Thursday, July 7, 2016

practicing crazy coincidences...

Albert Einstein has been attributed with the aphorism, "Coincidence is God's
way of remaining anonymous." G.K. Chesterton said, "Coincidences are spiritual puns." C.G. Jung spoke of synchronicity. Teilhard de Chardin wrote that the "Cosmic Christ" who holds all things together in divine unity embodies the essence of reality. Wayne Dyer noted that "In mathematics, two angles that are said to coincide fit together perfectly. The word coincidence does not describe luck or mistakes. It describes that which fits together perfectly." And Morpheus in "The Matrix Reloaded" proclaimed:

All of our lives, we have fought this war. Tonight I believe we can end it. Tonight is not an accident. There are no accidents. We have not come here by chance. I do not believe in chance. When I see three objectives, three captains, three ships. I do not see coincidence, I see providence. I see purpose. I believe it our fate to be here. It is our destiny. I believe this night holds for each and every one of us, the very meaning of our lives.

Small wonder that I smiled this morning while reading Fr. Richard Rohr's daily on-line reflection:

We keep praying that our illusions will fall away. God erodes them from many sides, hoping they will fall. But we often remain trapped in what we call normalcy--"the way things are." Life then revolves around problem-solving, fixing, explaining, and taking sides with winners and losers. It can be a pretty circular and even nonsensical existence. To get out of this unending cycle, we have to allow ourselves to be drawn into sacred space, into liminality. All transformation takes place here. We have to allow ourselves to be drawn out of "business as usual" and remain patiently on the "threshold" (limen, in Latin) where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That's a good space where genuine newness can begin. Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible. It's the realm where God can best get at us because our false certitudes are finally out of the way. This is the sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed. If we don't encounter liminal space in our lives, we start idealizing normalcy. The threshold is God's waiting room. Here we are taught openness and patience as we come to expect an appointment with the divine Doctor.

Last summer, while on sabbatical in Montreal, my friend from Arizona, Len, sent me an email in which he spoke of le Flâneur.  It was a word he had come to cherish at it described how he and his spouse approach vacations. Then, while reading Barbara Brown Taylor's book, An Altar in the World: a Geography of Faith, I came upon le Flâneur again in a chapter called "The Practice of Getting Lost."

When someone goes for a walk with no particular destination in mind, willing to go wherever the wind blows him, that person a flâneur. He saunters. He strolls, He takes a right out of his apartment building one day, having taken a left yesterday. He walks until the smell of fresh bread leads him to make his first turn, down a side street with a bakery. He continues his walk with a fresh Danish in his hand, until a jogger passes him with a sleek gray dog on a leash. The jogger turns right at the next light so the flâneur does too, going about half a block before he finds himself in front of a stamp and coin store that has always intrigued him.

In Len's words and Ms. Taylor's, I discovered something of myself - with one important amplification - my stumbling upon the beauty and wisdom of wandering also included theological reflection, spirituality and aesthetics. I was not only a physical Flâneur, but one interested in the ever-changing mix of feelings, insights, experiences, worship, music, prayer, politics and the arts.  And while it is never easy for me to hold these truths together in a quiet way, it is a conscious commitment. Getting lost and giving dignity to the uncertainty, writes Taylor, "has nothing to do with wanting to go there."  I prefer clarity. I yearn for a plan. But I have also come to trust that there are seasons of light and times of darkness when my calling is simply to watch and wait. Just as there is both Advent and Lent, there is also Christmas and Easter. And with enough patience, the coincidences I encounter begin to tell story that offers me a way through the wilderness into a new way of being.

At an advanced level, the practice of getting lost has nothing to do with wanting to go there. It is something that happens, like it or not. You lose your job. Your lover leaves. The baby dies. At this level, the advanced practice of getting lost consists of consenting to be lost, since you have no other choice. The consenting itself becomes your choice, as you explore the possibility that life is for you and not against you in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. This rock bottom trust seems to come naturally to some people, while it takes disciplined practice for others. I am one of the latter, a damaged truster who hopes she has lots of time to work up to the advanced level before her own exodus comes. To that end, I keep my eyes open for opportunities to get slightly lost, so that I can gradually build the muscles necessary for radical trust.

Me, too. Three years ago, on the same weekend, Lou Reed died as did an old friend from Cleveland, Michael Daniels. Neither men knew one another and shared almost nothing in common:  Lou was an intellectual rock and roll genius who discovered his calling by walking on the wild side; while Michael was a poor, alcoholic from a tough East Side neighborhood who lost everything to booze and mental illness before receiving the blessing of sobriety. Both men, however, lived outside what I was taught to be "normal" society. They both invited me, albeit in different ways, to honor the insights of the periphery and celebrate what some indigenous peoples call:

"Crazy time." I believe that the unique and necessary function of religion is to lead us into this crazy, liminal time. Instead, religion has largely become a confirmation of the status quo and business as usual. Religion should lead us into sacred space where deconstruction of the old "normal" can occur. Much of my criticism of religion comes about when I see it not only affirming the system of normalcy but teaching folks how to live there comfortably. Cheap religion teaches us how to live contentedly in a sick world, just as poor therapy teaches us how to accommodate ourselves to a sometimes small world based on power, prestige, and possessions. A good therapist and a good minister will always open up larger vistas for you, which are by definition risky, instead of just "rearranging the deck chairs" on a sinking Titanic.

Like Morpheus, today I see the connections. Like Jung, I have paid attention to the path revealed by seemingly disconnected events. Like Rohr, I am now experiencing  a new level of "craziness" that is pushing me beyond yet another layer of normalcy. While on sabbatical, there was both death and the seeds of resurrection. This whole past year has been the gestation of those seeds - and it has felt crazy, indeed.  Now, like the day lilies in our garden, there is some flowering and beauty to the waiting and wandering. Mary Oliver got it right in her poem, "I Worried."

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang

No comments:

Post a Comment