"The whole universe is symbolically seated about a communal fire called life – a fire that we all share in the darkness of our isolation, that courses through the veins, that maintains the life of even stones and plants and all that we seldom think of as living. It is a fire that burns in all times and places." The Celtic Spirit: Daily Meditations for the Turning Year, Caitlin Matthews
I have lost my patience for sitting in rows. I learned this over the last few days as I sat at our annual gathering of United Methodist clergy and laity. Seated shoulder to shoulder by people I know and love but could not really see, I realized my whole body had become antsy, agitated. As I strained to see the beautiful faces of my faith colleagues, I recognized the quite unnatural way in which we were organized. Long straight rows of people facing walls and screens, without the ability to truly interact. In the defense of this process, I know it is extremely difficult, if not impossible to arrange several hundred people in one room in any other way. However, that did not limit my impatience.
When I opened the newspaper this morning and saw the image of Stonehenge, my heart leaped. This ancient stone circle has always been special for me. From as long ago as I can remember, I have been fascinated with it……What was it for? What do the stones mean? Who were the people who built it? Most importantly, how in the world did they haul those stones from more than 250 miles away and how did they manage to lift them into an upright position without the benefit of crane or bulldozer?
Today’s article poses some possible answers to the first two questions.Looking back more than 5000 years at the practices of humans is a fascinating and enlightening experience. Through the amazing technology of radiocarbon-dating many cremations were analyzed giving rise to the speculation that Stonehenge was home to 30 to 40 generations of family members, perhaps from the same single family of rulers, buried beneath these memorials. It becomes clear that the symbol of the circle has been deeply rooted in the fabric of humanity for a very long time.
I have to be honest that, while interesting, the specifics of what happened in this circle is not as important to me as the fact that the circle of stones exists. My imagination can leap to the grand and the grotesque as to what transpired in this sphere, as countless others have done over the centuries. It is instead the commitment of these ancients to create such an enduring monument, one that mirrors the very creation of the Universe itself, without the knowledge of the science of it all, that fills me with awe. Five thousand years ago our brothers and sisters-through-time dreamed, labored, and no doubt died, to erect this circle. Someplace within that building they have placed the wisdom and importance of facing one another, of being seen, of gathering around the fire and the One who brings the spark of Spirit to us all.
The circle is the great leveler of people and power. As we gather in circles, around dinner tables, at the campfire, in offices, on a picnic blanket with friends, we claim the gift of looking into the eyes of one another and seeing the reflection of the Holy there. When we meet face-to-face, we listen more deeply, are present more fully. In my imagining, Stonehenge and its builders gather with us, forming the circle with the Ground of All Being, that has existed since the beginning reminding us once again that we are connected through time and that there is nothing that can truly sever that connection.Caitlin Matthews puts it this way: "It is the calling together or re-formation of a primal web of unity and harmony that individual and corporate acts have torn or fragmented."
My prayer is that we each learn to honor the circles of our lives in ways that build memorials which transcend time in the powerful ways that the builders of Stonehenge did. In so doing, I believe we will be honored to lay the bones of our earthly bodies in the midst of the communal fire called Life.
Have a blessed weekend……………..