Learning to Dance

Explorations in the Spiritual Life

Month: June 2004 (page 2 of 6)

evening

I walked outside to check on my corn and hamburgers, and noticed the moon. Half moon, really, accompanied by a bright star, a planet really. Jupiter I discovered. Such a lovely sight, those two bright spots in the sky, inspiring, and I don’t know why. They let us feel eternity in a certain way I think, pointing out an existence in which really we bear little consequence, except for this brief speck in which we have our turn to stare.

The great philosopher Douglas Adams noted that eternity was really an impossible image to grasp, so something which is merely extremely huge or distant gives us a better image. Eternity is meaningless from our perspective, which is why the baubles of this present life draw our attention, and why the relative nearness of our solar system inspires grand thoughts and wonderful emotions.

There is not explaining it really, it captures our soul in a way which few sights can, bypassing the intellect and tapping into something which we can’t identify, but we can love.

The hamburger and corn on the cob were nice as well.

All this week I kept at a task which really wasn’t supposed to last more than a day, maybe two. But I kept plugging away, fine tuning, enjoying the art, if my insignificant efforts in that great field could be called such.

I also started reading a book by Jack London, well more from Jack London. A collection of his letters and essays. I identify with that man for some reason, odd given our quite distinct backgrounds. Yet, there is a similarity of perspective, a similar manner of expression, which always drew me to his writing. He said to write a thousand words a day, the best a person can write, anything more and they turn into second or third rate words. I knew he had said this, which is why last August I started doing just that.

What I didn’t know was that he said to write a thousand words a day, everyday, for sixty days. Then take thirty days off. Then back at writing for sixty days, and another thirty days off. Three attempted flights to immortality a year was a noble effort he wrote.

I didn’t know he wrote that, but it has been what I’ve been doing. July comes soon, and with it likely changes of pace, new frontiers to explore. This month I’ve learned, learned more than I have in many, many years, certainly more new material than I learned at seminary during a year. But, what satisfies my soul is not this learning, it is the writing, the expressing, the delving deeply through digging mine shafts into spirituality, rather than simply pondering the subject.

If I can ever make the leap, the complete jump out into what awaits there is no doubt I will find something beautiful. I think I am learning, preparing, practicing, for when the time ripens and I can make that jump.

I am eager for it, though not too eager. I don’t want to be caught unprepared, unready for the opportunity. This last week was a manner of preparation, oddly so, though profoundly so.

I really don’t know what any of this means, nothing of what I have done has made rational sense this year, except from the perspective of seeking complete freedom through obedience, and complete wisdom through fluidity.

So, I must trust, I must continue to seek, to be responsive in the drawing calls upon my life. There is nothing else. And that is a frightening and wonderful place to be.

morning

I woke up very early this morning, only I had a headache so I didn’t really gaze or think very well. The headache lingers, most likely contacts too little cared for. Not a problem, only an irritation.

I finished up what was meant to take a day and now has taken all week. It could have taken a day, only I tend to go overboard, and perfectionist tendencies emerge. Plus, it is a welcomed change of pace, both artistic and purposeful. There is something satisfying about working towards an identifiable goal, where there is an end and product to show for the efforts, a product which is for public consumption.

I don’t mind toiling for the vague and shadowly goals, but it is nice to break the monotony of the unknown even if just for a little bit, and for a good cause.

There is some aspirin in the cabinet downstairs. I’m going to go take some.

evening

I turned off the light in the kitchen and looked out the living room window. There, peeking out from the branches of a tree was the moon, only a quarter, but bright enough to light the deck. A star was nearby, the branches swayed in the light summer breeze.

I drove up the hill a ways today, and sat for an hour at a table, watching the birds, listening to their songs, looking at the wonderful shades of green which are revealed in a shaded grove when the sun only barely sneaks in.

There were ravens, twenty or so, flying about, cawing loud, a bedraggled bunch, juveniles. One had several feathers missing at the tip of its wing. The soaring showed it was not bothered by the loss. While impressive in the air, these undevoted birds had not the dignity of our breeding pair, whose responsibilty for a nest have given them a measure of gravitas.

Gravitas is a funny thing to notice in a bird, and funnier when you miss it in others of its kind.

While pondering the ravens, I also read a little, more of Kandinsky.

I have found throughout my life that the most important theological influences have rarely been writers of theology. Of course there are the Fathers, exceptions to my rule. In general, I have learned of God through other subjects, and despite what a philosopher might say, I think this is just fine.

At some point in history, philosophy took over theology, to the point now where we assume these two are connected. Yet, philosophers have never really been known for their piety and zeal to the gods, only for their ability to talk about them in a removed sense. God becomes managed, managed by words, managed by thoughts, thoughts which are stretched in order to fit what has been revealed, revealing the thoughts to be more important than the revelation.

But, always the question is not who is God, or the gods, but what have they done. The God of Israel knew, knows, this (which enters into a complex discussion of verb tense from an eternal perspective when entered into time) so he said, “I am the God who brought you out of Egypt” or now, “I am the God who sent the Son to die and Rise again.”

