one word they meditated on was…
FR. BOYLE: Oh, God.
MS. TIPPETT: I read that a couple of days ago as I was getting ready for this and it’s been so helpful for me.
FR. BOYLE: Yeah. Whenever the desert fathers and mothers would get absolutely despondent and didn’t know how they were going to put one foot in front of the next, they had this mantra. And the mantra wasn’t “God” and the word wasn’t “Jesus.” But the word was “today.” That’s sort of the key. There’s a play off-Broadway right now called “Now. Here. This.” It’s “Now,” period, Here,” H-E-R-E, period, “This.” And that’s kind of my — that’s become my mantra. Lately, I’m big on mantras. So when I’m walking or before a kid comes into my office, I always say, “Now. Here. This, Now. Here. This.” So that I’ll be present and right here to the person in front of me.
I've never really been big on mantras, but this one has stuck with me. I kept it in deep focus during a silent retreat last year and was rewarded deeply by it. I hope that there might be something there for you, too.