Friday, June 15, 2007

la voie vivante

"...walk, in a newness of life."

~ Saint Paul, Epistle to the Romans (ch. 6)

The road turns, and yet we cannot quite see how, or why, or what specific thing we may have done to cause the change. And even in our bewilderment and wonder, there is a danger in losing consciousness of the very moments in time that simply show us our own transformation. Our culture and society craves root causes and pushes us to seek out weaknesses to be exploited. Those learned habits can infiltrate and limit our comprehension of the eternal, in our lives and those introduced to us. Indeed, we may actually piece together assorted causes to rationally explain our present, but such grasping exerts significantly more effort than to accept and move directly from this moment. Do moments all have the same duration? Seconds, hours, or days? Perhaps there is no universal scale when we examine our unique lives and their transitions, whether through evolving seasons or in the twinkling of an eye. When a new way of seeing comes to me in an instant, old perspectives pass away and are effectively replaced by what becomes new. Some years back, a major new bridge was built here in town- right next to a very old one; and as soon as the modern bridge was in operation the outdated structure was completely torn down. For a very short period of time, the two bridges stood contrastingly side-by-side. Two ways of crossing may run parallel, but for a fleeting parcel of time. We can traverse bridges of our own, and definable transformations can manifest at the instant we recognize the crossing. Leaving the shore that was left behind gives way to a transfigured vision, and thus a view that transfigures the road ahead.

Renewed perspective allows us to see possibilities, even in what appear to be painfully static situations. For about three years, I had to work for an abusive supervisor; it was an extremely trying adventure of running up against anger personified. In retrospect, it’s difficult to pinpoint how I got through that time, but I did- and even saw that manager get fired as a consequence of his cruelty to the employees. During the worst of it, I kept a journal and that helped me maintain some kind of dynamism of vision while the stress seemed to have no end. It was an incorrigible episode of endurance with the sole recourse being that of conscience. The day of that man’s dismissal was something unforgettable, as the corporate body of my colleagues partook in the same powerful unburdening experience. In an amazing instant, darkness was replaced by lightness. In a broader sense, fear in our lives is replaced by hopefulness. They cannot exist side-by-side for long. And, indeed, pretentiousness must be replaced by humility.

Without a genuine sense of constructive humility, how can one be open to others and to what this life unfolds before us? Letting go of built up layers of self-proclaimed credentials and outmoded structures permits us to advance from one renewing beginning to another, and then to yet another beginning. This type of humility has a vitality that balances self-respect with openness, and thus desires for each day to be built anew upon a refreshed foundation throughout a life that is a pilgrimage of trust. It is essential to trust, as moving forward implies knowing without necessarily seeing in order to set forth. Reaching forward with all our heart is a tangible act attesting to a certitude of the Invisible. Thomas Merton, in Seeds of Contemplation, referred to a "certitude without any shred of discursive evidence." Our assurance is connected to our trust. Now, my challenge is to be continually renewed. Reaching the new land has been the part of the journey which has brought me to travel new roads with new vision and new observations. Known and unknowing, alike. The ocean-tinged air of home, and conversations, are nuanced anew and afresh. As Merton pointed out, "The first taste of contemplation strikes us at once as utterly new and yet strangely familiar."

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