In this last personification that Maya employs, people hear the “speaking of the tree.” What people? Twenty different groups who experienced prejudice, bigotry, racism, and other forms of ostracism and oppression. I don’t have the time to do those justice. The variety is enough to show the scope of oppression around this globe, the mindless, needless, Ego-fueled fears, jealousies, misunderstandings, and disrespect.
Once again, the transition into the voice of the tree is seamless. Why? It indicates the voices of Nature, the testimony of Spirit and Heart-energy surround us, speak to us, and reinforce the messages of blessing, wisdom, kindness, compassion, and love — a clear contrast to the primary energies most of humanity too often lives.
The tree invites all to “Plant yourself beside me, here beside the river.” Before the tree gives the reason, however, a significant and long parenthesis is added: “Each of you, descendant of some passed on / Traveller, has been paid for.” The implication here takes the form of a debt that required settlement, a debt incurred by Ego, which we allowed to lift us in defiance of the laws of Nature, laws that illustrate how we can relate to the Universe. Nature gives examples of Spirit in all things, the same Spirit that is Heart in each of us. It can guide us into the higher frequencies of life, those that tend to peace, love, creativity, innovation, purpose, happiness.
The tree continues as she calls on Indigenous People who named all the trees but were driven from their lands by Ego-controllers, by the same sort who claim that the almighty quest for wealth and power trumps everything: “You Pawnee, Apache and Seneca, / You Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, / Then forced on bloody feet…” Yet all of us have been paid for. We have Heart within by which we can now operate.
Who abused the Indigenous People, and why did they do it? Again, a number of ethnicities are listed, but the why is the most significant fact. The tribes forced to leave opened the way for those “Desperate for gain, starving for gold.” Ego doesn’t hesitate to destroy, abuse, or even kill for those things that have nothing to do with the deepest yearnings of us all, those qualities that we ultimately desire. Sometimes, egotists maintain they do what they do for peace, love, and the common good. Their avarice, ours, produces a debt, so the tree says these named groups arrived “on a nightmare / Praying for a dream.” The ends never justify the means.
At times, things that seem positive, like seeking wealth and being highly motivated to pray for some dream, can become a nightmare if the motive force is Ego. Exploring, discovering, and knowing who we are as Heart will shape the dreams and prevent nightmares.
Once again the tree offers the invitation: “root yourselves beside me. / I am the tree planted by the river, / Which will not be moved.” Heart-energies, highest frequencies don’t change, don’t give out when times are tough. Nature reflects that.
Then, the three elements of Nature here harmonize in their testimony to those seeking to know Self: “I, the rock, I the river, I the tree / I am yours…” Ego will sow discord, and sometimes we need discord to shake things up. However, when we recognize it and need to discover Self, we will not find false witness in Nature.
In fact, they say, once again, “your passages have been paid.” Passages, journeys from our history painted mostly by Ego, in both personal and corporate operation, have cost us. Heart in us waits to be discovered, invited, and engaged to be our operating system, one that will set beauty, love, light, peace, creativity, and progress on a solid footing, nurtured and flowing with the right energy. Heart in us is the payment.
We need not be bogged down: “Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need / For this bright morning dawning…” Discovering Self and creating Purpose to pursue those things yielding happiness, fullness, significance give us hope.This hope isn’t vague.
It’s personal — “for you.” Heart allows us to explore our own past and view and evaluate it in truth: “History, despite its wrenching pain, / Cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage, / Need not be lived again.” Don’t deny. Accept. Release it. Allow Heart to lead onward and upward.
When that discovery has been made, we can dream again, good dreams, dreams that become purpose and vision and health, dreams that become personal yet benefits, blesses, and works together for all. Maya, I think you agree with that, don’t you?
Yes! “Give birth again to the dream. / Women, children, men, / Take it into the palms of your hands. / Mold it into the shape of your most / Private need. Sculpt it into / The image of your most public self.” All have Heart-essence. All may have a dream. None need ascribe to anyone else’s dream or their so-called truth. Being true to Self and living it will work together for a new history, a new way of writing history, a new definition of history. Discovering Self is not selfish; it benefits all.
