Learning to Dance

Explorations in the Spiritual Life

Date: May 31, 2004


I turn on the light. A small, brown, almost translucent cricket is wandering over my rail. Flying bugs emerge from the shadows, lanky limbs making them seem larger than their real mass. A small moth sits along the edge of the window, blending in with the browns, looking like a large speck of paint. I wouldn’t notice it at all, except for the fact I know that large speck was not there yesterday, or earlier today.

The crowds are gone, leaving in the afternoon, leaving only the sound of wind to massage my soul, strong wind, pouring through the valleys, over the hills, roaring like the ocean. The oaks, full of leaves now, rattle in the wind, giving a texture to the whoosh.

It was Memorial Day, the day when we remember those who died so that others might live better. There is evil in this world, and sometimes it takes all we have in order to give it pause, our hope being that this present existence is not the whole story.

Not too long ago it occured to me I am not reading like I used to. I used to be a voracious reader. To be sure I am spending a significant more time writing. Somehow, my zeal for reading, my patience in it, has been lost. Or, for the first time in memory there is not a reading list for me. Nothing is on the horizon. Though I remember back to after my undergrad years. I was working at the Post Office, a fine temporary job, paying me well, helping me on my way. Something bit me, and I ordered the ante-nicene fathers, then quit the job so I could devote myself to reading them.

That wasn’t a responsible decision. I’m not sure I’ve made a responsible decision since then. At least not according to the ways of this world.

Dreams of law school drifted away in the texts of Ignatius, and Clement, and Hermas, and of course, Tertullian.

That was 1999. A year and a half after I finished school, I leaped back into the texts which very few people, I later learned, ever read — even though they establish the foundation of our faith, second only to Scripture.

The bright spot of today was I delved into reading for longer than usual. It helped that the wind was blowing, and I could sit on a comfortable chair on my balcony with the book, losing myself in the thoughts. I’m excited about the reading, because it is something I’ve been meaning to read for a while. Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I know, a history guy like me, not having read this before is a great shame. I’ve no excuses… other than those reading lists of before.

Volume one, of six, is almost done, and I love it. Very good writing, and interesting insights on the early church.

Might just have to take a peek at the Fathers again soon. Who knows, last time I got back into reading like this I went on to Seminary.

Now, I just hope to write, and learn without the burden of little pieces of paper chasing me around. Much larger worlds await, too large for a single lifetime.


It is saying something when a person wakes up before dawn this near the solstice. Before the birds awoke, I got up. I’m not sure why. There was a burst of creavity in me, and I wanted to let it loose. Human noise dominates now, everyone up here, crowded for this neck of the woods. They, for some reason, feel it is the best sort of day to clean, to fix, to blow dirt about. I’m not sure why. There are people, I am sure of it, who have a home, a second home, up here less to have a place to get away and more for another check on the ‘success’ list. They have so little within they do not know what living amidst nature can mean. So, they continue to manipulate, contine to force themselves upon here, like they do when they are in their suburban home.

It has the character of fear. Unable to cope with nature, unable to settle down for a moment, needing to assert their rights over even the wildlands. Not everyone who visits is like that. Many, sad to say are. Making money does not necessarily make a soul.

I stay inside on days like this, bothered by activity of people. My time in the forest, in the lake is best when I enjoy the nature for what it is. That’s why I came up here.

Indeed, I struggle in part with my current quest because I’m not really alone, I’m not isolated in a cave. The time in which complete solitude is possible for those who can delve into those depths is gone. To own privacy one must be well off. But, that is not the goal of the Christian, nor is it the goal to do everything to get away. The goal is not to wish for other circumstances, to say some other reality would be better. The goal is to find Christ wherever we are at. I pray, and trust God is leading, and so must become spiritual in this moment, not rail against the irritations which will never cease in this life.

That is the quest, to discover what it means to be spiritual in this era, in this context. Too much of Church, too much of christian history has put barriers, barriers which demand that we first become a people of the past. I am not living in modernity, I am not living in the Roman era, but the Spirit is the same from then to now. So, I must learn what it is the Spirit is asking for us, what the path of the spiritual person looks like given the realities of our present world.

I’m closer than I was before. Yet very far from the goal. And I’m confused. The path looks different than I expected.

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