Burning This Life to Ash

"It is all connected," Art by Catrin Welz-Stein
“It is all connected,” Art by Catrin Welz-Stein

“If something burns your soul with purpose and desire, it’s your duty to be reduced to ashes by it. Any other form of existence will be yet another dull book in the library of life.” ~ Andrea Balt

There’s no room these days for half-heartedness.  Either step up, or step off, the universe seems to be saying.

Why?  Because everything is reaching its boiling point. We are crossing a threshold and we cannot turn back. It’s shit or get off the pot time.

It’s time to show up as the person we burn to be. Not some half-baked version of ourselves or as what we think we should be. What we are in our essence. We need to get to work, passionately and fully on the reason for which we were put on this planet.  So, if you are an artist, light up everything about being an artist. If you are an entrepreneur, come up with ways of doing things that will serve us as we shift paradigms. If you are a student, a crafts person, a musician, a writer, a teacher, an engineer — show up everyday inhabiting that space in the world. Everyone’s unique fire is needed. There’s no more time to waste.

No more fussin’ and fightin’ my friend.

We tend to be distracted, mightily, by stuff that should just roll off our backs. The noise of the world, the media’s obsession with trivial minutiae, our government’s ability to ignore the enormous elephant in the room, all contribute to this generalized feeling of powerlessness that holds many of us hostage. The truth is, it doesn’t matter what’s going on in DC if we are living our truth and taking action to build the life we want. We don’t need a big reptilian parental figure to hold our hand. We need to pick up a shovel and get to work.

If your life feels like its being lived inside the belly of the beast, you are not the only one. We’re all up to asses in alligators. And there’s comfort in that fact. No one needs to feel alone.

Everything’s Connected

Buddhism stipulates that there is no separation between what takes place in our inner sphere, and what we experience in the larger world. In fact, the outer world (one kind of reality, if you like) simply reflects the true inner reality of each person. Collectively, our tendencies as a group then show up as what we experience as a family, a city, a society, a planet. If our hearts are pure and we are working from a place that reveres life and treats it with respect, that is what we see around us. If not, we experience a hellish nightmare.

These days, it’s a mixed bag.

Depending on your circumstances and perspective, we may be living through the greatest time in human history, or we may be completely doomed.

In my darker moments, like this week when I saw a photo of a slaughtered elephant maimed by poachers pass through my news feed, I quietly wondered if the world wouldn’t be a better place if human beings were no longer here. The image was brutal. That beautiful sentient being had also been sliced open so they could take the budding tusks from her baby in utero. My eyes teared up and I ached for the future of the planet.

I wondered why are monsters making their appearance right now? What is it that we need to learn?

As a race, human beings need to learn the value of inter-connectivity. We tend to think of ourselves as having dominion over all life on earth. In reality, the planet will have the last word. Whether we are here to hear it, depends on the actions we take right now.

Burning like white hot ash.

“Every death is like the burning of a library.” ~ Alex Haley

So, what can we do to facilitate the inner transformation that will allow us to become the kind of people the world most needs? Look at our own environment  — at work, at home, at school — and make a note of whether we are showing up as the person we were born to be, or a cheap, sloppy knock-off.

Years ago I read some guidance written by Daisaku Ikeda, the leader of the Buddhist lay organization I belong to. In it, he wrote about a story he read as a boy in Japan. The protagonist, a young boy, is challenged again and again, to forge a deep reserve of strength and faith in himself. His mentor encourages him to “burn his life to ash,” to leave nothing undone, nothing unexplored, nothing unsaid. It’s idealistic to think that we can match this sense of purpose on a daily basis, but if we strive to do so, even when we fall short, we will still be building a life of great beauty and service.

Each person’s contribution — each person’s essence is needed. No one’s life  is without purpose, even if that purpose is negative.

So even poachers, even monsters, even the most vile among us, are here to not only learn the value of life, but to experience the effects of the causes they make.

We are in earth school from the day we arrive until the day we die.

Opening my heart wide enough to see the purpose for which each individual is born, is part of my life’s work. You see, this world will be saved by not only the people on the fire lines digging trenches and carrying water, but also by the monstrous actions of those people whose disconnectedness from life finally woke the rest of us up.

© 2013  Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved

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12 thoughts on “Burning This Life to Ash

  1. Thank you so much for your post. I wish you were across from me right now. I’d make you the best cup of tea, especially as it’s Boxing Day – the day after Christmas where everyone has license to drink & shop ’til you drop. But writer’s and seekers rarely have that luxury, nor can we entertain self-pity when the occasion arises, as it always does. I just told my sister that this year we would “burn like white ash!” I suddenly flt all goose-bumby, and searched for Daisaku Ikeda’s mention of it. That’s how I found you.

      1. Thank you. So happy that I found yours. My family is rather large – half of us are artists. It’s like navigating a mine field when we forget the inner and outer being one. But things can change so rapidly from day to day. All there is, is now. Please keep writing. I’ll keep reading.

  2. The quote at the beginning of this page is originally from the poet and writer Charles Bukowski. Not from Andrea Balt.

  3. This is from Andrea Balt regarding the quote at the beginning of this piece. It has been misattributed 100s of times: “Hello! The quote shared above is from my own writing, not Bukowski’s. It initially appeared in this article http://www.rebellesociety.com/2012/10/22/writing-lab-advice-from-charles-bukowski/ inspired by one of Bukowski’s poems – published on RebelleSociety.com on October 22, 2012. Someone pulled the quote out of this article, put it on Tumblr, and mistakenly (and I want to believe, unintentionally) attributed it to Charles Bukowski. Thousands of notes and shares later, the quote is officially attributed to Bukowski and is now even listed on goodreads under his name.

    How does one change this? I just googled the whole quote, and this forum came in the search. So I’d like to thank you for at least initiating this thread and giving me a chance and place to share this misunderstanding.”

  4. Ok… I think you’re right. (and I can feel the hurt in your response….)
    I admire Bukowski but it’s not right that this beautiful words of Andrea Balt are attributed to him. Actually I am pretty sure he wouldn’t have wanted that too.

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