When I was a graduate student in history, a professor introduced me to St. Francis of Assisi. I’ll never forget when she shared an anecdote re his kindness toward “brother worm”, stopping on the path and picking the worm up and moving him to the side of the path lest someone step on him. I rolled my eyes and grimaced. “What a nut job!” I thought.
Well, as you might suspect, forty years later I realize that the “nut job” was I! I now understand St. Francis’ appreciation of the unity of all God’s creatures, the presence of God in the whole of his creation. Now, I must admit I would not stop on a path and move a worm to the side though I sure would take pains to not step on it. I would have done the same back then. I feel so strongly about this Unity that I wish I could find the Grace to become a vegetarian. This wish is greatly intensified by living in Northwest Arkansas and often finding myself driving behind a Tyson chicken truck, packed with chickens who have never known a “free range” and will shortly be in a freezer at Wal-Mart.
But this unity of all things is most important in the human realm. I am you, you are me, we are all one. To “work out my own salvation with fear and trembling” will influence those around me, especially those who are nearest and dearest to me. For who I am, who I choose to “be”, makes a difference in the world.
Of course, I am talking boundaries here. And to live in this realm of “no boundaries” is very risky for it makes it imperative that we have a strong sense of identity, that we do know limits, and know that we cannot be all things to all people. We have to have…to speak clinically for a moment…”ego integrity.”
Mature boundaries are porous. But they do exist; they can “filter out” in the interest of this aforementioned “ego integrity.” But they are not concrete barricades behind which we cringe, hiding from the world as we hide from our own self and from our Source.
THE ART OF BROTHER KEEPING
by Edgar Simmons
the instant you can
accept the colon
you are christenened
in the right compromise
that no things are alike
but are related.
the most powerful leap of metaphor
is when I decide
I am you
the result is
carried out and on
not in flesh but in spirit–
prophetic fact in time
more than children of our flesh.