Your soul has a wide genealogy quite apart from you


When I grow heartsick by the convulsions of this world; hopeless by the egos holding our earth hostage; helpless by the spectre of nuclear winter, I go to the ocean.

I stand at the shore with stones and seaweed. I attach prayers to seashells and release them to the water.

I watch them ride up the curl of a wave, then fall back to bob like bits of driftwood in the salt wash.

But one or two, I imagine, of the less conscious ones, reach the crest and lift like kites charged by spindrift and light, sail high, grow wings.

It was said of the holy Baal Shev Tov that one day walking in a pasture, he caused sheep to stand and pray.

Later, it was reported that he said this life-altering thing: Your soul has a wide genealogy, quite apart from you.

And I thought of our wondrous cosmos: a school of fish, an ant hill, a cloud of waxwings, a weave of sphagnum, earth’s blanket of mycelium, we flora, we fauna, we with language, one wide organism, one galactic soul.

And I wondered how, if our soul is larger than the physical limitations in which we live, larger than what we can imagine, how can we think to harm, to hurt, to hate, exploit?

For to lash out, is always to strike at our own heart (as the mystics have always known).

And I thought: discrete parts go to war, but parts, which are not apart but in communion, are kind for the sake of others, kind for the sake of themselves.

What should we call this communion? Quantum entanglement of love?

Love, implied Jesus, is the magnitude of being. Meaning, I gather, that beneath our fear, our rage, our sacrifice of others for the sake of security, lies love; our true state in which we move and live and have our being.

True state? Such a leap!

And yet this quantum entanglement of love, this wide genealogy, benign and nonviolent…is it not the only genuine argument against exploitation, apocalyptic capitalism, war?

It is, of course, the one we hesitate to speak of because it appears to be the weakest (and how we fear appearing weak).

As I stand here on the shore, caught in my own fears, resentments, caught in my still-too-sectarian frame of mind, I pray for awakening.

I pray that the deep reality  will come, spark us to life, transfigure us, bring us—all we humans, as Father James Gray used to say, still in our swaddling clothes —to adulthood.

On that day, sheep will stand and pray on their own, and our sanity will return.

On that day we’ll swim together in the bay, our bodies traced by phosphorescence. We’ll read the Kanji of kelp. All the markings of love.



  1. Stephen,
    For so many reasons, your writing, and this post in particular, really speaks to me. The quote – your title – is very profound and helps to explain much of what I have been pondering lately.

  2. Thank you for this powerful meditation. Stones and seaweed and kelp – these are among the reasons I moved to Salt Spring Island.

  3. Profound, Steve – reflecting on the idea of communion – where disparate parts can come together, a visible expression of overcoming fears. Some – who practice “closed communion” – what an oxymoron!

  4. simply put I love that whole set of musing and reflection, toward a hope not yet seen but in sprinkles here and there, thank you for that moment.

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