“You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees & the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding just as it should.”-Desiderata (found in Old Saint Paul’s Church Dated 1692)
This quote is important to me for many reasons but primarily because this quote is a part of a larger poem that hung on the wall of my grandfather’s study. I read it maybe a dozen times over the years, but I never fully let it in until days after he died when we were going about the work of organizing and cleaning up the remnants of his life. I remember standing there staring at the framed poem on the wall like it was entirely novel, even though I had passed by this poem hundreds of times.
I felt so lost on that day.
When we lose someone, the actual losing is not the most painful part. The most painful part is learning how to reorient yourself in the world without the rhythm of them in your life. Our lives are so governed by rhythms both natural and manmade. The most essential rhythm that governs our life is the heartbeat. In the womb we grow comforted by the steady “lub-dub” of our mothers’ heart. The heart beat is the first music we ever experience. It is hard when the rhythms that we are accustomed to breakdown, disappear or are taken from us. The work of reorientation is confusing. It is clumsy like the first stumbling steps of a baby. It is unnerving like the sound of that one person who is clapping off the beat at a concert. It is disorienting like waking suddenly from deep sleep bleary eyed and foggy. It makes you question the orientation of your own rhythm in this world.
When grandpa’s heart ceased beating, I remember feeling like the world was suddenly infinitely more confusing. I did not consciously know it, but my body was trying to reorient itself in a universe without the rhythm of Roy Hansen. I needed to know that I still belonged amid all my confusion. I remember I stood captivated by the framed poem on the wall. As I read the words “You are a child of the universe no less than the trees & the stars; you have a right to be here…” it was like the deep chime of a large bell; a clear and visceral vibration moving through my mind. Even if I did not know exactly where my place in the universe was, I could be certain that there was indeed still a place for me. This quote did not change the work of finding my way in the world, but it was a place to ground myself even if just for a moment. In the midst of it all I still belonged, right here.
I hope that today you remember that no matter how confusing life can be the truest thing about you is always that you are a child of the universe and you belong.
You belong. Right here. You belong.