For Janet

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This morning my friend Janet’s long ordeal with cancer finally came to an end.  The last time I saw her a few days ago in hospice I read her a passage from Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri about the soul.  I share it here as a tribute to her but also for the benefit of the reader.  It’s long but well worth the time to read.

A being stood immortal in transience,

Deathless dallying with momentary things,

In whose wide eyes of tranquil happiness

Which pity and sorrow could not abrogate

Infinity turned its gaze on finite shapes:

Observer of the silent steps of the hours,

Eternity upheld the minute’s acts

And the passing scenes of the Everlasting’s play.

In the mystery of its selecting will,

In the Divine Comedy a participant,

The Spirit’s conscious representative,

God’s delegate in our humanity,

Comrade of the universe, the Transcendent’s ray,

She had come into the mortal body’s room

To play at ball with Time and Circumstance.

A joy in the world her master movement here,

The passion of the game lighted her eyes:

A smile on her lips welcomed earth’s bliss and grief,

A laugh was her return to pleasure and pain.

All things she saw as a masquerade of Truth

Disguised in the costumes of Ignorance,

Crossing the years to immortality;

All she could front with the strong spirit’s peace.

But since she knows the toil of mind and life

As a mother feels and shares her children’s lives,

She puts forth a small portion of herself,

A being no bigger than the thumb of man

Into a hidden region of the heart

To face the pang and to forget the bliss,

To share the suffering and endure earth’s wounds

And labour mid the labour of the stars.

This in us laughs and weeps, suffers the stroke,

Exults in victory, struggles for the crown;

Identified with the mind and body and life,

It takes on itself their anguish and defeat,

Bleeds with Fate’s whips and hangs upon the cross,

Yet is the unwounded and immortal self

Supporting the actor in the human scene.

Through this she sends us her glory and her powers,

Pushes to wisdom’s heights, through misery’s gulfs;

She gives us strength to do our daily task

And sympathy that partakes of others’ grief

And the little strength we have to help our race,

We who must fill the role of the universe

Acting itself out in a slight human shape

And on our shoulders carry the struggling world.

This is in us the godhead small and marred;

In this human portion of divinity

She seats the greatness of the Soul in Time

To uplift from light to light, from power to power,

Till on a heavenly peak it stands, a king.

In body weak, in its heart an invincible might,

It climbs stumbling, held up by an unseen hand,

A toiling spirit in a mortal shape.

Here in this chamber of flame and light they met;

They looked upon each other, knew themselves,

The secret deity and its human part,

The calm immortal and the struggling soul.

Then with a magic transformation’s speed

They rushed into each other and grew one.

From Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri pgs 526-527

 

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