Learning to Dance

Explorations in the Spiritual Life

Date: March 9, 2004

evening

Ursa Major shines through the branches of the trees to my north. Little else can be seen of the heavens above while standing on my balcony, but this, especially the part known as the big dipper, shines clear. Directly to my right, and high, shining bright even through the thicker branches of a live cedar I see Jupiter, bold though the sky is bright with moonlight. Two dogs bark, distant cars drive to their destinations. Earlier a bat flew out and back beneath where I stood, its movement and shadows the only indication of its brief presence. Bugs can be seen, reflecting the glow of artificial light. These are what bring out the bats to be sure. Coyotes gather on a far off ridge. A neighbor’s rottweiller howls in response.

Today was one of those days. The kind that brings sighs of remembrance and are welcomed to finish. Nothing terrible, just an aura of confusion throughout. I started the day with what I call the more active kind of acedia. The kind which seeks diversion, wallowing in discontent for the quiet tasks, needing stimulation. From there frustrations grew, computer troubles, then more. Nothing works, I am told all is well, but nothing works. I was bumped to the next levels, and still nothing. There are a few things which raise my ire or cause frustration unrestrained. Rudeness of any sort will do it. Needless waiting. And computer troubles, when all is being done right and things get worse. The crews of various kinds of workers were in the neighborhood, bringing power tools, unmelodious singing, and loud conversation. I felt it, and I succumbed to it, unable for a moment to regain focus, unable to watch as I should watch.

Times like these raise other questions in my mind. What was in me and what was about me? Was the confusion purely my own, or was I feeling the weight of surrounding forces arrayed. Both have been true in the past. I do not know of today. This does not excuse my own missteps. The mark of the Spiritual is to feel the confusion but not be drawn in by it. To understand but not participate. There are things seen and unseen which affect the sensitive. Oddly, I am generally sensitive. Odd I say because I tend to operate mostly in a thinking mode, not a feeling. Yet, the weight of a aura comes strong to me, more when I am focused, strongly when I am in prayer.

I end this day not knowing. I am not yet advanced. Neither can I give details, nor can I keep myself above the fray. Two signs that the road stretches out still long before me.

morning

The coyotes are gathering. Their whines and howls echo across the hills and valleys, sounding like unruly children. It is their family interaction, the pack meeting together, reestablishing after a long night. A raven croaks, quietly, then louder, then quietly again, flying by the front of the house. Ravens tend to follow coyotes, announcing their presence at times, for reasons only they are privy to. A streak of a gone by jet streams white across the blue sky, expanding into a wispy cloud. Before I opened my eyes I heard the chatter of a squirrel awake. I do not see any about now. Only the light trill of a song bird remains. Morning for some, evening for others in this forest.

Nothing specific raised this thought, it only passed through my mind as I was transitioning, awake but not awake. A goal of the spiritual life is to overcome the vices, there being eight, and subtleties among them. We think of the pious often as being the Puritan caricature, sternly rejecting pleasure in their fight against even the hint of sin. Dark colors and austere miens come to mind. These are of course historical mistakes, the real puritans were anything but in most cases, facing the same disdain now that cultural elites still place on our own religious minded. No one wants to be reminded they are not all that matters, so they mock and bite at anyone who speaks of higher realms.

The caricature is wrong on many accounts. Those who rabidly flee from human joy in their repression of sin are no closer to real virtue than one who gets lost in the occasional vice. Avoiding vices is not virtue. It’s a negative existence. No, for the spiritual, vices are not something to be dodged or feared. They are boring. One does not engage in the various prattles of sin because they simply hold no interest anymore. The sanctified mind sees them for what they are, childish titillations of our own weak souls. Stronger souls need not pursue, seeing the sins as interesting as watching a piece of concrete. That is the mark of the advanced. Vices are boring, so of course are not temptations, because there is nothing in them anymore to seduce. The virtues, often thought of as boring themselves, are for the advanced spirituals, advanced culture, souls attuned to higher realms and able to achieve a measure of pleasure which far outweighs the intrigue of sin.

This is the work of the Spirit in us. Certainly we are to avoid sins as we can, watching our steps as we grow in wisdom. It is only when sins themselves hold no attraction, making us ask “why?” rather than “why not?”, that we’ve gone far along the road. The virtues are Shakespeare to the vices National Enquirer. Better by degrees in all forms, for those who are wise enough to understand.

As far as my own soul this morning, the point of this writing, I don’t know. This all goes together with my mood, finding temptation afoot, and realizing I’m getting bored by it. I’m not all the way along, though, for I still see the attraction of the various sins, and must fight for focus. I’m not there yet, but I’m beginning to taste of heaven. And let me tell you, it is succulent.

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