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QUINTESSENCE

Travelers

Kathe Kollwitz, Köln, Germany
7
still there is mercy, there is grace

how otherwise
could i have come to this
marble spinning in space
propelled by the great
thumb of the universe?
how otherwise
could the two roads
of this tongue
converge into a single
certitude?
how otherwise
could i, a sleek old
traveler,
curl one day safe and still
beside You
at Your feet, perhaps,
but, amen, Yours.


- Lucille Clifton, from the poem "Brothers"

I think frequently about the matter of grace. What it means to be given a certain unconditional regard in this life. We are travelers on this planet, passing through the uncertain ambitious foothills of ego and desire. By what measure are grace and mercy so freely given us? Is grace the wide embrace of a spiritual or primeval forgiveness? A kind of No Fault clause provided as part of the whole "living on earth" enterprise?

Forgiveness is not quite the correct word, I think. There is no judgment in grace. Grace rains upon every living thing, generous as the beat of our hearts. Mercy on the other hand, falls closer to an individual acknowledgement of the real-world struggle and challenge of life. The human soul grasps and yearns. We are capable of craven, violent, selfish choices - the most despicable actions on the behavioral spectrum. Yet often we give what might be gained away, without regard for self or reward. Generosity and compassion, tender and courageous. Grace offers acceptance of this imperfect free will. Mercy is benevolence toward its imperfect expression.

This lovely stanza from Lucille Clifton's long poem "brothers," is part of an eight part poem conversation between an aged Lucifer and God, although only Lucifer's voice is heard. I read these wonderful poem conversations in their entirety and think of humanity and its perilous, hungry, blind tangle of infinite strength and yearning. Perhaps universal grace and individual mercy are the balance given to human nature. Perhaps we are not merely to acknowledge but practice both qualities. For ourselves and others. To find our way, the "traveler,/ curl one day safe and still/ beside You."

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