to what you believe is right;
Don’t let anyone turn your eyes.
Don’t stop to look behind.
The past ain’t no friend of mine.”
~ Mike Peters and The Alarm, We Are the Light
After work, I went back out for a walk. The outdoors, in such varied forms, can present the world to me as refreshingly greater than the constraints of workday routines. Perhaps some of you know those paradoxical occasions of being simultaneously saturated and drained. It happens; fortunately, not every day. Giving and doing require the counterbalance of reflection and release. So out I stepped, stoop to sidewalk and across my street in a westerly direction, away from busy thoroughfares. My feet needed to move, so that I could absorb fresh cool air and the panorama of the night sky. Mazes of shadowed streets, interspersed with green spaces, dissolved fine details into the night’s landscape. My steps slowed to notice a lit doorway here, a window there, and finally upwards to stars.
Intuitively, seeking a place to focus my thoughts, my steps brought me to a church courtyard with a very plainly sculpted statue and glass-encased votives planted in the ground. The stone carved outstretched hands gave me just enough detail to resettle my thoughts, in the darkness, and the peace of that moment became a reminder of the Spirit which calls from within. I remembered a recent monastic pilgrimage at which, upon my weary arrival, I could only gaze at a sparsely-lit icon. The sight was profoundly comforting, and my prayer that night- and for the following two weeks- began with, “what words do you have for me?” An unexpected dialogue. Just a few days ago, outside under the night sky in the small courtyard, that familiar question returned to my thoughts. “What words are there?” What might I learn anew of this hidden wisdom that impresses so deeply- this concealed knowledge that eludes contrivance?
Intermissions from repeated routines, such as the quiet brisk walks, bespeak a thirst for clarity of thought- and for assurance. Specifically, a state of being assured is to be certain in mind and confident in manner. When we are assured, we find ourselves free of self-doubt. In the obscurity of the courtyard, under a night sky, the word settling in my stilled thoughts was believe, recalling the context, “let not your heart be troubled.” Surely a consolation for one who strives relentlessly. Now I question whether outcomes and personal worth are results entirely dependent upon my efforts. Stopping to breathe and reconsider in that courtyard took more discipline for me than to simply persist in my usual customary uphill marching. With trusting steps, there will be less for me to unlearn and more to comprehend.
Cloaked in shadowy hues that blended firmament and ground, it came to mind that I have indeed known the soul’s ascent. And this brings me to reflect upon the wonder of submerging in God, rather than pushing myself to emerge with recognition. Little recollective tastes to remind me that I do know the source of spiritual consolation, and I don’t doubt the place of Divine friendship to which I’m called. There are apprehensions in fears of being forgotten, and that may be a basis for my powerful memory. As well, the motivation to preserve is to see to it that essentials of living and caring are not tossed away, but instead enshrined within. But why remember wrongs more indelibly than goodness? Memory is so unquantifiable a mystery, yet it instructs me to cease steering into dead-end roads and expect them to be passable. Considering reality without becoming jaded. In this Advent season, my thoughts turn to creative visitation of Spirit into sense.
Between scurrying and spaces of solace, a slice of Silent Night has appeared to me- in uncomplicated anonymity. The world can seem so small, when our slavish pursuits can set us into narrow trenches. Ascent and assurance follow aspiration- and an openness to the serendipitous present, rather than to assume all that is needed, with the exact forms these answers must take. Aspiring is much like dreaming, and I hope for neither to become foreign to me. If I am to revel in the sphere of dreams, then I do need to untether myself from derailing diversions and defeatism. Yesterday, I was remembering the report card comment for which I’m proudest of all: At the end of my year of second grade, my teacher filled in the comment box with, “he daydreams too much in class.” My colorful high-floor view of the swirl of 94th Street was far more captivating, evidently, than whatever was being taught from the blackboard. And I’m still learning the fine balance between disciplined structure and healthy sidelines. But we need not consider whether it is permissible to dream, or all right to look further than this week’s problem-solving. Perhaps no-one can remind us to pursue realms of hidden wisdom, above and beyond “the wisdom of this age.” We can, however concealed, manifest consolation, and be living reminders for others. Our prayers are surely not unheard whispers in the wind. Now to believe and to remember this.