It is memorial day weekend. Memorial day, I believe, goes back to the Civil War in which those who died for the Cause were honored. This has since broadened beyond that one war to be the day in which all those who died in war are honored. We celebrate the day by going off on trips to various places of leisure, choosing our particular poison. The freeways below were jammed with those on their way to Vegas or Palm Springs, my kayaking yesterday was abandoned when I couldn’t find any parking due to trucks and trailers, with a lake filled with the boats they were carrying. We honor by doing those things which symbolize the freedom of the American society, taking breaks from life because we can. Some think that having a parade or moment of silence is a better way to honor the weekend. I think getting out and away, celebrating the life we have is a better way, for it is certainly how those who died would have been spending the weekend. They did not die so we can mourn, they died so that we could live, and spend time with family and friends without the shadow of evil over us.
Of course, I’m not going anywhere. I think there was talk about doing something, hiking to the top of the nearest high peak (which is about 12,000 feet I believe). Only it’s covered in snow right now, and I’m the only one with snow shoes, and even with that not too eager to risk a late spring avalanche. So, those plans were abandoned, and none replaced oddly enough. Instead of traveling to distant vistas or celebrating with family and friends I sit here rather alone, feeling like I should be enjoying the surprising quiet of the neighborhood but just not finding that feeling in my soul right now. Instead, I feel a burgeoning discontent.
The Spiritual life is often misconstrued. It’s portrayed as peace and blessing, a walk in a bountiful field of everlasting beauty. Only it’s not that, or only occasionally that. Most of the time, I find, the Spiritual life is about choices, neither of which seem at the moment to be particularly satisfying. But we choose. We choose to go up or down, more often than not the incline barely perceptible either way. It’s only in the carrying along one direction or the other we realized we’re higher than we thought, or lower than we wanted. Each moment contains a choice, each minute in life we rise towards God or sink away. Get too far away and we lose the sight of God to drive us forward. And yet, even rising upwards is not without it’s own frustrations.
I’m trying to move forward. Instead of finding an increased peace, I am finding myself continuing to muck up. I gain altitude then find some inherent weakness that knocks me over, each time trying to address that before rising again. It is in the attempted progress, however, that these weaknesses become so vivid, and so only in the seeking of the Divine that we see most clearly that which is least Divine in us. The trick is to keep at it despite ourselves, riding the Spiritual life like some unbroken stallion, with each fall a failure and a call to get back and try it all again.
That was this past week for me. It began well, with my heart and soul finding new life in prayer and spiritual devotion. On Thursday, however, a hammer fell, a unseen hammer which felt like my whole being was demolished. I have no idea what was going on this past Thursday, but all my zeal fell apart, leaving me stranded and covered in the dust. I stand again and get back on the horse, having learned the lessons, seen myself, realized that yes, I am not yet whole.
So, today my soul is mired in a vague discontent, and I know that I can choose to embrace this or choose to press on despite my inner frustrations. I don’t know where relief can be found… but that’s not the point. There is only to press onwards with the hope of relief unseen.
If I could just learn to live in the moment, and not let my own nagging doubts dissuade my hope and joy I would be doing well. That’s the trick, isn’t it? This becomes a wee bit harder if there isn’t a voice of encouragement outside myself. But, that is where I am today, and so I must find the hope in the quiet whispers of the Spirit, calming the storm within so that I can hear.
Such is the Spiritual life at this age.