back in the saddle

To post or not to post. The question hasn’t as much bugged me of late as it has been subject to a pocket veto. I just haven’t posted. My intentions were good but good intentions of late aren’t enough. I just need to get myself back into the habit of posting.

One way of doing this is by finding cues, something to get me started. Once I start writing, words generally start to flow. One cue I’m going to start using is my moleskin notebook. I keep this small notebook nearby whenever I’m reading an interesting book. I jot down thoughts, quotes, random movements of my mind, and anything else that pops into my head while I’m reading, which doesn’t always have to do with what I’m reading. Sometimes the notes, now that I look at them again, don’t entirely make sense. But they provoked me at the time, so they must mean something, right?

The first two moleskin notes fit into this category, written late last year.

“The last shall be first,” I wrote. “Time as a spiral.” Of course. Late last year I was really thinking a lot about time. Time is, I think, one of the biggest struggles in the spiritual life. We are pushed by it, pulled by it, obsess over it, and never can get away from it. Time moves us along in its irresistible flow, teasing us there’s not enough of it and we must hurry along, which is a lot like running up an escalator. Time management is one response, though often this is more a technique to fit more in than a response to time’s overarching control. The monastics, I think, learned how to dance with time, setting into its rhythms and making it bend to their will. That’s what regularity of prayer, and singing of psalms, and fasting, and vigils are about.

Time too is curious because we’re in it, God’s not. Our participation with God, then, involves both being in time and being outside of time. We live temporally, we hope eternally. That gets complicated. We have to save the world now! Otherwise, well, it’s God’s work so we don’t really have to worry about it. Neither positions are exactly Scriptural. We are to act but act in full knowledge of God’s bigger actions. His actions are using time, redeeming time, even as he’s not dependent on it. Time does not merely, then, move along in a linear fashion. God who moves around it, uses time for his purposes and that means bringing us upwards and around, repeating circumstances in a way reminiscent of the movie Groundhog Day, yet differing in that the repetition is never exactly the same.

“I am a slave to time” I wrote a few pages later. And that’s a fact. It drives me. I think about what I’m going to do later today. I think about what I need to do in order to open up possibilities 6 months from now. I think about my lost time, and wasted time, and missed times. It pushed me into decisions when I was younger because I didn’t feel I had enough time. Twenty five is old to a twenty year old. It still drives me, more so than the inner peace the Spirit seeks to bring, the Spirit who often says wait and rest and listen.

As I write this I think of one of the first creative writing tasks I did as a freshman in college. I had to answer “Who Am I?”. Maybe that writing when I was 18 was both a testimony and an encouragement:

Far away, in a valley secluded by the heights of two mighty mountains, a community of animals thrived. This valley was far from the reaches of humanity’s all-encompassing grip, and therefore retained much of the mystery that true nature enshrouds. All kinds of beasts made this beautiful valley their home. From the most exotic birds, to the most mundane mice, this hidden arena offered seclusion and respite. It so happens that this was quite an unusual variety of animal life indeed, for the animals all spoke.

“I challenge anyone, anyone at all, to a race from one end of the valley to another,” challenged the Hare, on a beautiful sunny afternoon, “For I believe that I am the fastest animal this valley has ever produced.”

This was no idle boast. Not at all. For the Hare was renowned far and wide for his lightening speed. Not one of the animals present took the Hare’s challenge. Neither the Deer, nor the Squirrel, felt up to the contest. Even the mighty Wolf, whose life depends on speed and cunning, had fallen in defeat to often against the Hare to even think of considering a race. No, not one of the many animals felt up to such a race, for it was folly to think that the Hare could be beat. The wise, old Owl was about to concede the Hare’s claim of being the fastest, when a quiet voice pervaded the otherwise silent woods.

“I can beat you Hare.”

The animals, including the now stunned Hare, looked around to see who uttered these almost blasphemous words. Whoever had spoken was hidden in the midst of the crowd that had gathered.

“Who said that?” the Hare queried, “Who dares to accept my challenge?”

A murmur arose in the middle of the crowd as the animals slowly made a path for the source of the daring voice. Gasps and chuckles went up as the varied creatures spied the challenger. It took several moments for the courageous animal to make it to the podium where the Hare had offered up the dare. When the Hare finally saw who his competitor was he couldn’t but help almost falling off the stage in a fit of laughter. Standing before him was not a speedy rabbit or field mouse, with whom a challenge may have been raised, but instead it was merely the Tortoise.

“I challenge you, Hare,” the Tortoise stated confidently, “I can beat you to the end of the valley. For although I may appear to be slow, I know many things that will help me to win this race. Yes, Hare I will win. Oh yes, I will.”

The Hare did not know how to respond to such a confident boast. The Owl took charge by setting a date for the race later on in the week. Throughout the days leading up to the race many bets were made. The Hare strutted around fully confident in his eventual success. The Tortoise, on the other hand went quietly along in his business, remaining more aloof than normal. The other animals, especially the Tortoise’s friends, became worried about him, and his sanity, in taking up such a challenge. They began to follow him to see what he was up to. On the day previous to the race day they saw the Tortoise saunter up a hillside. After standing on top of the hill for a mere moment a form appeared in the distance. Flying in towards the Tortoise the animals spied the largest, most beautiful eagle they had ever seen in their lives. They were instantly struck with fear, and dived for the nearest cover. The Eagle alighted on a large boulder not a yard away from where the Tortoise was standing. Though they could not hear the conversation that transpired between the two animals, they could see the effect it had on the Tortoise. His faced beamed as he spoke to this noble animal. After a little while the Eagle took flight and flew towards the sun. The animals soon lost sight of him as he gained altitude. The Tortoise merely turned around and rambled back down to his house to await next day’s travail.

The animals made a celebration out of the day. Smaller contests of skill and luck were waged to pass the waiting hours until the start of the race. The older animals sat on their porches and discussed the varied strategies that would be employed by the two competitors. They noted the thickness of the woods, and how there were hundreds of interconnecting paths for the Tortoise and the Hare to choose from. They also noted how rare it was for someone to get from one end of the valley to the other without occasionally getting lost, or going down a dead-end path, for the valley was long and largely unexplored.

The time of the race came quickly. The two competitors, and their respective fans, showed up to the starting line with great fanfare. The Hare once again declared his dominance and mocked the Tortoises attempt. The Tortoise merely looked straight ahead with an expression that only could be described as quiet confidence. The starting gun went off. The race was on! The Hare, as expected, bolted off leaving the Tortoise in his dust. The Hare was far gone before the Tortoise even made it to the first bend in the opening trail. A disheartening hush fell upon the Tortoise’s friends as they realized that the Tortoise had no chance of winning. In this hush, however, a whisper of wings was heard overhead. The animals looked up to see the mighty Eagle soaring above the valley. Every once in a while the Eagle would swoop down to give advice to the Tortoise on which path to take, and which direction to go. From his mighty heights the Eagle could see all. While the Hare was constantly getting lost and going down the wrong path, the Tortoise slowly plodded on, sure in the Eagle’s help. The race still goes on, for as I said before the valley is quite long. No one knows who will eventually win this race to the end of the valley, though the odds are now definitely on the side of the Tortoise, and his help from above.

The last shall indeed be first.

Some “notes” posted here will indeed be more random and unclear than others.

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