Saturday, June 30, 2007

another country

"I'm taking these dumb paper lanterns down.
Yards, no, miles they strung along.
And me with them.
And how was I supposed to know?
That was another country;
That was another country."

~ The Innocence Mission, Another Country

Familiar paths are leading to new places, and there are just enough recognizable markers to remind me of my context- and indeed above and beyond the surface is the wonder of advancing in very new steps. Regathering and then choosing to strive toward new places and ways of being led to distant travels and an inner voyage into new lands. Thirsting for renewal neutralizes what is past from unrealistic sentimentality. Distant shores become more prominent as they near, and an unnoticed momentum reveals more than a superficial arrival. All at once, terra cognita is immersed in the mystery of renewal. As one might imagine for any physical journey, once discovering a new place, we navigate and inhabit the territory. Gradually, the departed place disappears from sight, and remains to exist only to the extent that our memories will allow. And even now it amazes me to consider that I have reached across time and terrain, but truly I have been brought, even escorted, to this day.

To consider renewal is to embrace the prospect of a lasting continuum of development and deepening. It must continue, with a spirit that mustn’t stagnate. Gifts which have stood prominently in my midst balance the known and the unforeseen. It is taking time and thought to comprehend what has been transpiring before me in these rapid months. And indeed, transformation is not clearly evident at first, much in the same way we outgrow clothes during our childhood. My close friends are my life’s witnesses, and thankfully they notice changes before I can articulate them myself. For many years I feigned a self-sufficiency, having had profound experiences of being forsaken, much of it at a very young age. Part of this revival is in the acceptance of others’ care, and it has taken years to cease shrugging off genuine concern. Perhaps many of us have been profusely giving out what we long for ourselves: love, reassurance, forgiveness. Being able to start afresh is in itself a humble cause for immense gratitude. I begin to see renewal as an unburdening, and it becomes possible to separate my identity from the dimension that relies on the impressions I might make, and how I have wanted to be known- and even how I think my identity should be. But what happens when we accept an identity that has been given to us? Granted, there are ills that get handed down or perpetuated, traits we may regret and wish to change. And then there is the quiet identity of sacred inheritance. In these recent days of sundrenched roads, vast skies, and genial company I’ve returned to St. Augustine’s encouragement: "Blot out what you have done, so that what is Divine may restore what has been created within you."(from his Commentary on John). All with every good reason to reach forth with hope.

Spiritual renewal inevitably brings me to a healthful detachment. Specifically, old preoccupations must be rescinded, and outmoded perceived desires discarded. Then again, a more appropriate choice of imagery than to discard or dispose, is to release. Such liberating surrender is effectively the opposite of resistance, and an absence of barring creation from being just what it is. The ancient Evagrios’ words in The Philokalia offer that we challenge ourselves to "leave our cells, if we become overly attached to that which buries us in our habitations," pulling us away from humanity and what is sacred. Detachment brings us to stillness of heart. Detachment from façades, false securities, and all that can divert from clarity of mind and openness of spirit. It is a full-scale challenge, and in this society it is no passive gesture to still oneself, but is as much a physical as a spiritual action. The heart’s stillness is an enduring attentiveness, by which it becomes possible not only to welcome renewal but to assuredly continue in the voyage of this new life.

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