It may be the fact it is late, but I’m thinking that philosophy has done its bit with theology. No one knows theology except philosophers (and the occasional historian who strays in life), because it has become a field which speaks only to itself, rather than outward to the world, which of course is the purpose of theology to begin with.

What then? The question assumes there is no other path, so convinced we are by the philosophers sophistry.

Kandinsky called music the most pure of the arts because it alone did not require form, it alone had no measure of reproduction, but was always a direct path from and into the soul. It affects us, and yet we do not have to intellectually grasp the particulars of a melody. It bypasses our intellect, seeping into our being. If we are trained in its art we can respond, letting our souls speak in words only other souls can understand.

It is beyond us. So too is most art, or anything which taps directly into that core of who we are. It is this which conveys theology. Where words cannot suffice, more words do not overcome. Going beyond words, tasting of the divine by participating in a freedom which marks the image of the divine within us.

I sat on the mountain today and realized there is that spark within me, that call to be free, to be whole, if only I dare. The true theologian is not the one who has mastered the Germans of the previous centuries, or who can debate the nuances of free will versus determinism ad naseum. The true theologian is the one who catches sight of God himself, who has tasted of heaven and can speak of what the sensations.

This is not abandoning the intellectual, indeed it is super intellectual in a way, but it may push aside the rational, for the rational only tells us what we already know.

I stumbled and wandered this day, and still I tasted of what it is I’m looking for, if only I ever learn to take that leap of soul, a leap I cannot describe, for I have not learned the words. It is the jumping out of the plane, skydiving without a parachute, reaching out beyond to take hold of that which calls us onward.

To do this means releasing much, letting go not only the material, but much of the internal, those drives which bind us to the mundane, and ever seek to restrain the real quest.

Right now it is like a word, known but not remembered, in a context where only that word would fit. I can almost taste it, but cannot come to it. When I do, that will be a day.

For now, this day ends with my little rambling.

At least I’m writing.

morning

Another early morning, before the birds, before the sun. I watched as two chickadees awoke from their slumber in the trees, and joined together in a song amidst the cedar branches. Now the chipmunks scurry around, through the branches of various saplings, having found a new playground for themselves. Everyday they scurry around the ground, into the branch, back to the ground. These small trees, no taller than ten feet, are perfect chipmunk sized. One sits on a sloping trunk, washing his face with his hands, grooming his leg, swishing his tail. Another searches around an old small stump, digging, shoveling, looking for a snack.

This morning I got back to a bit of writing, though not the same sort as recently. I delved into the thoughts of the rabbis of old, finding their wisdom on topics of contemporary importance, and transmitting those in a way which our era would read. The danger, of course, in trying to bridge academics and church is laziness. I notice I’m a little less particular of sources and a little more willing to smudge the ‘rules’ when I seek to translate. This is something I’ll have to overcome, but can only be overcome if I don’t let that academic side of me slip away into some nether region of practicality.

I like the side of me which loves libraries, which treasures research. Like any art or skill, however, academics takes practice, continued work and effort. I do not necessarily see my path as leading into academia, but I do see the that side of my own thinking being absolutely essential to what my calling seems to be. I worry at times about how much I am praying, or how I am pursuing the other spiritual disciplines. Study too needs to be a concern of mine, so that I keep it up, so that I retain the sharpness and insight, so that when it comes time for me to speak, I will have something to say.

This morning I ventured back, and found I missed it all. A great reminder, a great project.

lapse

Honestly, I feel like writing reasons, more theologizing. Simple fact is, I didn’t do what I ought. This is a discipline, to write down my thoughts, spiritually focused, so as to provide a record of my journey, come what may.

I didn’t do that this morning, and indeed have not quite fulfulled the task as I should for too long.

All is well. I remained busy today, busy at tasks which draw me in, even more than writing. Writing, as most writers would say, is oftentimes a struggle, and so now in working at something which has an element of fun and creativity to it which doesn’t relate to writing it is easy to put the written words all to the side.

But it’s a discipline.

Always, in looking at the past, my journals reflect a rather gloomy bent, a negative tone, an encroaching despair. Because when those feelings arose, I wrote, when they subsided I didn’t.

There are indeed rhythms to life, where certain desires and joys ebb and flow. Obviously, the writing here, the exploration of the deeper parts in general, has waned. I do not necessarily feel this a bad thing, as long as I continue on rightly, continuing on in part until the waxing, when writing and delving are again primary activities. Now, while other things intrude I must watch that my original purposes are not lost, are not practiced.

What this means I’ll look at tomorrow. It certainly means a more intentional return to a precise schedule in contributing to this page. Waiting ‘until I feel like it’ may mean waiting months.

I owe it to my future self not to waste the thoughts of the present. Who knows, maybe I will snap back into a rhythm by sheer perseverance.

