“Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only those who see take off their shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
(pronouns slightly modified)
This is the "Burning Bush" of azaleas just outside the windows of my house. I look at it each morning seeing it "crammed with Heaven," moved by what Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel called “radical amazement.” There's every reason to be that way amazed when plucking blackberries, if we open ourselves to it.
Another way of expressing it: The daily blessing over Creation, in Hebrew and a caring English translation -- more caring than convention-bound:
"YOtzer Ohr, u'vOrey ChOshech, Oseh shalOm, u'vOrey et-ha'kOl."
"“Notice,” Rabbi Burt Jacobson taught me, “the vowel that defines the prayer: ‘O! O! O! O!’
"Oho!" said I. "If you were in a state of radical amazement, or to get yourself there, just O-pen your eyes, your mind, your heart to the world and chant the vowel, forget the words.” And sometimes I do. But, a little stubborn about the words, I also searched for English that would keep the “O!” ---
"FOrming glOw, compOsing shadOw, Opening shalOm, compOsing the whOle."
Or try this, back to “Every common bush afire with God.” I was asked last week by a leader of the United Church of Christ to supply one of 24 prayers, one to be released each hour on May 7, the “National Day of Prayer,” into the radically amazing World Wide Web of Earth. That Burning Bush appears in all its inward blazing, near the end of this prayer.
In my view, serious political engagement will be necessary to transform and heal ourselves and Earth. And in my view, we must deepen and lift high this radical amazement at the root and flower of our politics, or it will curdle rather than transform.
To the Interbreathing Spirit of All Life
As You Cough and Choke amid Our Fires
You Who are the Interbreathing Spirit of all life,
You Who are the “still small Voice”
Who whispers breath into all living --
We hear You coughing, choking,
As we flood all Earth with burning smoke of carbon.
We hear You coughing, choking,
As human throats breathe in a virus
That comes as a plague to all of us --
Worse for those who already live on margins --
And as a warning to our pharaohs..
We recall the burning crosses lit by hate and greed;
We recall the flame and smoke
That rose from Auschwitz and from Hiroshima.
That still rise from the burning forests of the Amazon,
Torched for the sake of fast hamburger and fast wealth.
We count the hottest years of human history
That bring upon us
Melted ice fields. Flooded cities.
Scorching droughts. Murderous wildfires.
Before us we among all life-forms
Face the nightmare of a Flood of Fire,
The heat and smoke that could consume all Earth.
Yet with Your help, O Breath of life,
We come to douse that outer all-consuming fire.
To light again in our own hearts
The inner fire that burned in the Burning Bush –
The fire that did not consume the Bush it burned in.
And to hear the inner Voice that breathed a whisper
Of love and liberation amidst the inner flame:
For Love and Breath are strong as death --
Love’s fire that breathes in the heart of all Creation
To ease Your Breath throughout Your Earth.
We vow to make from inner fire
Not an all-consuming blaze
But the loving light in which we see more clearly
The Rainbow Covenant glowing
in the many-colored faces of all life.
Woven by Rabbi Arthur Waskow.
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I do not think we can move toward the world we intend without opening ourselves to radical amazement. Radical amazement that every common bush is afire with the inner blaze of love, not just the "royal" few. That our amazing world is not hierarchical but ecological, each being nested in the others.
I also think we cannot move at all without multidimensional political action. I will be exploring those paths in the next few letters to you, and I bless us all with the wisdom, the courage, and the love to act . -- Arthur