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Rev. Sandra Schubert

Reflection, Discovery, Rebirth
by Rev. Sandra Lee Schubert

The remarkable thing is that it is the crowded life that is most easily remembered. A life full of turns, achievements, disappointments, surprises, and crises is a life full of landmarks. The empty life has even its few details blurred, and cannot be remembered with certainty.
--Eric Hoffer (1902–1983), U.S. philosopher. Reflections on the Human Condition, aphorism 174 (1973).

The years go by so fast – what did we do? The end of any year brings an assortment of TV shows reflecting on the past year. There are the celebrity happenings, the health breakthroughs, election results, and the parade of the famous that have passed away. But our lives are not reflected there. What has been important for us? What seemingly unimportant thing has had a profound impact on our lives? At beginning of a new year, a new season or a significant change we are confronted with what we have left undone. The gym shoes sit unused. The novel is unwritten. What did we do that we wish we could take back? The apology we meant to deliver sits on our desk. We forgot to tell a dear friend we loved them and now it is too late. We are full of regrets of the past and hope for something better. The giddiness of the New Year is bittersweet. We are reflective, becoming sad - we must leave something behind. In our culture we can become afraid of the depth of this sadness. We remember the family members that are now gone and the friends who have moved on. Then there is the weight we gained - the loss of our youthful bodies. We look at the past and it reflects back to us. Sometimes we don’t want do look back and see – but we must. Our life’s reflection provides an opportunity for growth – transformation. There are things we can’t change yet there are thing still to do. What can we give?

Narcissus – the flowering of self-absorption

In one version of a Greek myth Narcissus will live forever unless he looks upon himself. When he catches his image in a pool of water he becomes enamored of his image. He becomes so self-absorbed he withers and dies by the water. Even in the clearest water what we see is not the whole story; the image can be distorted. Narcissus looked so deeply he could not see anything else. His life became narrow. There was nothing for him to thrive on. No one else to show him what more life had to offer. The story continues. At the water a flower grows where he has died. At first the flower is considered poisonous but later its medicinal properties are revealed.

The myth of Narcissus neatly captures this: one drowns in the self—it is an entropic state. Richard Sennett (b. 1943), U.S. social historian. "The Actor Deprived of His Art," The Fall of the Public Man, Cambridge University Press (1977).

We do discover ourselves – however we can become enamored of the image we see. The danger of looking so deeply is that we lose perspective. But in order to live we must leave behind this image and discover our true identity. At first we may be shocked by what we find. Like Narcissus we may lose our life only to gain another and we find we can flower and grow.

Reverence for life

When reflecting on one’s life acknowledge all that has past – both good and bad. Honor it. Your past informs your present and gives hope for the future. In his book, Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue, author Paul Woodruff says this – "Reverence begins in a deep understanding of human limitations; from this grows the capacity to be in awe of whatever we believe lies outside our control – God, truth, justice, nature, even death. The capacity for awe, as it grows, brings with it the capacity for respecting fellow human beings, flaws and all." We can’t control the outcome of our life but we can approach it with reverence, honoring our traditions and respecting the life we are given.

In examining your life you may find places of great depth and of lack. Consider some things you may want to pursue. Benjamin Franklin would examine his life in great detail. He would review and acknowledge his weaknesses concentrating his efforts to improve upon them He was cultivating virtues instead of vices. You can continue to cultivate those things that are important while working on the areas where you may be weaker.

The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is on the contrary born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else—we are the busiest people in the world. Eric Hoffer (1902–1983), U.S. philosopher. Reflections on the Human Condition, aph. 156 (1973).

Let’s look at some areas of life that might require attention.

  • Health
  • Love
  • Work
  • Creativity
  • Money

Health: Are you taking care of yourself? If not, what do you need to do to improve your health? List five ways you can live a more healthful lifestyle.

Love: Are you a loving person? Think about it. We think about love as a spouse or a girlfriend, a partner. There is more to love then a committed partnership. In what ways can we become more loving individuals?

Work: Do you love the work you do? Does it support you or enliven you? If you dream of work you love consider using the next year as the starting ground to live that vision.

Creativity: Even if you can’t draw a straight line we are still creative individuals. Our society does not support the artistic expression as it used to do. But we can support ourselves.

Money: I know many people who use their money for good. The more they have the more they give. Does your money support just you or the world? No matter how much or little you make your money can make a difference.

Reflect upon your life and consider what is important. What needs improvement? Is your life filled with busyness but not with substance? Does it reflect care and compassion for the fellow traveler on this great planet? Like Benjamin Franklin review your life not with regret but with strength to make it better. Look to the future filled with awe at the possibilities it offers.

