Friday, March 23, 2012

A long days' evening sigh

From where I am sitting, I can see windows lit in the parish church, an outline of branches stretching up to juggle the stars, candle shadows dancing on a white painted cinder block wall and crumbs from cinnamon graham crackers sprinkled across the scrap of paper towel under my glass of milk.

I can hear my own heart beating, the smoky groan of an airplane, the bay of a dog remembering his ancestral lineage, and a motorcycle exercising bravado.

It has been a long couple of days spent witnessing the extraordinary ability of the human mind to create the world in which it wishes to live, even when it bears no relationship to reality. The ability I witnessed was not exercised by choice or induced by simply IS.  What has been lost over time, thanks to action and choice, is the ability to walk the line between the two landscapes--the one of the mind and the one of the feet.  On the one hand, I find this tragic...on the other, it makes me gasp in awe of such a capacity. 

It is the mix of this tragedy and awe that comes together in my heart's sigh this evening.  And I find myself wondering aloud to God whether that ability to leave the world most people know and go elsewhere is another way God is with some people, protecting them from what would otherwise be too much, what would hurt too profoundly, what would leave them paralyzed with fear and perhaps cause greater harm to a larger number of people.

If I believe that, though, it doesn't really make it any easier to understand how to respond.  And I am still left wondering what my responsibility is as a human who loves and who believes that justice is lived where all are safe, all know love, and all have enough....enough clean water, shelter, food, healthcare, etc... and who also believes in free will...I am left wondering what my responsibility is when I see someone heading off into the brambles and briars of fantasy and delusion...without a compass, map, or promise of return...and I might be able to do something to help them live justly.

If I don't believe that, then how else is it that such alternate realities are so intricately woven and worn as truth? 

Regardless, believing that somehow God is a part of it all and knows intimately and profoundly where we all "are" is the only way it all comes together for me... and I want that to be certainty enough...wherever the "are" is and however we got there. 

So maybe in the sigh is just that--a prayer for that to be enough to know.  The rest is discovered on the way.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Myth, Magic, and Mandarin Blue

John William Waterhouse Pandora
I had a grand week with my students this week...I got hardly any shelving done--or at least none that left a visible impact on the auto-replenishing return shelves...but what conversations!  This quarter, the global studies class I help with is in Egypt.  Recently. we'd spent a while speaking about the Nile river's northerly flow into the Mediterranean lending itself to migrating groups from further south and how the culture of a place is created by the people present in a given social/physical location.  If people traveled to Egypt from the south, then, it is reasonable to assume that they brought with them the portable aspects of the culture they lived and helped create in their former homeland--music, food traditions, etc...including Story.  Given that, we looked at stories from Sudan, the most immediately southern country relative to Egypt, and Greek myths from north of Egypt.  We spent a whole period on a three page Sudanese story about a wise mother who was teaching her son, the sultan, how to know when someone is a true friend.  Then came Pandora, Perseus, and Medusa...the coming into the world of despair, pain, misery...and golden-winged hope...and confronting fossilizing evil.

After we'd been through the wringer, and they calmed down a bit (the version I had begged for more than a little drama in the re-telling aloud), we teased out the themes of all these tales....Sharing, being True, the reality of evil and hurt and misery, and the presence of hope that will never leave...  and then I asked them to finish sentences they would recognize-- "Do not be afraid...."  "I am with you!"  "Do unto others..." " you would have them do unto you!"  Slowly the light began to dawn....the themes are universal, are essential, fundamental, and live in wisdom, experience, and where humanity/divinty converge! For the Greeks, in the Gods...for Christians, in Jesus...and in us, made in the image and likeness of God.

Noodler's Blue from Ink Nouveau
Truth, wrapped in Story...  Story that can be told in so many different ways--including pen, ink, and paper.  This week, I received in the mail a bottle of fountain pen ink.  I had paper towels on hand, but no matter how careful I was when filling the plunger, splurch, drip, fingers and thumbs have now been baptized by an ink that has serious and unanticipated staying power.  Consequently, when speaking on gmail to a friend, I noticed her eyes following my hands as I spoke.  "It's ink--sorry!"  "You have been working magic!" was her reply.  What an amazing response!  What an amazing friend...

California Mandarins
Which brings me to this morning. I had a sack of small citrus fruits that were too tart to eat by themselves.  Rather than keep trying as is for the sake of using them up, I decided to consume them as juice.  I peeled about twenty of them, plunked their tangy, tender, segments in the blender, and with several hits of "liquify" and a squirch of honey, voila, goodness in a glass.  And the goodness came with me, because my hands now bore the intense, incredible, zesty clean zip smell of the hands that are already stained with ink.

Standing over the sink, marveling at the pleasure that combination brought me, these beginning lines came without thinking--

Just before she said yes to the wind's invitation, she smiled deeply and thought with her head slightly tilted-- "Today is a good day for this... I am feeling rather mandarin blue..."

It begs to be continued...I wonder where it will want to go?