“It is not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not.” — Thich Naht Hanh
A couple of weeks ago, I snapped this photo of the hornet nest in the woods because I noticed it was getting a little shabby. I suspect the cooler temps prevent the hornets from tending to their nest and that is the reason for the disrepair. I didn’t observe any hornets around the nest. Since this photo was taken, we’ve had a fair amount of rain so I haven’t ventured through the mud and leaves to further observe the condition of the hornet nest.
I eagerly watched the progress of the buzzy builders through the summer. Layer upon layer of hornet saliva and wood fiber meticulously applied as the heart-shaped nest developed. They were doing what hornets do – without worry, stress, or concern for the future. They simply existed in the moment. They were what they were meant to be and do.
And at the end of summer, all their work and effort began to disintegrate and fade. It caused me to stop and reflect on the impermanence of things. It is the onion of a life truth of which I continue to peel layer after layer. Things wear out and do not last forever. Seasons end. Relationships end. Jobs are lost. Friends move away. Pets die. Loved ones die. Nothing lasts forever. “This too shall pass.” “Remember, that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
No, we won’t last forever. We will wear out and die. We will experience friends and loved ones wearing out and dying as well. BUT I believe our Matter will not be destroyed. I’m not completely sure about this. I may be completely wrong. I believe our matter converts to energy. Perhaps that is what we mean by the Soul, the Essence, the Spirit. I believe our Life-Force continues after our body has become raggedy and then stopped functioning. That matter “goes” somewhere. It just doesn’t cease to be or does it? Some believe at some designated time in the future, our bodies will be resurrected. I’d like to think that the future time is not constrained by our concept of time and so this resurrection happens when our body transforms into energy which then expands into the Universe and returns to star-dust. I think we go home to the Universe. I think we are “resurrected” to our cosmic home. We go back to being star dust. I don’t know about you but I plan on making it to full stardom! Yea, I’m gonna be a star! I wish churches would change that prayer usually said on Ash Wednesday during the distribution of ashes to something like “remember that you are STAR dust and you shall return to STAR dust”.
Well, at least that is how I see it. That’s kinda “out there” isn’t it. It helps me to appreciate the tireless, busy work of a colony of hornets building a nest all summer only to see it become a raggedy mess in the fall. I am sad because I’ve known the “wow” of watching their work all summer. The ending and dissolving of the nest is as much a part of the cycle as the first crepe paper walls in early summer. It’s that yin/yang thing. Embracing and holding the “both/and” and loving the tension it creates. We suffer because we want things to stay the same, to remain permanent. Thanks to impermanence, though, there are endless possibilities. Anything is possible because nothing stays the same. The only constant in the Universe is change – and that is a good thing!
But it’s normal, natural and necessary to experience feelings of sadness, loss, or grief when things end. Should we avoid building, creating, and being in relationship because the cold winds might end what we’ve created? No. Should we avoid Love because people die or relationships end and our hearts get broken? No. All of those experiences can be transmuted and transformed into Grace.
I try to live in the present moment. Sometimes I do okay and sometimes not so much. Sometimes I worry too much or wish things were different. And sometimes I’m stopped in my tracks in the woods as I observe hornets building a papery home without a care in the world. I join them in that moment. Sometimes the impermanence of things causes a little sadness. Sometimes I realize I will be a Star one day! Nuttin’ lasts forever.
For your reflection: What helps you to stay present in the present moment? How does focusing on your breathing help you to dwell in the here and now? How to you feel when you hear “nothing lasts forever”?
Are you challenged by limitations in your life? How do you pray with the feelings of loss of something you once had? What gives you a “wow”? How do you hold the tensions of “wow” and sadness?
How do your views about life, death, resurrection, expansion into the Universe, life after death, etc. shape your spirituality? Are you able to appreciate a belief you don’t share?
If you could create a ritual symbolizing your letting go of something you feel should last forever, what would that ritual look like?
(This blog is not intended to serve as individual spiritual direction. Spiritual direction or companioning is typically done in a face to face confidential setting. If you would like to explore one on one spiritual direction or your faith community would like to experience group spiritual direction, please contact me. I would be more than happy to set up a time to talk with you. In the meantime, my hope is that the photos and the blog serve as a pause in your day, food for thought or just a reminder to breathe in and breathe out all that is holy and good. The Divine Milieu is all around us. Thank you all for your prayers and support.)