We are continuing to meditate on the wisdom of medicine elder Deena Metzger whose powerful poem “Now That We Know” was featured in the videos for March 19th and March 20th. In her latest newsletter, she offers still more wisdom apropos of the plague we are living through at this time.  Here I will reproduce and interact with just a portion of it.

Portrait of Deena Metzger taken by Jessica Shokrian, from Deena’s website.

Deena begins with a powerful and fitting adaptation of the well known message from the time of the holocaust by Martin Niemöller*  when she writes:

First the animals began dying, going extinct, and we did

not stop what we were doing because we are not animals.

Then the glaciers started melting and we did not stop what

we were doing because we thought we could do without them.

Then the forests were disappearing and we did not stop cutting

down the trees because we could not imagine being unable

to breathe.

Then the virus came and there was no one to stop us

but ourselves.

Deena Metzger reading “Rift Valley” from her latest collection of poetry, The Burden of Light. Video uploaded to YouTube by Gabriel Constans.

Here she is putting the coronavirus, the tiny being that is taking the entire human species and all its economic and political habits and structures and aspirations to our knees, in the context of the parallel crisis happening with Mother Earth:

What we call the Climate Crisis, that millions of species are facing today. 

Youth lead Extinction Rebellion in London, UK. Photo by Korie Cull on Unsplash.

This unparalleled Extinction Spasm will loom even larger if we fail to heed the warnings such as the conflagration of an entire continent that disappeared one half billion animals—indeed animals unique to that continent—just a few months ago.  Of course Australia is not just a “canary in the mine” but a “continent in the mine.”

Deena speaks of human indifference and denial and the price we pay for both.  How contrary this is to Jesus’ teaching to “love one another”—yes that we love all of creation and ALL the species and respond accordingly when we find them endangered by our actions.

She speaks bluntly of the death we face or feel ourselves and others facing as the virus makes its brutal advances: 

Walking towards the light at the end of the passageway. Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash.

There is a passageway between life and death. It partakes of the sacred. It is not of this world or of the other. It is in between the two and is of uncertain length and development, sometimes dense and sometimes luminous. The passageway is called Dying. What happens in this place is a great mystery.  Everyone will walk it. There is no map but there are questions to hold and consider. The path toward healing from a life-threatening illness is the same path as preparing for a good death.

In a recent DM with poet Ernesto Cardenal we learned a similar lesson—how we die daily in many ways.  And the virus is surely waking ourselves up anew to our mortality.  An important lesson, this, as Deena reminds us.

*Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Lutheran pastor in Germany who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent seven years in Nazi concentration camps.

See Matthew Fox, Passion For Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, pp. 83-90.

Banner Image: The Elephant Ambassador and his family, 2011. Photo by Deena Metzger, from her website home page. Deena shares her encounters with the Elephant Ambassador in her blog, Ruin and Beauty.

Queries for Contemplation

Deena Metzger recognizes the passageway we are all on as “partaking of the sacred.”  Do you see that also?  What follows from that?

Recommended Reading

Responses are welcomed. To add your comment, please click HERE or scroll to the bottom of the page.

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4 thoughts on “Deep Wisdom from Deena Metzger”

  1. Avatar

    Rome, Italy, Mar 24, 2020 / 12:56 pm (CNA).- While Fr. Giuseppe Berardelli is remembered fondly by those who knew him as a man of kindness and self-sacrifice, the reports of a donated respirator passed along to a younger patient are not true, the secretary general of his diocese told CNA Tuesday.

    “There was not a donated respirator. There have not been any respirators coming from outside of the hospital,” Fr. Giulio Dellavite told CNA March 24.

    Doctors in Italy’s Lombardy region have struggled to treat the more than 10,000 coronavirus patients currently hospitalized in the region with a limited number of intensive care units.

    Fr. Dellavite, a friend of Fr. Berardelli for over 20 years, said he believes that Fr. Berardelli would have given up a potential spot in the intensive care unit up for another younger patient, if he could have.

    “But we do not have certainty,” the priest said.

    “It is not like the way that some journalist wrote: that it was a respirator bought for him and then given by him to someone else,” Dellavite said.

    A March 22 report from the Italian website Araberara, which claimed Fr. Berardelli sacrificed a respirator donated by his parish for another younger patient, went viral March 23.

