Learning to Dance

Explorations in the Spiritual Life

Date: March 5, 2004

evening

People go to bed early in the mountains. By nine all is silent, not a human sound. At eight those who make noise are being rude. Noon today was filled with mechanical devices of all types at work, all around tree were being felled. Now there is silence. Only the breeze blowing through the trees, and the occasional tinkle of wind chimes. Pale moonlight glows through the light mist, reflecting blue off the remaining patches of snow. Only a few stars can be seen, more, however, than in days past. All the snow, but for the patches, is gone. From several feet to none in only a couple of days. Not enough time to enjoy it. A neighbor called asking how deep the snow was. It is is gone. He was disappointed. I stand outside, watch my breath, listen to the breeze. A small white moth flies in front of me. I watch it disappear into the darkness.

Physical activity is intimately linked with spiritual health. For those who are able the regular participation of blood and sinew in strenuous work has wonderful, needed, results on a mental state. The early monks knew this, which is why many of the answers to the various vices include some measure of physical movement. Work now means too often sitting at a desk, letting the body deteriorate. For them it meant motion, strength, exercise. Wesley ran several miles every day, a little known addition to his spiritual communities. Too much of latter day spirituality has forgotten, or punished the body. It is just as much a tool and influence as any other. Sickness hinders this, which then leads to the conclusions that those who are sick must wrestle doubly with spirit and body, the illness becomes the discipline.

It may not be a surprise to note that I finally got my kayak back in the water, moved my muscles for the first time in a couple of weeks in extended exercise. Illness had for too long made me an inside soul. So to the sun I returned. Resting was needed, and today movement was required. A bald eagle flew over me.

I sit tonight glad I argued against yet more rest, despite my cough and sniffly nose. I feel stronger, and I feel happy.

The Fathers warned against laughter and levity, some saying that one cannot laugh and understand the depths of their sin. I agree with much of what they say, but not this. Christ has forgiven, given freedom. Easter is a feast, and we live in the Easter days. Holiness is marked, I believe, by a sense of humor in many cases. An awareness of the seriousness is important, but so is an understanding of the absurdity of this present world.

But humor drifts. To places it should not go, and in this those who have gone before have useful voices. It is not the most serious of transgressions, only it is a slope which can develop into something deeper, or negate an advance. We do not lose spirituality for the sake of a good joke. Though, for me, it is easy to do. I do not feel like I went awry today, though the levity which I felt from a wonderful renewed day may have drifted past what I would expect should i be truly mature. There is a balance there which I have not yet found, and I am not willing to give up risking in order to assure. The fence around the law is a safe way to live, only it is not freeing or right. Better to slide into fault at times than be so cautious as to never see the line. It is the line that is the thin road, going neither too far to the right or the left, and to understand it, one must build discretion.

So, I end the day with a feeling of delight and cheer, with a slight caution of watchfulness added. It is wisdom I seek now, not rules and regulations. That is the way of the Spirit.

morning

A raven got me out of bed this morning. And a talking rabbit gave me my tasks for the day. Well, the last part I made up. There was a loud thump, then another outside which gave cause for me to open my eyes and retreat from the halfway world. I couldn’t see anything, usually this indicates a squirrel beginning his or her day (always earlier on a sunny morning). I closed my eyes again, then heard a third thump. I turned and looked out once more. The gray, bristling hairs of a tail were moving behind my snowshoes. He was collecting the leavings of seed fallen from the rail. Then I noticed the raven flying across the driveway, low, about four feet off the ground. He cawed, announcing himself. Back and forth he went, then into a bare black oak which sits directly across from my window. Branches too small for his weight made him awkwardly walk along, stumbling, I’m not sure what he was doing. Then to the power line, hopping around, looking much more ungainly than in the air. It hopped to the ground. I got up to look at what it was doing. All I could see was it picking up pine needles. The ravens are nesting. This one seemed worried about the progress of the nursery. It did get me out of bed and to my tasks. I should have asked it about the goings on of the wider world.

I remain groggy at this point. Feeling the lingering effects of my cold too long continuing. The mind yearns, but can’t quite grasp, vacillating between highs and lows. There is a energy to grace given, an enthusiasm of the soul when we are charged to do a task, if we are willing to listen. Then when the task is done, or the decision is made the grace is removed, so our doubts and fears return us to our natural state, unsure of what we did, knowing in the moment we could do nothing else. Both are aspects to be expected. If grace is not given, then God is likely not in a task. Though grace removed does not mean a task was or is unnecessary. Our souls are elevated at times to take hold of those things, boosts to push us up to the next rung.

At least this is true for me. I don’t know how it works for others. In general this is the mode of discernment, highs and lows in response to God’s favor or warning. The army concept of “hurry up and wait” comes to mind. God pushes us to go, and we go, then he lets us wait.

So, having acted in ways which seemed right, made decisions which at the time I could do nothing else, now I am left with the doubts of all this. Which is why the memory of those heights are so important, and the decisions made during those times are more substantial. There is an ebb and flow to the Spirit in our midst, which if expected gives ease even during times of its seeming absence.

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