The past pall of Ego over our history dissipates in the light of Heart: “Do not be wedded forever / To fear, yoked eternally / To brutishness.” The propensity to accept war and destruction as natural is a lie. It does NOT have to be that way, and scheming, duplicitous political and governmental dealings for personal gain, even national, at the cost of others’ freedoms is brutishness — against Nature.
How do we break free from those things which seem inevitable in an Ego-mindset? “The horizon leans forward, / Offering you space to place new steps of change.” Change for peace, equality, and a new history. Change that redefines Ego-led lives with Heart-energy. Redefines history. Redefines values. Redefines relationships. Reform won’t do it, because trying to reform something inferior caused by bad clay from the beginning won’t change anything: “Sculpt it..” Heart provides new material with which to work.
Do we buy these ideas? Believe them? Why do we fear? Is it all too drastic? Listen: “You may have the courage to look up and out upon me, / The rock, the river, the tree, your country.” Anyone can: “No less to Midas than the mendicant.” Equality enjoyed in terms of opportunity and freedom to choose regardless of socioeconomic status or regardless of history: “No less to you now than the mastodon then.”
How does it start, though? How could a new energy change the course of the history being created today and being defined by Ego ever be changed? The rock, the river, and the tree say, “…look up and out / And into your sister’s eyes, / Into your brother’s face, your country” Recognize that a nation, other nations, governments, institutions, corporations, or any aggregate of people are made up of individuals to be treated and related to as such. Valued.
Therefore, the change, the redefinitions begin with you, with me, individuals. Is this too complicated? No, it’s choosing Heart over Ego to operate our lives. And that does not take much, really. Look into one another’s faces, knowing who we are, and “say simply, / Very simply / With hope / Good morning.”
As I continue with this poem of Maya Angelou’s, so reminiscent of Walt Whitman and British Romantics in many ways, I am floored by the message this poem conveys, still applicable, now more than ever. The choice to personify elements of Nature like “the Rock, the River, the Tree” reveals Spirit-essence in all. The energies of life beating, vibrating, emitting from all in this Universe waits to be tapped. We raise our minds, souls, and bodies to perceive these frequencies by choosing to hear Heart, discover Self, and create Purpose. Here is my response and thoughts to you, Dr. Angelou, of your profound words of love and light.
From the Rock’s testimony of the past, pronouncements and observations of the present, and prophecy of the future, Maya seamlessly slides into the voice of the River: “Across the wall of the world, / A river sings a beautiful song…” The River offers a place of reflection on her shores, a place to consider her song.
Not many of us consider the unnatural boundaries humanity has traced on the face of globes, those shapes and entities defined by us as nations. Quite often, rivers demarcate the borders: “Each of you a bordered country…” One of the functions of Ego is to isolate. The existence of nations indicates Ego-energy. In my opinion, their existence shows people, mostly men, who deliberately chose Ego and denied Heart.
Strong statement? The river would agree, wouldn’t it, Maya? The river’s estimate of nations recognizes that they are “delicate and strangely made proud…” Why “strangely made proud?” Because they are artificial, they are weak, “delicate.” They rise and fall, sometimes overnight — no cause for pride.
Oh, yes, this is River’s intended message — no doubting: the nations are “thrusting perpetually under siege.” The unbridled expressions of hyper-nationalism seen both now and throughout history in many countries might make egotists think they are powerful, but they’re not. Truly strong nations would not have to fight endlessly. Of course, examples of such nations are hard to come by.
Why? The ability to wage and win wars — the only possible result of Ego-fueled nationalism — is certainly not based on Heart-energy. Rather, this penchant for flexing muscles derives from this: “Your armed struggles for profit / Have left collars of waste upon / My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.”
Nature ravaged by the Ego-choices of humanity, the unabashed dash for wealth, power, and control, results in death and destruction. River has witnessed war from the inception of nations from its unique vantage point of being a border.
