Loneliness, moving through me, flies away, having drawn me to a deeper stillness. A vision, flowing like music compels me to continue on. Expression, fresh in its originality, luminous and living in action and influence, brings release. Seeking connection, I find God. The pain of loneliness is transmuted into the awe of companionship with Him in whom I live and move and have my being.
Awhile ago, Eric Blauer blogged this:
“Of this there is no doubt, our age and Protestantism in general may need the monastery again, or wish it were there. ‘The Monastery’ is an essential dialectical element in Christianity. We therefore need it out there like a navigation buoy at sea in order to see where we are, even though I myself would not enter it. But if there really is true Christianity in every generation, there must also be individuals who have this need. […]” —Kierkegaard’s Papers and Journals: A Selection, translated and edited by Alastair Hannay, 47 VIII I A 403, pg. 275
in response to something I had written him. In turn, that prompted me to write the following.
The monastery in its essence has always been there. At least in its original, unpolluted version of time in solitude with God, it has always been accessible. The solitude of walks with God in nature, the quiet seclusion in which we hear and see, is closer than most think.
In fact, we are invited to find it by waiting:
“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew [their] strength; they shall
mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; [and]
they shall walk, and not faint” Isaiah 40:31
“… in quietness and in confidence
shall be your strength …” excerpted from Isaiah 30:15
Which my walk has combined to:
“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their quietness and confidence”
The monastery, as an ideal, is flawed. In pursuit of this ideal, a culture is robbed. For it is fundamentally wrong to view communion and union with a mate, interaction with the world, and social flow as distractions from a deeper walk with God. Acted upon as a model for spiritual depth, such views lead to an impoverished life, an impoverished culture.
Yet the simple, solitary walk with God is a powerful experience leading to deep insights and fresh originality. Spiritually, creatively, we are drawn to the greatest depths by an existence constantly moving between a walk with God and a walk with others.
The monastery impulse, stripped down, reduced to its essence of deep communion with God, is a powerfully transformative impulse. Enlarged by communion with others, it grows generous. Freed from the burden and unnatural restrictions of tradition, it becomes the source of such a rich profusion of creativity and connection that observers are constrained to recognize that something extraordinary is at work.
In such an atmosphere, where love and depth, generosity and creativity flow freely, no arguments are needed to persuade others that we have good news, for it is self evident.
Who we are becomes the only argument we ever need.
I rage with a lonely rage against isolation, blindness and a smiling callousness, against the denial of our nakedness, our need against the illusion of goodness -- sing to me connection, sing to me life, flowing, quietly moving me to vision sing to me a fountain of companionship -- what will these gods do for you? ... these gods of all false comfort, taking credit for gifts not of their making, these gods who rob us, yet remain barren ... ... what will they do for you? I rage with a white hot rage -- Sing to me songs of comfort songs from silence silence ... singing -- I rage against cleverness, cleverness masquerading as depth, against sophistication, imprisoning the wounded soul against a proud intellect, withering the spirit -- sing to me
Prelude to Stillness
Many years ago a cousin of mine suggested that I make a habit of walkabouts in the woods and forests where I lived. He cited his observations of the deep peace that he always saw in me after I went on some wandering exploration, often after having started the walk in some agitated state.
I took his suggestion.
Those walkabouts in nature, started many years ago now, have opened me to the rich, tangibly living nature of stillness, of quietness. My talks with God and connection to life, to creative flow, to the infinite, living universe we inhabit, all flow out of that quietness. Each of these pieces of Isaiah:
“In remembering and rest you are healed, in quietness and confidence is your strength”
“They that wait upon the lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint”
has become personal and tangibly real.
The Path of Quietness
“Trust in the lord with all thine heart” is the “peace, be still” state. From here flows the quietness and confidence that is my strength. The “peace be still” state releases any need for final, absolute statements or a capturing or encompassing of universal laws. In particular, it accepts the abundance of apparent paradoxes and conundrums which are actually teachers of deeper truths. It relaxes in the finite approach to the infinite.
The struggle to encompass, to make whatever finite statements of truth we can muster the focus of our trust, is a struggle to not have to abandon ourselves to the naked freedom of trust in God.
I now realize that the invitation to abandon an encompassing of final absolute truth, is an invitation to infinity. Accepting that I cannot hold it all within my being, I have opened to an infinite exploration. While God is infinite in being, we are infinite in potential. And trust releases us to experience these infinities.
Sometimes a piece of music resonates so deeply it seems to be singing from inside you. The music is your own — you are confident it is music you would have written, had you been in the habit of writing music.
The movie starts with music — Benjamin Britten’s A Young person’s Guide to the Orchestra being played on a child’s portable record player. Delicate, yet robust — reanimating things past, painting pictures with innocence (and a little bit of sad, jaded reality), Moonrise Kingdom is a tone poem that will stay with you long after the movie is over. The story of two 12 year olds, running away together into the wilder parts of a small island on which the entire story unfolds, is captured with a simplicity and joy that defies words. But listening to The Heroic Weather-Conditions of the Universe again, I am drawn back into the story. Clearly inspired by Britten’s piece and the story unfolded in the movie, the simplicity of Desplat’s song almost without words, captures the tale completely, vividly.
It was at the end of a day with disappointments that I went to see the movie “Moonrise Kingdom”. Letting go, I found the almost-pure innocence of a bygone era singing to me a vivid, soul-felt song, healing me with a curious kind of hope.
