Sunday, January 13, 2008

élan vital

"The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood;
that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax."

~ Dylan Thomas, The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower.

After having looked at writing as a subject, I want to consider the experience that bids me- or any one of us- to gather or write our reflections, and to continue doing so. It is as though words need to be collected and configured, that they may be reckoned with. That spirit of recollection, thirsting to understand, attests to a vivacity from deep within- even when it seems our situations threaten to incarcerate us. In times of extended darkness, when the smallest particles of promise become undetectable, from beyond our limits embers emerge through sources around us. When finding my way has been daunting, there have been friends to help trace out those elusive coals. In retrospect, it is as though people had been assigned to the task, and I would like to think my own presence has served such roles for others.

How definable is the divine spark, and to what extent can we bring ourselves to comprehend the currents upon which we move? The smallest spark, the humblest scintilla, is both the seed of beginning, and the vestige with which to rebuild. That illuminating scintilla has been perceptible to me amidst the depths of extreme circumstances- and, if I am conscious enough, in the everyday ordinary. In comparing the extremes: those of hardship and fulfilling joy, that essential ember would be palpable to me as I was reminded of my own context as part of something much larger, and boundlessly vast. In the darkest nights, listening to the words of friends (even writing some of them down for me to re-read), and the words beyond my musings that I could offer have been simple and vigilant prayers. Acknowledgments of consoling expanses.

At the other side, enormous and abiding joy attests to the common spark in the community experience- or in simply becoming aware of being some part of a greater sum. It’s a marvel to reflect upon the many forms this takes: working on a project with a group of people, listening to one friend, or even this very day’s "stolen moment," very early in the morning (with the window whiskered open so as to sense the cold air), reminding me that I needn’t supply each and every ingredient beyond my self in order for things to happen. What a relief. The pilgrimage experience illustrates this well for me: traveling alone with a sketch of an itinerary, and then arriving and becoming enfolded in a brief common life of buoyant sharing, music, and strengthening communion (often crossing paths with people I will only see at that one instance). With the journey home, there are enough stories and images to remind me that my deeply-ingrained aloneness had been but a passing mirage. That divine spark manifests so clearly- from outside of me- such that it is both pleasing and assuring to rest in my very "covertness" as a grain of leaven in this world. Problems that had previously seemed monolithic begin to pale in their significance as obstacles, and it is the clear knowledge of the scintilla that motivates.

Part of what amazes me about those subtle embers is the aspect of life force in its grandeur emanating from comparatively lowly and almost unnoticeable sources. Nearly hidden, but never out of our reach, and what may appear to our human senses as a sparkling ember of a vestige is indicative of the infinite. Still further, if prone to claim the divine spark to one’s own self, I invariably find the source comes from beyond me. Another relief, even if the respite follows intense struggle. The value of continuing to realize this, is for me to see what I can influence- and what is essentially out of my control; all in the context of being at peace with knowing I am among many others and am not alone, in the larger and greater entirety. Perhaps this was how it occurred to Paul when he alluded to the assuring and encompassing cloud of witnesses, inspiring patience and endurance in those who move forward in trust. The scintilla we recognize, which drives us onward, represents the incalculable; the source itself has no point of origin. And, as the day unfolds, and the bright sun stirs the January air, I know the winter does not wait for spring in vain. My words and steps have great distances still to travel, and though I follow trails that precede my days, my path is uniquely my own. In the paradox of distinction and disappearance- the desire to set oneself apart, with the wish to covertly dissolve quietly into the mysterious communion of faith- come the added paradoxes that blend the small and grand, the humble and magnificent, the new and ancient, and the transitional and rooted.

When a flash of the divine spark captivates and encourages, wonder and gratitude may cause us to want to somehow capture and preserve that light. Surely, we cannot own the universe to which we belong. Can the clay claim the potter? Now I am thinking of the junior high school teacher I had who used to ask us to "bring in a jar of moonbeams tomorrow." Indeed, the ember is here within reach- regardless of circumstance and strait; though out of our control, this abiding proximity is within our ability. What I seek has been seeking me, for a much longer period of time than I can reasonably guess. And I’ll gladly leave it at that, grateful to simply honor the wellspring of life, the source of wonder, so as to cultivate a solid yet flexible foundation, and to continue in the spirit of trust. As the cloud of witnesses has provided unseen guidance upon my life- even the divine sparks I have very much needed, mine may hopefully be part of an unseen grace upon the lives of others.


Katie said...

This is beautiful as always. I feel my comments about your writing don't do it the justice it deserves.

I haven't written lately, my words confuse me and seem to get jumbled as they come out of my head. I've been feeling a bit lost and it's a struggle for me to figure out what it is that is plaguing me. I just feel completely alone...I guess this happens sometimes. At first glance my life seems to possess all of the elements of happiness. Yet within me I feel I'm crawling out of my skin. Perhaps it's this great big city, or perhaps it's just me, trying to figure out what it is I am missing.

I guess I'm just blabbering. I'm sorry this has fallen on your ears (or eyes rather), on your comments page no less! I just had this feeling you would understand something of what I am feeling.

Take care dear friend,

Anonymous said...

My comprehension, of this, your most recent blog has taken longer than most... perhaps it is the new year. Perhaps it is me...or you.

Revisiting is a journey and often a "pilgrimage" of both joy and pain...I often wonder about the differences of lessons learned and those before us. It often seems to lead to the same destination on varying paths and certainly similar spectral degrees of emotion.

A true philologist...I am ever amazed by your use of spirit and language. I wonder what the word might be for one like yourself... a philosopher and a philologist?

I am simple and relatively uneducated; yet, still comprehend what you are saying and your give me strength and an odd sense of knowing and confidence.

With gratitude.