How can we learn such deep wisdom? “If you will study war no more.” But what about them? What about the threats? What about those who won’t give us what we want? What about…? Keep asking the questions. The answer is the same: “Come, clad in peace and I will sing the songs…” They are songs of peace, harmony, and natural order, the natural laws in place from the beginning “when I / And the tree and the stone were one.”
These are the tenets, the precepts, to which the founders of America were attuned, even though the reality of much of the Natural Law escaped them in practice. However, Heart-energy discerns these laws, always has. Those in the fellowship of the Heart perceive Ego and know that individuals must have the opportunity to discover Self and create Purpose.
When were these laws enacted? “Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your brow / And when you yet knew you still knew nothing.” No Ego arguments, no rationalizations, no alarmist fears, no hubris and pounding of chests. River, in its ever-flowing course, has a song to sing to us of peace, harmony, and natural law, a song of Heart-energy, Spirit.
There is no virtue in knowing everything, all the political stances, always being right, or whenever superior knowledge is touted as desirable, because no one knows everything except those who know they do not. Omniscience is Ego’s feeble attempt to control our world.
The evidence of Heart within each of us is found here with the River: “There is a true yearning to respond to / The singing river and the wise rock.” The fact that we, many of us, long for a swift end to foolish Ego hostilities and learn from Nature shows Heart-energy operates in us and longs for productive peace. Hope.
Maya Angelou observes the state of humanity and responds to it through the natural elements of “A Rock, A River, A Tree.”
Why would she do this? It’s a literary tradition, but that’s not the reason. The reason it’s a literary tradition is the reason. Nature is the reason. Our intimate connection and relationship with Nature is the reason.
Because of that relationship, the Romantics often used Nature to reflect the inner emotional state of humans, especially, as Maya does here, to expose the conditions of society or simply illustrate them, the aggregate expression of individuals. We are often slow to learn.
The first eight lines lay out the Rock, River, and Tree as observers of history for eons, since the beginning of this whole ball of wax known as Earth. They witnessed the life, approaching doom, and extinction of the mastodon.
And the Rock, River, and Tree point out that while we may see the dry bones of dinosaurs like this, what we have failed, Failed, FAILED to see — to perceive, to intuit, to conclude — is the “broad alarm of their hastening doom” because no artifacts of that remain — but we should know.
Therefore, they will tell us, and we may learn, we may be warned, rise to respond to the alarm, of all the alarms around us now.
“[T]he Rock cries out to us” by offering a vantage point. We are invited to stand upon its back, its solid, sure, unshakable back. For what reason? What purpose would that serve? Rock tells us it is so that we “may stand upon [his] / Back and face [our] distant destiny.” We can see, know, perceive, and respond — if we would use Nature for the learning.
What might that imply? The Rock has a purpose that has not changed: it is solid, firm, unmoving, and collects evidence of history. Rock asks us, in essence, what our purpose is.
We have the ability to reason, a scale of creation “only a little lower than / The angels.” Our natural state here is one of peace, acceptance, kindness and compassion in the face of difficulties, and the ability to work through challenges and resolve conflicts to the end of freedom, freedom to love one another, to live in light, and create as divinity.
The alarm of our doom, as the mastodon’s did, billows around us, joining that dust of ages past. We “have crouched too long in / The bruising darkness, / Have lain too long / Face down in ignorance.”
In the ignorance of Ego, we have forsaken Heart-energy of love, light, peace, creative enthusiasm, empathy, compassion, and all those emotions and qualities of the higher frequencies of life. The Rock tells us we should recognize the approach of our doom in the warlike atmosphere that grips the nations of Earth: “Your mouths spelling words / Armed for slaughter.”
War, destruction, and hatred are Ego-energies. We have Ego, and it helps form us; however, we have Heart, eternal Spirit as the mature operating system, one we came to live. We have the ability to think, explore, and discover; war, hatred, and bullying, bravado, boastful power are Ego-energies we may rise above through toggling to the Heart Operating System.