In the Moonrise Kingdom there reigns disarming honesty, simplicity, sweetness, and a vision of reality that clings to hope.
Reading a mathematical reference today, I came across a not so unusual phrase “It is easy to convince oneself …”. In this particular case, I had to have a quick look at the example they gave to see the “easy” fact for I was thinking along a nonproductive direction and had nothing to reposition my point of view. So, at that point in time, it was not “easy to convince” myself of the fact. And yet, the example was one I could easily have gotten if I had been in a slightly different frame of mind.
I began to think about the numerous phrases that can be found in usage that hide alternating sentiments of superiority and inferiority. We use these patterns often and they encode into our creative environment the limitations implicit in those ideas of comparison and measurement.
When we accept this language as our own, we limit ourselves, often quite severely. There are no fundamental limits or bounds on our creativity if we take into consideration the fact that we are here and not there. That is, if we accept where we are at, we are then free to move anywhere from there. The art with which we move, the creativity that we exhibit, the innovation and originality are never intrinsically limited. Yet so many believe that they are limited, so many have no idea of where they are, that their behavior shouts of limitations and impediments.
And the language we use either reinforces this or helps bring us to the freedom that the creative will needs to really soar.
Our culture is often a culture of disrespect. Because we do not dwell in the atmosphere of respect that characterizes quietness and stillness, our response to this culture is to begin desperately trading in a currency of disrespect.
Quietness sets us free.
fear is a scream, frozen into a prison. -- light roars, silence slays fear deeper, plunging downward into silence and light -- the deep, encompassing me in boundlessness an infinite music fills the void -- silence, failing to contain the light, sings to me intensity invades me with stillness, setting me free -- light sings to me
In the very teachings that Christians claim to base their religion on we find clear revelations of the non-institutional structure of the flow of life and innovation:
“Ye are the salt of the earth”
with the accompanying admonition to distribute and mix throughout the world.
Shallow readings of this can be viewed as admonitions to send out missionaries and to evangelize boldly. But a deeper reading will connect with the anti-institutional, anti-organizational and even anarchist nature of the most innovative streams of inspiration and life. Freedom is ever at odds with the propagation of organizations and the rise of institutions.
Mass movements very quickly gain an organizational, institutional structure that begins immediately to destroy the pure creative fiber that is at the foundation of whatever is good in the initial inspiration. There rarely is anyone bold enough, wise enough, to remind the inspired, who are in the process of being carried away with the euphoria of revelation, that “Ye are the salt of the earth”. Freedom is quickly challenged and slowly (sometimes quickly) falls prey. Group dynamics begin to dictate individual behavior and constrain what is and what is not acceptable. At this point the inspiration has been hijacked and the demonic nature of the institution begins to hold sway.
This is not to say that all forms of individual behavior are harmonious with life and innovation. Indeed there are sociopaths and psychopaths that would, if permitted, exploit any situation or collective or group. But it is often the tyranny of the majority, expressed in the form of an organization, that exerts its destructive will on the individual, limiting the free action of the individual and the unfettered creation of living diversity.
It is one of the apparent mysteries that inspiration and degradation share such close quarters, that the euphoria of inspiration can so quickly turn into evil. Part of the unraveling of this mystery surely lies in the fact that inspiration gives power and power very easily corrupts — and in groups, humans do things that they would hesitate to do individually. For in quietness we see most clearly.
But there are organizations that emerge spontaneously and are purely cooperative, transitory phenomena, not violating or leading to the loss of freedom. This kind of grass roots behavior is highly fluid. In its purest form it leads to the accomplishment of some immediate goal at which time the collective dissipates into its creative, living pieces, gathering new energy and diversity, becoming better prepared for the next emergent goal.
This, though seen faintly, through a glass darkly, keeps our hope alive.
Today, I was moved and inspired by the documentary “The Philosopher Kings”. It reminded me of a deeper level of awareness, of life and brilliance that awaits our quietness and attention. Life as ideas, as art, as the true university — life as immersion in those bright beams of illumination awaiting the attentive.
Brilliance breaks through to the ready and attentive, here and there, now and then. Illumination floods through the embrace of even one insight. Brilliance is often described as a feeling, because it is nothing more or less than full immersion into the stream of life. At a fundamental level it has nothing to do with the recognition of others or the acclaim of an adoring audience.
Illumination waits everywhere, at all times, for anyone who will see.
Quietness opens the eyes.
Brilliance is freely available, yet many avoid the quietness that would make them aware of brilliance. In quietness, the life and depth in everything becomes visible. In the mundane, uninspired lives so many believe they have, inspired joy is close at hand, just below the surface, ever ready to illuminate. The smallest steps in the direction of life begin to transform, to open and heal.
Solitude and connection, point and counterpoint, brings a growing awareness of light and creative power. The world becomes a deeply informative study, the invitation to illumination, to brilliance that encompasses and moves to something larger.
Then we teach.
Teaching, we have come full circle, but not to the place we began. Having embraced life and illumination, this is simply the place that we consciously take on the mentoring of others. Dwelling in the place without limits, we find others attracted to the life flowing over and outward.
Others join us.
That is renaissance.
As indicated in the “About” page for this blog, I am using this blog as a place to put things I have written. As also noted there, though I have comments turned off, I welcome email conversations with anybody interested in respectful conversations. For that purpose, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org