All is well, and I need to write this.

evening

We have different seasons up here in the mountains. Sure, there are the usual four (which are in fact unusual to find in Southern California). There are also the unique ones, which are not based solely on the movement of earth through the cosmos. Right now, we have begun summer, but are in the second week of moth season as well. Cream colored moths, about the size of an unused eraser on the end of a #2 pencil. Brown splotches, small heads, little substance, not that smart. Everywhere. My sliding glass door has twelve of these moths, and one large one, a prettier one, with split wings and thicker body. I have a high ceiling, and so I look up and see more moths near the roof, where I can’t get to them. Indeed, there is one buzzing around this computer screen right now and one on the wall a foot away.

There’s nothing in here you can possibly want, I tell them. They don’t listen. I’m not sure where they go during the day, I never see any moths inside or out. It is an invasion, though an innocuous invasion, so I don’t mind. Yellowjacket season later in the summer is much more distressing, and mosquito season in September is worse than that. A person isn’t quite sure of the intentions of a yellowjacket. Mosquitoes we are sure about, and we know their nefarious plans for what they are.

I spent the day taking too long to do simple tasks, and enjoying the process. Waking up before dawn on the longest day of the year and going to bed late, all for reasons of helpful tasks is a worthwhile event.

Spiritually, there are questions. Not the usual merry-go-round ones (up and down, in circles), only questions of my own lack of intentional spiritual focus coupled with a strong sense of confidence that I am within God’s directives by doing what I am doing.

So much is made of the spiritual disciplines one forgets the disciplines of obedience which may not always have religious accidents. Maybe this is one of the harder lessons, the spirituality of the non-spiritual, the profundity of the mundane. Where washing dishes itself is a task for God more than the pondering of his presence.

Do what is before you, each day is its own, each step the only thought. That’s the goal. And I’m closer today despite my lessened prayer time. For God seeks us for his own, not to work for his approval. When a person can finally get past trying to earn God’s notice or blessing, it frees one up to really be mature and grow in relationship with the Living Three-in-One. It’s difficult, very difficult. Especially difficult to do without losing one’s own faith in response.

Being a mature Christian I’m finding is as complex and as unexpected as studying Trinitarian theology. Maybe, in order to be in union with him, we have to experience the reality of paradox within our own being. It is a dance this union with God, a complex, difficult, beautiful dance, and all it takes is the perseverance to keep at it.

morning

I woke up very early, earlier than I have for a while. All was silent, still, only the sound of my fan could be heard. Then, a bird began singing, a wonderful little tune. The first bird song of the morning. I made a wish. About an hour later the sun rose, and kept on rising, squirrels visited, birds sang throughout the day. Since yesterday I’ve been trying to determine if it is the sound of a baby raven that I hear. Could be. Now, a squirrel is driven off the balcony by another squirrel, one going west as the other comes from the east. The sun, directly above, is like a spotlight on the feeding rodent.

This is the first full day of summer. I continue my tasks of yesterday, a definite tangent from my usual pursuits, and yet, though not desired or expected, it too feels right, and indeed is fun. I have very much the artistic persona, only I never pursued that direction. It’s only newsletter design, but I can’t help but make it just a little bit fun.

There is a theology of illumination which I think needs to be revived. The web is ideal, maybe even more ideal than vellum and paints for such a pursuit.

Curiously, three days ago I picked up a book by Kandisky again. I find his writing to be quite inspirational and thought provoking. Not at all Christian necessarily, but quite spiritual. In a Church which has lost it’s own perspective on art for the most part, it helps to go to those who remember what it was the Church once taught, and who have continued the quest.

So, a change of pace continues, and I will most certainly be the better for it. Plus, it’s always nice to help out when someone finds themselves in a very frustrating position. Good for the soul and whatnot.

evening

Funny thing, I was sitting at the computer most of the day, for at least ten hours, likely more. Only I was helping out with a task which was going to be done by another, wasn’t, and was due to be done yesterday.

Good Samaritanism takes unusual forms. But, when a person is walking by, and they see someone injured, it is always good to help out.

Plus, it exercised my nascent artistic side, the side I discovered I had at, of all places, seminary. Which is really the reason I didn’t write. The artistic ventures were that much more engrossing.

At around five thirty this evening the sun was directly over the Tropic of Cancer.

Happy Summer Solstice!!

evening

A late night, after a day filled with delight and not a little bit of stirring. Conflict was raised, then alleviated, and finally forgotten by going to a wonderful feast at my brother’s house

morning

A day of bright sun, no breeze, cool air, and a smattering of nearby hammering begins. I’m not sure who would pick up a hammer at seven in the morning on a June Saturday in the mountains, though I imagine purgatory was first conceived for such an individual.

No birds as of yet, even though it is early still. The chipmunks ar out, of course, one sunning itself upon the woodpile, brightly lit, the sun illuminated every strand of hair on its casually waving tail.

I’m not of the forest today. Going down the mountain, celebrating father’s day a day early. A most worthy celebration in my family.

So, I’ll be visiting a messianic congregation, barbequing, and likely enjoying the peace of a day full of activity.

A bit of a break from my usual solitary ways, and I suspect a bit of a break which will be most good for my soul.

Feasting and celebrating are vital parts of the spiritual life.

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