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My daughter, like so many children her age, is fascinated by merry-go-rounds. I wonder why— is it the painted animals, the bright music, the spectacle of this vast machine? Yes. But I suspect it is also something more, something hinted at by the name "merry-go-round." Merrily, the animals go. Yet in their circular movement they always come round again to where they first began. They are going and coming, coming and going, and one suspects that if the overseer didn't call a halt, the circular dance might last forever.

Black Elk said, "Everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the power of the world always works in circles, and everything tries to be round." There is a perfection about the circle. To travel in a circle is to accomplish what seems impossible— the union of movement and rest. The gears click in, the music begins, and with a joyful jolt, the merry-go-round starts turning. Yet it finally goes nowhere at all. It is anchored in the same place. Its horses remain, like all points of a circle, ever the same distance from the center. And though the horses seems to gallop off in one direction, they end up right back where they started.

The turning child waves to mommy or daddy standing near the merry-go-round. Is it a wave of hello or goodbye? Both. The child is both coming and going.

And such is our relation to God, the Father/Mother of us all. In our life's journey we ever seem to depart, leaving behind the Source. We become entangled in brightly colored webs of fascination: successes and failures, joys and miseries, jobs gained and lost, marriages and divorces. We ride the painted horse up and down. The Hindus call this "maya"— the magical, seductive melodrama of life that we take to be so real.

Yet, for mystics what remains most real is our connection to the One. That karmic journey which carries us away also leads us to union with the divine. A New Testament parable tells of the prodigal son who wandered far off from his father. He become lost in the world, hungry, forlorn and confused. Yet this suffering is precisely what turned him around and started his journey back home.

To believe that, however far we travel, we will once again glimpse the shining face of the Parent...regain our bearings...locate, in a turning world, one unchanging point of our leave-taking was but a home-coming in disguise: this can sustain us on the journey. This can make life truly joyful, a genuine merry-go-round.

What's most real, finally, is not that painted horse. We know it to be pretend. Nor the music— we know it is piped in. Nor all the up-down-roundabout tumult— we know it carries us nowhere. But the Shining Face that we ever glimpse anew— this alone is real.

Imagine today as a merry-go-round. Can you look past all the ups and downs, the painted horses and brass rings, and catch a glimpse of the Shining Face?

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