Tuesday, May 29, 2007

May 29, 2007 - Peace Comes Dropping Slow

Where do you find peace, when you’re living with cancer?

That’s a question Leroy Sievers posed, in one of his recent blog entries. It generated a vigorous discussion, from many of his readers.

I was led to post a reply myself, quoting a favorite poem, William Butler Yeats’"The Lake Isle of Innisfree":

"I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,

I hear it in the deep heart's core."

What is it I like about that poem? It celebrates contentment, and gently teaches that contentment is wherever we can find it. For those of us dealing with cancer, that means amidst doctor's appointments, and test results, and side-effects and worries about how we're ever going to pay the medical bills. When else will we ever find peace? The world’s not going to pause for us, while we engage in a quixotic quest for self-fulfillment.

So, where is this idyllic lake isle? It's not a place in terms of geography, at all. It has, rather, to do with the geography of the heart.

The thing the poet teaches me is that peace is found in the dailyness of it all. It's not found in ceaselessly striving for the bigger and the better (as our consumerist culture would have us believe). It's not found in having perfect health (as if there were such a thing). It's found in accepting the good around us as good enough.

I won't deny that the news of my upcoming biopsy has stirred me up a bit, but I’ve been fortunate to discover islands of peace in the midst of it all. Like yesterday evening, for example, as I sat with the family on the front porch, after we’d enjoyed a simple Memorial Day cookout. We sipped coffee, as the warmth of the day turned to cool breezes, and we enjoyed a cake Ania had baked for no particular reason. Her simple joy in baking and decorating it grounded me, and peace came dropping slow.

It truly doesn't get much better than that. In such minor epiphanies can be discerned the gift of peace.


Tom Clarke said...

Hang tough, my cancer warrior friend. And do take the the great joy that comes in those small moments of peace and solitude.


Vicky said...

Hi Carl, I found your blog through one of your posts on Leroy's blog. I tried sharing with you and the others something that I found helpful from John Piper. Most likely, you are familiar with him but just in case you haven't seen this, it's an essay entitled "Don't Waste Your Cancer". David Powlison contributed to the essay with his thoughts on Piper's comments!

Here's the link:

Carlos ("Carl") said...

Thanks for sending this, Vicky. I've glanced at John Piper's remarks, and will reflect on them a little more. Maybe I'll even comment on them in a future blog entry. My initial reaction is to be a bit uncomfortable with his glib assertion that cancer's purpose is either (1) to result in healing and thereby receive glory from awed human beings, or (2) that my cancer is "designed for [me] by God," in order to fulfill some other purpose. I'm a bit uncomfortable, as I say, because Dr. Piper's unequivocal declarations, for they appear to have the end-result of making God appear rather monstrous. Think about it - is God truly so vain and self-centered as to inflict suffering on human beings in order to obtain GLORY? And, is God so unblinkingly task-oriented as to consciously micromanage the mutations of cells, heedless of the cost to the person whose cells they are?

I'm not so sure I can be so certain of such things as Dr. Piper evidently is. The intellectually-humble words of St. Augustine come to mind: "If we have understood, then what we have understood is not God." I believe that, especially when it comes to subjects such as suffering and evil, we in ministry are, to use an old phrase, "stewards of the mysteries of God." If such matters are truly mysteries, then our task is not to disperse the mist (as though we could!), but rather to seek to live with the mystery. Some things must remain mysteries, much as we would like, at times, to grasp at easy certainties.

That's my initial reaction, anyway. Thanks for sending me this provocative piece.