The Rock tells us we can gain a vantage point to discern all this, and it willingly offers itself to us. The warning, though, is we have no right to hide under it, to continue living in the low vibrations of Ego and claim it’s human nature. It’s not. It’s a choice.
Martin Luther King’s Primary Objective in His “Letter from the Birmingham City Jail”: Peace and Brotherhood
This month of February I have taken a closer look at Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letter from the Birmingham City Jail.” I have read this many times in the past, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts, some of the things that moved me about Dr. King’s work that reveals Heart-energy.
I have not posted all of the shorter articles as blog posts, but I am going to combine with some slight editing the last three I posted today on Instagram, FaceBook, and Twitter. All the quotes are from an actual photocopy of the original 21-page letter. I love looking at that, and if you have a chance, take a peek:
Martin Luther King’s Primary Objective in His “Letter from the Birmingham City Jail”: Peace and Brotherhood
Near the end of his letter, Dr. King continues to sincerely answer the troubling accusations and observations of the letter that the white clergymen wrote, the ones addressed at the beginning. This response required intensive, sensitive thought because, more than anything, he loves others. However, he sheds light on the facts and exposes Ego-energy, energy resulting in hatred.
Some of the last rays of the light of this letter fall on those “keeping ‘order’ and preventing violence,’” the police force. Those officers of the law — a stacked, racist, bigoted, hateful set of laws — were brutal, truly exercising police brutality. That, he will not praise, only show the facts in love.
He points out what oppressed people often experience: when the eyes of the public or media are on unfair, brutal, egocentric authorities, they appear to be in control, put on a show. Dr. King’s main point here is that brutality is never justified in handling others because “it is worn to use immoral means to attain moral ends…they have used the moral means of [apparent] nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of flagrant racial injustice.” Any authority who hides behind unjust laws and carries them out, especially with brutality or inhumanity, should not be allowed to hold their positions.
At the end of this paragraph on page 19, Dr. King quotes T. S. Eliot: “…there is no greater treason than to do the right deed for the wrong reason.” I take that sentiment into the depths of my being. Neither I nor authorities — presidents, cops, legislators, ICE, border patrol, educators — have the right to violate the basic laws of nature, of that which makes up who each human being is at our core.
Treating souls with degradation and inhumanity always marks Ego-energy. Heart loves and finds a way to deal in truth and care for fellow souls.
As Dr. King nears the close of this masterpiece, he takes care to reveal those who did Heart-work, masterpieces themselves. Who were they?
The “real heroes…James Merediths, courageously and with a majestic sense of purpose, facing jeering and hostile mobs…old, oppressed, battered Negro women…who rose up with a sense of dignity…young high school and college students, young ministers…and a host of their elders courageously and non-violently sitting-in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience sake.”
No money, no power connections, no degrees required. They only lived their Heart-truth. We all can do this in whatever our created purpose is. When we live our core Self in love and light, we know significance, fulfillment, and personal peace. And quite often, we change the world, at least our little piece of it and find ourselves involved in things much larger than us. That’s the way discovering Self and creating and living Purpose works.
Dr. King recognizes this: “One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters they were in reality standing up for the best in the American dream…carrying our whole nation back to…the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.” I would say that living a Heart-truth by sitting down at a lunch counter and finding a connection with the founding documents of this nation is, indeed, something larger than ourselves.
Heart-truth sometimes needs to be lived in oppressive situations and is sometimes, because of that, more powerful. Referring to the length of the letter, he says, “I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk” instead of a jail cell. Our Heart within finds a way when we open ourselves to it. Nothing else could have carried those who engaged in nonviolent protests onward and upward.
When we are unmoved by responses of Ego-energy from within or without, Heart leads us to find a way to express love and light — as a pastor, a police officer, a politician, a teacher, a mechanic, an artist, a writer, a dancer, a jeweler, a clerk, a salesperson, or any of thousands upon thousands of endeavors empowered by Heart.
