This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
This poem is by Rumi, and was read out loud to me last weekend by Lauren Artress, who wrote the book (that rocked my world) called Walking a Sacred Path. I attended a weekend workshop with her in Delray Beach, Florida and walked a huge Chartres style labyrinth there many times, with many other people. Walking a labyrinth is a way to quiet the ‘monkey mind’ she says, who refuses to be quiet. I find the walk soothing and illuminating, and walking a labyrinth has an uncanny power to tap intuition and release creative intelligence. And as a practice that is thousands of years old, it fits into my own Lowcountry culture that reveres much that is traditional. The image is also, not to be denied, the shape of a spiral, a seashell, a conch.
Southerners have always held on to our guest rooms and treated guests as though they were visiting angels, which comes, from The Christian Bible, in Hebrews (13:2) which says, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” The warm and welcoming “Hey honey! Oh, do Stay!” is one of the traits I still really admire about the American South and the Lowcountry of South Carolina.
But seeing the guest room like this, also as metaphor, opens up this principle, which, as Joseph Campbell suggests, is at the heart of all religion. Whatever it takes to make the old traditions new and fresh and alive is what we need. I battled this exact principle in the my dreams last night. How to make friends with the guests I am not crazy about, those guests who are angry and grumpy.
AhHA! They too, I see, are my angels.
I love this. Don’t expect me to live it, but I love it. I’m going to print and paste it up somewhere – like a guest room.
Clever Pinkney, you are the epitome of this principle! Your generosity is in word and deed and AH! at the lavish table that you lay out for we who are so privileged to dine as guests at one of your magnificent feasts.
I love the concept of being ready for the unexpected visitor – and treating them with the grace of not an intruder into our busy lives, but as a welcome respite. I would also state that we should work to expect more visitors – by inviting them into our lives. How many guest rooms lay fallow in our homes, collecting dust and stale air? Great post!
Yes, Yes, Yes. In many cultures, particularly Middle Eastern, Celtic, and in India the guest is treated as a hallowed visitor. The early Greeks had a tradition of ‘sacred hospitality’. So yessiree, I am with you, Skip. Opening our lives and homes and hearts to guests is a habit worth keeping; Imagining the guest as angel is a good way to start I think.
Dear Charlotte, once again, your words bring tears to my eyes and joy to my heart; I’ll look for that Wolf Moon tonight. I really must get over to the Duncan Center and walk that labyrinth. Thank you for being the angel in my guest room last weekend. And ya’ll come back, now, yuh’hear?
My dear friend, Walter, who so generously exhibited this very principle last weekend. You and Hilde opened your home and heart to me with such wild abandon (fresh CONCH on the grill!) and were truly angels to me. I am deeply grateful for your hospitality. I will look forward to your visit to Edisto Island. Kisses to your amazing Hilde.