The story in our Sunday service today was derived from a Tibetan tale* of an old monk whose heart had become hardened by all the suffering in the world. He lived in a cold, dark, desolate cave at the top of a mountain. Looking out at a world full of wars, poverty, illness, and strife had molded his face into a permanent scowl. One day while sitting at the table in his cave, working on a mandala of colored rice and precious gems, he watched as two mice worked together to move a large piece of turquoise from the table and abscond with it. It took the determination and ingenuity of two little mice driven to obtain what they wanted to obtain to break through the hardness and bring the spark of joy to the monk’s eyes and put a grin on his face.
The mice in the story remind us to consider what it is that our heart truly desires … TRULY desires. In our consumer culture we are bombarded with ideas of what we should want. What is it that you long for most deeply, for your self and your beloveds? In my experience, most people want the things money can’t buy. They want to feel whole, have a sense of belonging through meaningful connections with other people, and to feel their lives have purpose. We need to listen deep within for our heart’s true desires.
Conditions in the world can certainly harden our hearts and drive us to despair. Hope can be hard to find, and joy can be elusive. I find power in engaging in a counter-cultural act of rebellion by choosing joy and gratitude in the face of all evidence that I should do otherwise. Choosing joy and gratitude can facilitate a path towards wholeness, make it easier to connect with people, and move us towards a purpose driven life.
James Luther Adams, 20th century theologian, brought us the five smooth stones of liberal religion. One of those stones reminds us that resources, both human and divine, are available to us to help us achieve meaningful changes and this is a reason for ultimate optimism. In this optimism we can find the source of hope, gratitude, and joy to move through the challenges in our lives. This stone reminds us that each one of us is a resource for achieving meaningful change.
We can hide in our dark caves of despair and allow the tragedies, torments, and terrors of the world to hold power over us. Or, we can step out into the light, draw deep the breath of life, and listen for the joy and gratitude the universe offers through the beauty and delight all around. Then bring your gifts, your human resources, forth to mitigate the traumas in the world and be a beacon of light in a hurting world.
*Story from the book Kindness: A Treasure of Buddhist Wisdom for Children and Parents, collected and adapted by Sarah Conover, Skinner House Books