Then, Dr. King lays out his accountability. If the white clergymen he addresses find offense, he asks forgiveness of them, his fellow creatures. However, his largest accountability is to his own Heart, his own God: “If I have said anything…that is an understatement of the truth and is indicative of my having a patience that makes me patient with anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.” Brotherhood — that’s a greater concept than integration, and Dr. King ends by acknowledging such.
In the final paragraph, he illustrates this unequivocally to those he considers to be his brothers, no matter how they feel about him or their color: “I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil rights leader, but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother.”
Brotherhood — a mutuality bound not in gender, Sisterhood being just as integral — is the goal, the hope. This is that which I call the Fellowship of the Heart. Those sold to Ego are in the majority, and they are not to be judged — exposed, yes, but not judged. Those who don’t answer Heart within them will not know the blessing of this fellowship, and perhaps that is the ultimate judgment.
Dr. King ends with an estimation of the value of this: “Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted…and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all of their scintillating beauty.” This transcends skin tones, cultures, and social expressions; it doesn’t negate them, just transcends so that we may appreciate one another.
The legal structure had to be corrected. The spiritual structure, as evidenced over the course of the last several years, especially, remains fractured. The only answering action to this is to discover Self, create Purpose, and live it in love and light. Then, no matter if it’s sitting at counters, marching through shopping malls, or sincerely living any Heart-truth, we protest inhumanity, hatred, and reveal our desire to experience the fulness of this creation.
“Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood / Martin Luther King, Jr.” Yes, peace and fellowship, my friend. Thank you for inviting me to the table of your fellowship.
(Mike DePung —Feb. 10, 2018)
When I wrote my “Morning Pages” post today, I was thinking about several ideas, ones I see as connected. Making connections constitutes the ability to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize conclusions, opinions, and all that stems from those. We can use Ego or Heart; if we don’t call on Heart, Ego is the default processor and filter. Awakening to spiritual consciousness brings us to sense and engage Heart — in anything dealing with us as a human mind-body-soul unit.
As I consider living in Heart-energy, walking firm in the Purpose I created with Heart, and doing the work for which there are no promises of anything except my personal happiness, I recall a Bible passage when Jesus spoke to crowds who came to hear him. I’m not going formal religion here, but in Luke 14: 28–33 Jesus says, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?…“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?…In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples” (New International Version http://biblehub.com/niv/luke/14.htm). Hence, I have focused today on counting the cost of commitment, commitment to create and follow Heart-based work.
Ego will chime in to fulfill it’s purpose to protect, many times with “common sense” prods and pleas: “Hey, you’re not making enough money; you’re only helping a few; you’re causing problems; you need to quit now.” I wrote that this morning and then added a Heart-message because Heart would simply say something like this: “All in!” This doesn’t mean questions, doubts, fears, ridicule, persecution, or hosts of other challenges won’t appear. They will. Counting the cost means we are all in, we will face challenges, and we will enthusiastically, passionately, and intelligently engage life — on our own terms; no one else’s matters. All in means we move onward and upward.
As I have moved forward with examining Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letter from the Birmingham City Jail,” I wonder how often he was faced with his own Ego-energy to just quit for his own safety, well-being, and peace of mind. None of that can be fully known by those who do not engage Heart. Dr. King did. He counted the cost of living his Heart-truth.
We can and may do the same, whether in the spotlight of the nation and world or simply in the soft, subtle light of our own friends, family, and acquaintances. The end is the same: happiness, fulfillment, significance, and freedom from judgment by our own and others’ Ego. Dr. King knows the value of freedom which he experienced in his soul but lacked in an Ego-soaked society of white-controlled power, wealth, and superiority over minorities.
Therefore, Dr. King, knowing the fellowship and way of the Heart, engaged in a four-step process of nonviolent campaigns. I cannot do this justice, so I will highlight the steps of collection of the facts, in this case of injustice, attempts at negotiation, self-purification — and this brought me to the concept of counting the cost because that is exactly what this step is about — and finally, direct action.
