May We Know that We Are Beloved

 Storm and rain.Ghost Ranch

A number of years ago during one of my visits to New Harmony, I was walking along the Wabash River, which flows with its broad and mighty current along the outskirts of town. It was evening, and halfway through my walk a wild storm blew in. I was close to the Angel of Compassion, and there was no other place to seek shelter. I felt awkward about physically entering a piece of art, but, believing that my brother Tobi Kahn would forgive me, I huddled under the great granite archway and found myself standing immediately next to the angel of compassion.

It was dark, and I could not remember exactly what the sculpture’s words of inscription were, but my memory was, “Every Human Being is the Beloved of the Nameless Eternal One.” So, as the wind and rain whirled about me in the darkness and the sound of the river in spate grew, I began to repeat over and over a simple prayer in my heart. “May I know that I am beloved. May I know that I am beloved. May I know that I am beloved.” My mind took me to haunted places within myself where I doubt that I am beloved—places in my body and mind and soul. I remembered times in my life when I had been ugly and false in my actions. I thought of how little I was doing for the transformation of the world, of how little of myself I was giving away for the sake of others.

“May I know that I am beloved,” I prayed. “May I know that I am beloved.”

After a while, the storm abated. It was time to leave and head back to town. Or so I thought. I was only fifty yards from the archway when the rains came again. They drove me back to the angel of compassion for a second time. So again I prayed, but this time the words were, “May she know that she is beloved. May she know that she is beloved.” I named within myself people whom I love. I thought of my sister who had experienced betrayal and the collapse of her marriage. I longed for her to know that she was beautiful in her mind and body and soul. That she was beloved. I thought of my friend struggling through chemotherapy and seeking the strength to look death in the face. “May he know that he is beloved. May he know that he is beloved.”

Again the storm dropped. And again I began to walk toward town, but a third time the rains came and drove me back to the angel. So for a third time I prayed. But this time it was, “May we know that we are beloved. May we know that we are beloved.” My thoughts turned to Iraq, to Palestine, to places of deep wrong and abuse in our cities and among us as nations, where we forget that the other is beloved. My heart was aware of children who doubt that they are loved because of the neglect they suffer. I thought of creatures and entire species who are struggling because of our failure to love the earth.

“May we know that we are beloved. May we know that we are beloved.”

Is there a prayer more central than this? Is there something deeper than this for us to know in our bodies and minds if we are to be well and if we are to give ourselves for one another’s well-being? Three times I was led to the angel. Three times I prayed these words in repetition. But I suppose it is three times a day that I need to pray them, or three times an hour. I know that I need this prayer, and I know that my journey is only one particular expression of the common journey of humanity and the earth. I know that my need is part of our need and part of the earth’s need. And I know that I not only need the angel of compassion in the archway of this moment in my life but that I am part of the messenger of compassion in the archway of this moment in our world. If together we are to be well, we must know ourselves to be bearers of compassion, inclining to one another and to the earth with presence.

Newell, John Philip. A New Harmony. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011.