“The function of wisdom is to discriminate between good and evil.”
~ Marcus Tullius Cicero
Wisdom may come with age, because in age we’ve made enough mistakes to recognize what they were and have learned.
Maybe, it’s not the mistake that matters but what we gain from it. There are many children with uncanny wisdom—we usually call them old souls.
Yet, in India, one can be born a saint, a Sadhu, just like I was born to write and teach.
No one told me this, but life showed me; it’s similar but different. My parents did not look at me and say: You’re a writer. You’re a teacher.
Today, I read about the largest religious gathering in India, happening now, called Kumbh Mela. Millions of people gather to bathe in sacred water, every three years, at one of four cities on the banks of the Sangham, where the waters of the Ganga, Saraswati and Yamuna meet.
This year, the city that held this remarkable religious festival was Allahabad. And, as happens with gatherings of masses, accidents happen and people died.
In reading about this event, I am learning about fires and possible terrorist activity, where a good 30 million people are gathered.
I read about the story behind this event, how good and evil fought, the Gods having to fight the demons, or Asuras. And I realize as much as humanity keeps evolving, there are certain things that remain the same, always.
I cannot imagine what life in India is like.
I was raised without religion, basically. Yet I believe in beauty, I believe in a Divine Source, call it what you will. I believe in the Old Ones, those Spirits who don’t need to leave their bodies and stay on Earth for humanity. I believe in angels.
And, I believe there are Saints and you don’t need a church to tell you who is and is not a Saint.
A journalist for NPR, Julie McCarthy, was at the festival and she writes about meeting a Sadhu, a man who was born as such—which reminded me of this line:
“[Saint Anthony] said, in his solitude, he sometimes encountered devils who looked like angels, and other times he found angels who looked like devils. When asked how he could tell the difference, the saint said that you can only tell which is which by the way you feel after the creature has left your company.”
~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
There was a stampede at the train station. Three dozen pilgrims died.
Years ago, ironically, I was on DC’s Mall for Human Kindness Day. Stevie Wonder was supposed to play; it was 1975 and it was hot and folks were partying. I don’t remember exactly what happened, because it was so fast—everyone started running, in mass. My friend was smarter than I and told me not to panic and got me out of there, quickly. But the air was magnetized with fear and anxiety.
I imagine what happened in India was like that, but worse.
I am told India is magical and smelly and beautiful all at once, with its great poverty.
But where else is there such a rich history, full of tales of Ganesha and Hanuman, Shiva and Indra?
What if, rather than thinking of good and evil, light and dark, we think of light and the absence of light. What if we think of goodness and where it is missing.
What if we let go of our notion that evil is?
I am known to say Lucifer was but a fallen angel. Heaven is on earth; hell can be here as well.
It doesn’t matter whether you believe in eternity or not.
What matters is, can you stand in the light, find the rainbows, recognize the saints and celebrate life?
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Ed: Bryonie Wise
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