Tuesday, April 24, 2007


"New styles
New shapes
New modes, that's the role my passion takes
Oh, my visage

Visuals, magazines, reflex styles
Past, future, in extreme

Oh, my visage."

~ Midge Ure, Visage

A moment's pause, to record some thoughts. New starts are sweeter for seasoned souls. With enough winters to not forget years of experiences, I am far more aware of the grace of new beginnings. When we are able to pause from our day and recollect, it becomes clear as to what it has taken to reach this moment. And it isn't so much the "summits" that I can appreciate, but the numerous paths and way-stations unbeknownst to me without stopping to ponder.

And so, between sojourns and goals, I can distinguish my aspirations- and then pursue them. Wishing, and working hard at achievement is the honourable start, but the followthrough, the movement generated by inspiration, comprises the tangible difference that we, and those around us, can see. While running some errands today in the city, I was remembering a talented Boston Bruins forward, who had all the extraordinary skills it took to manoeuver the puck far into the opposing team's side, dodging and skating around practically anything- but- rarely able to actually take that decisive shot to the net. I'd be among the crazed fans, all of us on our feet, waiting for this player to shoot- only to watch the almost-goals batted away by gathered opponents. This player (perhaps a bit unfairly) sometimes comes to mind as a kind of caricature, representing the embodiment of skills without the completion of followthrough. I've become increasingly mindful of the vitality of continuance after contemplating and seeing something through.

All of which brings me to draw the breath of pause, in order to see the "big view." Today, I sat outside a café, and pronouncedly felt the caress of sea breezes. That was more important than writing. Suddenly having a longer view, though exhausted and rejuvenating, I am still finding the will to persevere and continue on. About the contemplative life, Thomas Merton once wrote about how he was perfectly content to consider himself a beginner and to view himself afresh as one who knew little or nothing of the climate of contemplation. I am now seeing how far I have traveled, and at last the momentum is surpassing the road-weariness. In time new strength will follow new strength.

Friday, April 13, 2007

near to you

"I look for the good in everything
It hurts when I cannot find it.
I don’t want to wear a suit of armor.
Do I have to come out fighting?

When it is clear to you
I’ll be near to you
I will be around
When it is clear to you
I’ll be near to you
I won’t let you down."

~ The Innocence Mission, Clear to You

Out of the poetic and biblical triumvirate Faith, Hope, and Love, the subtlest and most understated is that integral perspective of hopefulness. Perhaps our conditioning makes the action of confident forward motion into something far more arbitrary and abstract, than to love someone or some thing. And surely the element of faith is egregiously misunderstood into rote religiosity. It seems to me that when one can look ahead with trusting hope, there follows enduring, internalized love and faith. Stopping to think, and actively reflect, requires some unusual and creative effort, necessitating the elimination of multiple layers of "filler," the varying degrees of "white noise" we tend to overlook. A couple of weeks ago, I tried a new cafe in the city, and noticed how the environment invited the idea of being something of a refuge from the work day. I made sure to thank the proprietors for not having loudspeakered sounds clog their place. The quiet was conspicuous by virtue of the absence of demanding interruptions. Surely, the duration of the day needn’t require such stark austerity, but I’ve begun to view punctuating counterforms of contemplative spaces in the day as parallel to meal-times, or a glass of water, or a deep breath of sea air. This is how hopefulness looks to me. The very opposite of passivity, and truly the conscious practice of aspiring from the Spirit’s point of reference. To hope is as active an engagement as it is to refuse the ways of nurturing outdated anguishes. In this journey, living a hopeful trust looks less like a state of mind, and much more as learned, conscious action.

