Tuesday, November 08, 2005

As voices having aged grow stale

Our lives tend to turn and turn about like the arms of a great mill in a steady wind. When a decision comes, it is like a squall or an abrupt calm interrupting life's mechanism, changing its intensity and altering its movement. The time for action, whether to take sides or choose a particular course, comprises some of the most intense moments of our existence. Our emotions and our rational powers come together to joust--to test the other's weakness, and to weild their best weaponry. Our desires balance upon the narrow beam of others' expectations, and our best reasoning is toppled by our wildest dreams. Voices that were once clear become parched with time's gravel. The fresh fruit of revelation grows pocked and brown, the sweet scent of promise fades to a stale unknowing. When decisions loom, the everyday is transformed. We are catapulted to loftier heights where every thought and word is heavy with significance. On this altar of deliberation, where we are fated to the sacrifice of one of our loves, we are prone to a unique sort of spiritual lonliness.

In the pull of the options and opposites that make up choices, I am prone to feeling strangely alone. Not the kind of alone, however, that is the result of abandonment or neglect, but rather like a pillar of plaster as the mold is peeled away. Decisions render me exposed, stark and solitary. In the seasons of choice this pillar reminds me of my stature--secured to the ground beneath me that is trust, faith, and knowing. All around me there is the no-thing space that gobbles up our failure, like a ravenous dark chasm. But when I look down, when I wiggle my toes, there is that very-thing which enables me to exist at all, and it seems silly to ask this ground of being for anything more. And that is why these images bring a particular kind of alienation. And that is why I feel so full of glory--even tottering as I do in the open air, vulnerable and breakable--because I have been given this body and this life.

But it is not entirely this way. Our existential lonliness is countered by the sages, seers, friends and lovers who journey with us. Some join hands with us momentarily, others for a lifetime. Counsel of all sorts takes shape in soft voices, sharp-edged epiphanies, and the rare neutral settling of inner peace effected by a word. When I stumble into a season of decision, I stretch myself out, like tentacles grasping for wisdom and insight. I become fragmented into little pieces, scuttling about for some wayward shard of sense. I comb through the debris and the treasure of other people's knowledge. I grow weary, and want to be whole again. I begin to stumble and to lose my sight, and I want to be strong and secure again. As the chorus of voices recedes to a hum, only one voice remains--my own.

When it comes to making decisions, being a cynic by nature and dreamer at heart make for a frustrating hybridity. I lean one way one day and the other the next, one reason to stay is countered by one thousand to leave, and back and forth they play. In the heavens where my God resides and which are all around me there is a great mind and a great heart that knows what I will choose. It would be much easier to be let in on this future, but it is not my own to know. It is much more difficult to travel in this cloud of unknowing that is faith, to stumble half-blind and only half-enlightened by what we have come to know so far. I may shake my fist at this power, or beg it humbly to speak, but perhaps to let it be still and work instead inside of me--my desires, my dreams, and my reasoning--is the only real choice I face, and the wisest choice of all.

And if a prayer is just a musing directed towards something bigger than we are, then we ask for these things: For self-discipline, refreshment, and in emptiness the fullness of the kingdom. For the courage to live openly, and to embark creatively rather than nailing down who we are, and what our lives are, into a small, suffocating box of a strategy. To see life less as a business plan and more as a succession of moments. A moment followed by a moment followed by a moment. And then a memoir. And then at the end of time, like a long and weary day, a wonder-filled telling of all the stories that we've lived by. Amen.

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