The facts of injustice had been collected in plain sight: “Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States…police brutality…unjust treatment…in the courts…unsolved bombings.” Make no mistake here, please. Many would not then and do not even now call this injustice. Know why? Their judging Ego that isolates from others to create barriers that are mistakenly believed to be safety would prompt them to say African Americans suffered because of their own choices and actions.
They could go to their white laws, to Supreme Court decisions like Plessy vs. Ferguson, and even Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education and say they had been given freedoms. However, the fact that the above practices — not exceptions — of injustice remained show that Ego reigned. Legislation cannot change Ego-perceptions to Heart, nor can it even create morality. It can and should, though, protect from Ego actions that contradict the rights Jefferson and others outlined in founding documents — no matter how different minority cultures appear to be. Only Ego takes differences as threats, and I would add, Ego on the part of minorities perpetuates such perceptions. Heart actions, though, work toward resolution and true soul peace.
Dr. King’s policy and practice of nonviolent direct action catalyzed Heart-energized souls to be able to claim and live in freedom to pursue happiness. His Heart led him to attend to the step of negotiation extensively, because he knew direct action would expose Ego-energies and mean even greater challenge for his people. He and other leaders decided on several occasions to postpone protests to see if white power players would keep their word. They didn’t.
Do you know the simple requests they negotiated for? To remove the “Whites Only” type signs. When I was young, I witnessed these for myself in rural southeast Missouri, and I remember my confusion and subsequent disgust at people who thought that way. I don’t think I’m disgusted by them now, such people, because I know what Ego is capable of, what I have felt at times. However, when faced with a clear Ego or Heart choice, no one wins if Ego is enacted and favored. And law and order should exist to open the way to overthrow Ego bullshit. Let me make something clear here, my opinion: law and order does not mean to force everyone to live up to the standards of a white, egoic power structure. Whites do not get to say how protests should occur — when, where, what actions are acceptable or not. And if you think I’m referring to 1963 only, I’m not; it happens today in St. Louis, Missouri.
To end this post, I bring back the idea of counting the cost of awakening to Heart, creating purpose, and living it in vision, mission, and daily goals. Dr. King did it, as well as hosts of others. If they hadn’t, segregation would still be more the norm than it is now. The step of self-purification meant that protestors of Dr. King’s time had to face the questions of “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?” “Are you able to endure the ordeals of jail?” If they couldn’t, they were discouraged from being followers. If they were like those listening to Jesus in Luke 14, those who couldn’t face Ego challenges would be those who stopped short of all-in Heart work, those who counted the cost and wouldn’t finish the tower or wouldn’t enter battle in the face of bad odds. Stopping short is Ego-work. It’s not wrong; it’s just deficit in terms of personal happiness. In terms of society, Ego-rule is wrong and unjust.
Dr. King makes it clear “that we did not move irresponsibly into direct action.” However, many would say they were irresponsible because many judged via Ego instead of Heart. The results of the direct action? They are well-known in the big picture, but Dr. King had Heart-insight into the effects such work would have on society, and it is exciting to me, exciting enough to continue later.
In the meantime, counting the cost is an integral component of awakening to spiritual consciousness. The most powerful, moving, searching movement impacts us internally, and only then will we know the outworking of Heart purpose in love, light, and happiness. It’s an internal job, and the cost is greatest to Ego. That’s not an easy challenge, and it’s never finished. It always produces a creative tension to move onward and upward.
Blessings in that, my friend!
Questions to consider:
How many times have you asked yourself or simply thought about the following questions?
Who am I, really?
What is my truth?
How do my actions reveal what I really feel and believe?
What would I do with my life if I could do anything?
What is my passion?
Why am I here?
How can I discover answers to any of these questions?
If you have considered any of these questions, I hope that my experiences and writing will give you some guidance. Please read my blog and comment and share your thoughts. I would love to hear from you!