These words are dedicated to those who survived
because life is a wilderness and they were savage
because life is an awakening and they were alert
because life is a flowering and they blossomed
because life is a struggle and they struggled
because life is a gift and they were free to accept it

Irena Klepfisz (b. 1941), U.S. Jewish poet and essayist; born in Poland. "Bashert: These Words are Dedicated to Those Who Survived," lines 26-31 (1981).


He fell in love with his own reflection in the waters of a spring and pined away (or killed himself); the flower that bears his name sprang up where he died. According to another source, Narcissus, to console himself for the death of his beloved twin sister, his exact counterpart, sat gazing into the spring to recall her features. - Encyclopedia Brittanica

Mythology: Narcissus in Greek legend fell in love with his own reflection in a stream. He stayed transfixed by the stream and the gods thought he would die of starvation so they changed him into the flower to stay there forever. http://www.flowers.org.uk/flowers/facts/k-r/narcissus.htm


© Copyright 2005 Rev. Sandra Lee Schubert. All Rights Reserved. 

Reflections from
the Wild Woman
of Queens:

The last five years have brought changes – jobs won and lost. Friends have come and gone. I have discovered gifts I didn’t know I had and have been horrified by bad traits that have emerged. I have taken on the moniker of the "wild woman". Robert Bly in his book, The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart says the following about being wild. "To be wild is not to be crazy like a criminal or psychotic, but "mad as the mist and snow." It has nothing to do with being childish or primitive, nor does it manifest as manic rebellion or self-damaging alienation. The marks of wildness, Bly says, are a love of nature, a delight in silence, a voice free to say spontaneous things, and an exuberant curiosity in the face of the unknown." Bly has given voice to what I understood about "being wild" but could not explain. As a creative being I could not deny the longing to express that, which was innate in me. Honoring my creativity required me to take chances. For years I considered myself only a poet. I did write articles and essays but it was poetry that occupied my time. Poetry is a wonderful art form. But there were other words, other images that were there to be unearthed. I facilitate a writing group at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in NYC. I have taught classes and listened to other instructors and my fellow classmates and the things they had to say. What emerged was the poignancy of their stories. After 9/11 that poignancy took on greater meaning. In December of 2001 I took a vacation to Las Vegas. Different casinos are designed after popular tourist cities around the world. I ate in Venice, sipped coffee and ate pastries in Paris and took photos in Rome. I visited the Brooklyn Bridge next to the Coney Island roller coaster. All of this was fun. But I noticed that the cities were devoid of any of the things that make them both exciting and frustrating. Where were the pigeons in the Piazza? There was no litter in the NYC streets and the canals of Venice smelled like nothing. You could pretend to be there but it was not the same. It was safe. 9/11 showed us we couldn’t be safe all the time. Traveling from NYC to this fantasy was surreal and disheartening. Except for t-shirts left with messages of hope from firehouses around the country as memorial at the New York, New York casino there was none of the reminders of tragic events. No flags sold on the street. As tragic as the events were I did not want to forget them. Not now - even years later. I am reminded of the stories of people I will never meet. I am reminded that we all have stories to tell. When we stop telling our stories we in essence stop living. Someone else can tell our story. And like Las Vegas it may not be the whole truth. Maybe it will be sanitized and devoid of our foibles. Or our foibles will outweigh the good we have done. The past five years have revealed to me the importance of following our hearts not to the point of self-absorption but to the point of discovery. Opening my heart just a little I have discovered my talents, my fears and hopes for the future. One hope is to keep on revealing and discovering who I am. Another hope is to be open to others even in the face of fear. My wish is that we all be "mad as the mist and snow." Be wild. Be happy. Namaste.

Rev. Sandra Lee Schubert
Rev. Sandra Lee Schubert is an interfaith minister, writer and founder of Wild Woman Ministries and Wild Woman Network a forum to explore and express creativity and spirituality. As a minister and coach, Rev. Schubert helps people discover and unlock their creative potential -- through creating art, producing classes and workshops or just pursuing a life long goal -- and is committed to assisting people in fulfilling their dreams. She also leads workshops and facilitates a popular writing program called the Wild Angels at the historic Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Her subscription e-course -- Writing for Life: Creating a Story of Your Own, is available at: www.selfhealingexpressions.com/courses.shtml. Email: wwn@wildwomannetwork.com, or visit www.wildwomanministries.org. 212-642-5042




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