How the Light Gets In


We gathered to share the meal with gratitude. Young parents struggled through the front door, shrugging off coats and toddlers, babies slung low on the hip, a covered dish held high in the other hand.  The house rang with the delighted whoops of kith and kin celebrating another reunion.

Everyone bustled about in the kitchen, bumping into each other, side-swiping siblings with hastily opened drawers, the refrigerator’s swinging French doors a constant hazard. After a time, everything seemed ready. Taking one last look at the cornucopia, I recruited two worthy grandchildren tasked with compelling the clan to table.

“I need two helpers,” I explained, “who can get all these people to come into the dining room and become quiet.” Cousins exchanged doubtful glances, for their experiences with prior gatherings had confirmed Chaos a goddess-queen who blesses Nana’s household.

“I need two bell-ringers who can help this bell ring out her summons,” I continued, handing them my heavy brass meditation bell. Each child tested its weight and tones in first one hand, then the other, nodding to me solemnly. They were equal to the task of taming Chaos. Granddaughter took her turn first, rolling the bell this way and that, its chuckle finally bursting into merry guffaws. The bell passed like doves between magicians, and Grandson finished his strikes with a big grin, for the room was full of loved ones, yet each one was quiet. Together, they had commanded everyone.

The waxed furrows of the ancient oak dinner table shimmered with candlelight. Five unlit candles in crystal holders at the center of the table invited a perceptible descent to solemnity.

This quiet settled and became dense.

The room was filled with the absence of people who had died.

After inviting readings from others, I asked each to name someone whose loss they’re grieving this holiday season. We named names, lit candles, welcomed and thanked these loved ones for their presence with us.

We smiled at one another through tears, filling that space with shared losses and love.

And I read Rumi:

I said: what about my eyes?
He said: Keep them on the road.

I said: What about my passion?
He said: Keep it burning.

I said: What about my heart?
He said: Tell me what you hold inside it?

I said: Pain and sorrow.
He said: Stay with it. The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

— Rumi

Legendary Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen wrote a song about how the light gets in, performing it live in London at age 74. Here he is, singing “Anthem” (2008).

Anthem

by Leonard Cohen

The birds they sang
At the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what has passed away
Or what is yet to be

Ah, the wars they will be fought again
The holy dove, she will be caught again
Bought and sold, and bought again
The dove is never free

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

We asked for signs
The signs were sent
The birth betrayed
The marriage spent
Yeah, and the widowhood
Of every government
Signs for all to see

I can’t run no more
With that lawless crowd
While the killers in high places
Say their prayers out loud
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
A thundercloud
They’re going to hear from me

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

You can add up the parts
But you won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march
There is no drum
Every heart, every heart
To love will come
But like a refugee

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

That’s how the light gets in
That’s how the light gets in


2 responses to “How the Light Gets In”

  1. Pixie Avatar

    What a beautiful poem by Rumi and what a lovely way to remember those we’ve lost.

  2. cpassardb7dd4b1298 Avatar
    cpassardb7dd4b1298

    Beautiful sharing — thank you. I saw this concert — sublime!

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