Posts tagged ‘Artaban’

Five Ways to Prepare for 2015: Get Loving


There was a fourth wise man. I read about him this week when I happened upon Henry van Dyke’s “The Story of the Other Wise Man.” How I happened upon this book was curious. I was back in Akron and headed down Market Street to go to Don Drumm’s shop and feast my eyes on beauty, when I spotted a sign that said “Book Sale,” and my car made a sudden, sharp change in direction. The used book store in the back of the small strip mall was not really a thing of beauty. It was dated and dusty and there were no young, perky sales clerks waiting to wrap my packages in beautiful ribbons and bows. But, they were having their holiday sale, complete with hot cider for the browsers. With my cider in hand, I found some piano music and about a dozen books. I felt my $38.00 well spent. My purchases were handed to me in an old, cardboard box.
For some reason “The Story of the Other Wise Man” was the first thing I started. Perhaps because it was such a small book and could be read so quickly. But, also, I think now, because I knew I was going to be talking about the topic of loving this week, and this story was just the impetus I needed to crystalize the thoughts and feelings I want to share with you.
The fourth wise man was a Magi, a religious leader of the time, and also a physician and an astronomer. I remember hearing recently that there are two Bibles: the one that is 2000 years old and the one which is ageless: the Bible of the natural world. It was this Bible written in the stars which encouraged the Wise Men to set out on their journey. The fourth wise man lived a great distance from the other three and had to meet them at midnight of the assigned day in order to travel with them.
Artaban sold his palace and all his belongings and bought three easily portable jewels: a ruby, a pearl, and a sapphire. (I have no idea what it means, if anything, but I was fascinated that the jewels were red, white and blue.) Artaban asked his fellow religious leaders to accompany him on the journey. They refused, feeling it was a fool’s errand. Besides, if Artaban found what he was seeking, “the prince who is worthy to be served,” all who shared in this discovery would have to give up their own power and control. Presently the Magi were in charge and called the shots. Why go out looking for trouble? Why upset the apple cart? Why mess with the status quo?
Well, Artaban read the Bible of Stars and set off for the ten day journey to meet the three Magi who were also convinced that this trip had to be made, this adventure undertaken. They had to begin their travels without Artaban. He encountered some inopportune obstacles. I’ll only tell you about the first one. He stumbled across a dying man. If he stopped to help the man and used his skills as a physician and an empathic human being, it was certain he would miss his “connection” and not be able to travel with the three magi headed for Bethlehem. “Should he risk the great reward of his divine faith for the sake of a single deed of human love? Should he turn aside, if only for a moment, from following the star, to give a cup of cold water to a poor perishing Hebrew?”
And herein is the problem with acting from a place of love: it’s messy and inconvenient. We risk our power and control. We are likely to miss the big event.
Since I seem fascinated with numbers today, let me share another number with you. Did you know the Eskimos have thirteen words for snow? Really, they do. Five thousand students of mine from The University of Akron know this fact because I taught it to two or three classes every semester for thirty years. I find it fascinating and illustrative. Because the Eskimo language contains thirteen words for snow, Eskimo children grow up knowing there are thirteen different kinds of snow. If we do not have language to teach us the distinctions and nuances of things, we often miss them. When we have language which distinguishes one type of snow from another, for example, we become aware of peculiar and particular details. We see more when we have language to name what we see.
Likewise the Greeks had six or seven different words for love. In English we have one. Love is love, although we know the feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that demonstrate our love differ greatly. I love my granddaughter, my cat, the color blue, my brother in Maine, the stone houses in Pennsylvania, and the ocean. (This is not an exhaustive list!) But, I don’t love them all the same way. Neither the feelings nor the thoughts nor the behaviors are identical or even similar.
So when we talk about showing love, what are we really talking about? Driving to the ocean more often? Buying more cat treats? In addition to love being messy and inconvenient, risky and untimely, acting from a place of love is also downright confusing. How do we act from a place of love? How do we know when we’re hitting the mark and achieving our goal?

Do we build fences or bridges

Do we build fences or bridges?

Once again that twenty-first century wise man, Richard Rohr, helps me think about this. “It is not about being correct,” he writes. “It is about being connected.” I offer his word as a way of understanding love. Love is connection. We feel connected to people and places and pets and even paint colors. We can tell when we feel connected because our hearts grow four sizes. We relax when we feel connected. We smile more. We “go with the flow,” neither pushing the river nor trying to pull it in our direction.
I believe that most of us do really well showing love. I think most of us would have stopped to help the dying man just as Artaban did. Most of the time, most of us will, as they say in AA (Alcoholic’s Anonymous), “do the next right thing.” However, I think there are two major stumbling blocks most of us encounter when trying to “get loving.” One is the point Richard Rohr made when he mentioned connection: many of us would rather be correct than connected. My mentor and friend, Phil Hockwalt, used to say, “You can either be right or happy.” We also, either, can be correct or connected. NOTHING makes us want to disconnect from another more quickly than that annoying personality characteristic of always having to be right.
In addition to preferring rightness and correctness to happiness and connection, we also prefer to stay with the path we’ve chosen rather than be courageous enough to change direction. The millions of people in lifeless marriages and dead-end jobs bear evidence to this human tendency to stick with something we’ve chosen long after it has proven to be an unhealthy, self-abusive choice. (Speaking of bad jobs and my present obsession with numbers, did you know more people die at 9 a.m. Monday morning than at any other time of the week? Deepak Chopra said that, and I’ve never forgotten how determined some people are not to go to work ever again. “I’d rather die” is apparently more than just three little words.)
Love as a guiding principle for our lives is not something to be undertaken lightly. Who knows what it will ask of us? We may have to embark on hazardous journeys with inconvenient detours only to get to where we were going and realize the truth of the popular New Age saying: “It’s about the journey, not the destination.”



Well, I’ve bitten off more than I can chew here. I have a stack of books and scraps of paper with words of wisdom sitting at my elbow clamoring to be included in this writing. Apparently this is more of a book topic than a blog topic. As usual, here I am demonstrating what I’m preaching about the need to be wrong and change direction. I’ll just try to be “wise” enough to admit I was wrong to undertake such a lofty topic in this limited venue. But I have enjoyed the conversation with each of you. And that is truly what it’s all about: connection.

Blessings, susan

Photography graciously provided by Mary Ellen Jelen


December 13, 2014 at 9:37 AM 3 comments

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