Perhaps I am not the only one for whom this has happened: On bright weather days, I will occasionally bound in from the outdoors, and absent-mindedly turn down light switches, thinking the indoor lights had been off and trying to turn them on, due to the comparative strengths of ambient light. Then in that subsequent split second I'd realize how accustomed I'd become to brightness- and- how much dimness I had previously tolerated. All of which causes me to wonder about the invisible graces that adorn our paths. Were they always there, as in the literal at-one's-side, the consoling paraclete, hidden and cultivating yet so often unnoticed by us? How hadn't I seen what creating forces awaited me so patiently? Embracing the moment is as conscious a choice as resisting it, yet the treasure planted and hidden in my heart aspires to the horizon. And I am finding the open embrace to be the more worthy effort.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

le feu qui ne s’éteint jamais

"Prisoner of the dark sky
The propeller blades are still...

Climbing out - climbing climbing
Five miles out - climbing climbing

Five miles out
Just hold your heading true
Got to get your finest out
Your number one anticipating you"

~ Mike Oldfield, Five Miles Out

My traversals of lands and waters, the known and the unknown, through deserts of crowds and solitude, have brought my steps well into this new habitation. I had been eager for the shock of the new to wear itself into the din of daily chores. And yet, even with tangible signs of living hope, I cannot completely refrain from looking back. It does happen, though with less frequency. There is still more area to cover. At times, the faith my friends notice is more a lack thereof, but strength notwithstanding- it is faith indeed. Like the biblical Thomas, I say tangible signs are certainly useful, at the very least providing the spiritual abstract with something solid to behold. Indeed, though it may be necessary for me to entertain more doubts now, it may not be later on. My own sea-change becomes evident to me, with each morning's venture; I tread the old familiar streets with the renewed stride of perseverance. Perhaps that is sufficiently a start, for me to believe in my own transformation.

At last, I have navigated to the other side of a protracted, albeit intermittent, sea of anguish. Most surely, the journey has never been without oases, little islands and way-stations of respite and celebration. One does need to be faithful to the letter of happenstance. And with that in mind, I am consciously acknowledging those souls whose paths mine have met, and whose steps have paralleled mine. It is a well-established dividend of friendship, that conscious presence sown inevitably reaps harvests of communion. After a certain number of years, and discovering enough concern from close friends to displace some of the isolated, solitary suffering, I became far more capable of earnestly supporting others. Perhaps it is the upside of down; the vitality of knowing despair equips a soul to savor the intangible gifts of compassion- and to witness and attend to others' lives. How I have always desired to be useful to people around me! And indeed, I am surely not so naïve as to expect that after barrages of storms there will never be another. Among the residual uses of the past is preparedness, and a prologue to the present. All need not be perfectly well-and-smooth; that would be unrealistic. The Great Apostle knew how to be brought low and how to abound, both to be full and to suffer need. About nine weeks ago, a monk suggested to me that I tout jettez en Dieu : Not simply surrender all that I am, but throw. As in a courageous leap. This thoughtful brother added that if all eternal spiritual things were accomplished in this provisional life, he'd simply retire; there'd be nothing left for him to do.

Brightness in the simplest tasks, familiar voices and embraces, and in even in the taste of food, attests to the sea-change after lengthy and battering storms. The dark night of the soul has another side, and I have traversed from desolation to consolation. I did not fully know this, even though I'd experienced this before, and had helped others through theirs. But it is clear that a transforming crucible, what can cleanse me of my obstructive attachments to selfhood, has brought me to a shore- not to encamp there, but to inhabit the new land. It is good to go to the water, and I gratefully do so, but there is a world upon which to live, to move, and to be, and be there for others. I was driven from my old purported paradise, and am evolving another storey to my soul. The depth and breadth of hope must exceed the shadows of fear, and the inviting passover is to embody the life of trust- even as a partaker of the divine nature* in this flawed world. For the indefinite time being, it is sufficient for me to know in part, to accept to see some things through darkened glass. But I am sure I shall see, as it becomes unpredictably necessary. The light after dark reveals a transmuted self , an embarkation, and suddenly evidence of having already covered some miles in this new life.

* 2 Peter 1:4