Wednesday, April 16, 2014

In the Beggar's Outstretched Hand

We all react when we see the beggar in the corner of the streets, stretching out his, or her, hand, begging us for a small contribution.

We may react by turning away, passing by as if we didn’t see, or we may give him something in order to quiet our conscience, or in order not to be bothered any more, or we may give out of compassion, or we may refrain from giving because it contradicts our social norm that “a man shall earn his living” and we should not encourage begging as a way of living.

There are plenty of stories about the beggar who after his death is found to have accumulated a fortune. These stories may be true or sometimes not, in the material sense, but they do carry an essential truth pertaining to the archetypal aspect of the beggar. The beggar out there in “real life” is a reversal of the beggar in our soul; his or her poverty is a reversal of the treasure of the beggar who dwells in our interiority.

While the real life beggar asks for something, the beggar as an archetypal image that reflects a deep layer of our soul does not ask anything from us. He, or she, does not even beg to be seen. The beggar does not carry a persona, that outer layer or mask of appearance, that social face we need to carry. No, the soul-image IS, truly, the persona. Persona, like person, comes from the Latin per sonare, by means of voice. The beggar whispers that Voice from within, which so easily goes unheard.

If in outer life we may pass by the beggar as if we didn’t see him, internally we often don’t hear his voice, simply because we don’t stop to listen, to listen to our own call, to our personal vocation.

While in consciousness we may have formulated a principle or an attitude towards beggars and begging, whether to see or not to see him/her, it is infinitely more difficult to realize that the inner beggar, who stands at the gateway to our innermost self, the kernel of our wellspring, does not ask anything of us. It is entirely up to myself whether I will stop, stay and reflect, and to hear his Voice, calling on me merely by the whisper of the wind, and to see the microcosm that hides in the nothingness of the beggar’s outstretched hand.

Cover image by Susan Bostrom Wong

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