    The website quoted an anonymous employee at the San Giuseppe Rest Home in Casnigo as the source of its information.

    But Benedetta Franchina, an employee at the San Giuseppe Rest Home, told CNA it is unlikely fellow employees of the rest home could have known how things ended for Fr. Berardelli, because he died at the Lovere Hospital, and not at the rest home.

    Franchina told CNA she is a parishioner of Berardelli’s parish, St. John the Baptist, and that she knew the priest as a man of great faith.

    Still, she said that the members of her parish are facing a crisis with the coronavirus outbreak, and have been isolated from each other for weeks. She had never heard of a fundraiser for a respirator.

    “He was a person full of faith and always a person who transmitted joy, positivity, and was always happy, always ready to give a word of comfort,” she said.

    “He always gave of himself to his parishioners and to all of the people that had a need or a want,” Franchina said. “He was always ready if someone needed to speak with him or needed help. He was always ready, he was always always ready. So when I remember Fr. Giuseppe I remember him as a wonderful person.”

    The Diocese of Bergamo confirmed that Fr. Giuseppe Berardelli died last week after contracting COVID-19. He was 72 years old.

    Berardelli is one of 23 priests reported to have died from COVID-19 in the Diocese of Bergamo located in the region with one of the highest rates of coronavirus infection in Italy.

    A total of 6,820 people in Italy have died of coronavirus, the Italian Ministry of Health reported March 24. Among the dead there have been at least 60 priests, according to local media reports.

    In his televised Mass on March 24, Pope Francis praised the heroism of doctors and priests who have died after treating or visiting the sick.

    “I have heard that some doctors, priests have passed away in recent days, I don’t know if [there are] any nurses [who have died],” the pope said March 24.

    “We pray for them, for their families, and I thank God for the example of heroism they give us in treating the sick,” Pope Francis said.

    The following is a list of the priests reported to have died of coronavirus in the Italian Diocese of Bergamo:

    Fr. Silvano Sirtoli, 59, Fr. Fausto Resmini, 67, Fr. Mariano Carrara, 72, Fr. Remo Luiselli, 81, Fr. Gaetano Burini, 83, Fr. Umberto Tombini, 83, Fr. Giancarlo Nava, 70, Fr. Tarcisio Casali, 82, Monsignor Achille Belotti, 82, Monsignor Tarcisio Ferrari, 84, Fr. Remo Rota, 77, Fr. Savino Tamanza, 75, Fr. Battista Mignani, 74, Fr. Alessandro Longo, 87, Fr. Guglielmo Micheli, 86, Fr. Adriano Locatelli, 71, Fr. Ettore Persico, 77, Fr. Donato Forlani, 88, Fr. Remo Luiselli, 91, Fr. Gaetano Burini, 91, Fr. Umberto Tombini, 79, and Fr. Giuseppe Berardelli, 72.

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Dear Billy,
      Thank you for filling out the whole story about Fr. Berardelli’s passing from the Corona virus in March. Hearing from some of his parishioners and friends takes the story out of the news and puts it in hometowns and churches, like so many of ours’. The heroism and compassion in these times is truly edifying.
      GaiL Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  2. Avatar

    I marvel at the generosity of so many people. It seems to me that this virus is like an exam in school, but I cannot tell if it is a midterm or a final. Extinction seems more and more a possibility in the not too distant future if we do not gather our information and experience to pass this exam. The complete destruction of the EPA in the U.S with no regulations against any form of pollution is a grim example of failure, in my opinion.

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Dear Sue,
      May I offer this: the Coronavirus crisis seems to me to be a test of the mettle of our species. So many decisions about our planet’s future have been made by power mongers who have lost touch with their humanity and the great privileged of living on this beautiful lush planet. (I am being very gentle here.) Their greed has put us in this precarious position. So I see the virus as a test for the rest of us. Can we rise together, inspire our species, and save our planet? This crisis has given the nations, doctors, researchers, and some business people the opportunity to work together. And it has given us the opportunity to live a simpler, less consumeristic lifestyle, with less driving, less shopping, more compassion, and time for families. It’s difficult to imagine how we could live sustainably without experiencing it, but here we are experiencing it…..and its good. People feel real. We are better with each other and better for the earth. Pollution is down. Fossil fuel use is way down. The Coronavirus has bought us some time, environmentally, to figure that out.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

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