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