Today I went to a service celebrating the life of our wonderful Judy Balch Liteky, a woman who graced so many lives with her compassion and her activism. It occurred to me that she achieved what has lately eluded me, activism without all-consuming rage. I have put my own ordination on hold because my confrontations with entrenched power, locally and nationally and even abroad, have put a strident note in my discourse; I am always lately either crying or screaming like a madwoman.
Judy was someone whose love for all people was profound and immense; whose inner calm permeated whatever she did. The service today at St. Cyprian’s in San Francisco was one filled with stories and tears and joy, because she lived the kind of life most people only dream of, not in the modern sense of ‘affluence’ or ‘things’ but in the sense of the reading today by the prophet Micah: to do justice, love fiercely, and walk humbly with your God. This Judy did with every breath in her body. That is the life well lived, everything else, to paraphrase Hillel the Elder, is commentary.
I wrote what I share below a little over three years ago, when I was seeking consolation from my own all-consuming grief at the death of my husband. In the sayings of the Tao, “the way to greater light leads through the darkness.” I remember years ago when we were fighting the invasion of Iraq, having someone remind me that the darkest moment of the night comes just before the dawn… So I share it because I am also seeking wu wei or action “in harmony with the hidden power that drives the planet and the cosmos,” which was so much a part of Judy’s life and work, and also ahimsa, which is kindness and non-violence towards all living things.
The way to greater light leads through the darkness.
Going ahead feels like falling back.
The even path seems rugged and hilly,
the highest power a yielding valley.
Thomas Merton explains in “The Way of Chuang Tzu” that wu wei is action “in harmony with the hidden power that drives the planet and the cosmos.”
Be good to those who are good
and to those who are not.
For goodness increases goodness.
Have faith in those who are faithful
And in those who are not.
For faith brings greater faith;
and goodness and faith build peace.
Ghandi was inspired by the principle of ahimsa, which means kindness and non-violence towards all living things and believes that all are connected. Violence, whether verbal or physical, always brings more violence. We only have to look at what is happening to our planet today…
Nothing on earth
is more gentle and yielding than water,
yet nothing is stronger.
When it confronts a wall of stone,
gentleness overcomes hardness;
the power of water prevails.