Learning to Dance

Explorations in the Spiritual Life

Date: May 8, 2004


Music plays in the distance, a ballad, the words are not clear, it is late for such in these parts. A light wind blows, warm almost, a very comfortable evening to sit and stare and ponder mysteries. A couple of months ago I was outside around this hour, and surpised to hear activity in the trees. Small sounds, sounds of eating, of quiet chatter. My light was on, I was looking around. Suddenly two shapes fly from the tallest pine, to the nearest, about a twenty foot leap. White shapes, squarish. I knew they were not bugs, I didn’t know what they were, I’ve never seen the like. I thought then they were flying squirrels, only we don’t have flying squirrels in these parts.

Turns out we do. I was looking for something else and ran across a description of our nocturnal gliders, Northern Flying Squirrels. The writers say it is seldom seen. I saw two of them, and have heard them several times before and since. Those pines are gone now, and I haven’t seen or heard them for a while,

This day was not, surprisingly, frittered away. I had my coffee and found tasks to keep me very busy all the day, opportunities to learn and grow, expanding my understanding… though not in spiritual realms. That’s the balance, taking new knowledge but not forgetting the old. The Spiritual conversations, Scripture, Church History, those things are my life blood, part of my soul that I need to engage regularly. Anything else is just icing right now, and maybe tools for using my passion in different ways.

Even though I was busy I miss a day which has a spiritual focus. This is why, I think, I never survived in other jobs… my desire to succeed in those places were increasingly and overwhelmingly stifled by that draw to the Spiritual things. I kid myself when I ponder other paths. This one path is the only way. I find myself discontent, but no where near where I have been along different paths. I am pulled this way, drawn by the depths of my soul, and while I may not have found the end or earthly success here, it is the only place I can be, the only place where my soul knows it is going the right direction. I’ve dared to try other tasks, and found that nothing suits, but that which God has called me to pursue. So, I pursue. Some people take decades to realize this.


A talking squirrel woke me up this morning. It was on my balcony, picking up seed and chatting away. I cannot yet understand the squirrel language, so I don’t know what it was saying, mabye it was just one of those types who likes to talk while they eat. The overcast morning again burned off with the rising sun. Two jays flew down, one with a long piece of thread or fur in its mouth, then off they went with their own chatter to build the nest. A chipmunk, very small, very darting, striped with white from its eyes to the end of its long thin tail, sits on the woodpile, waving its tail slowly. Chipmunks adore woodpiles. It’s natural enough and has a lot of crevices and steps, making it like playground equipment for the local rodents. I see it every day, going about its business, darting into the saplings.

I’m finding myself more interested in frittering away this day than doing something productive. The only problem is no way of frittering comes to mind.

This is the kind of day where if people were around, people who were spontaneous and interesting and fun, I’d take a trip to Santa Barbara, or hike around the trails of the Malibu hills or even play a competitive sport or video game. The Sabbath draw is strong.

I look at some self-tutoring books, and my mind drifts, the lack of impetus sapping my desire.

It would be so easy to just drift away, to fall into tasks for money or esteem. For there a person can float along, propelled by the expectations of others, always being goaded from behind and pulled from ahead, a psychological and social current which makes everything if not easy, at least without thought.

So, I drink some coffee, turn on some upbeat music, drink some water, and write this. I enjoyed taking classes because they made me study that which I wanted to study, but wouldn’t on my own. Now without classes I am faced with that which I want to study and nothing giving reason to put in the effort. Discipline is of course a part of this, but even more so is faith, for it is through the lense of faith that activities without visible meaning now can take on meaning for the future which is not yet.

This too is why I like working with others, collaborative ministry or teaching, for several people balance each other out, highs and lows, gifts and talents. Outside impetus and encouragement, with the sharing of the task is so important for living out the Christian life. That’s the point of the monastery, the Christian life in its depths is far too difficult to do on one’s own. We Protestants don’t delve into the depths very much, so we don’t often realize the need for daily community.

I feel that need today. That is not an option, however, at this point, so I will continue to forge my way as it has been presented.

I do pray for freedom in this all.

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