We sat on le petit balcon last night and wept - for different reasons, to be
sure - but there were real tears for us both on our last night in Montréal. I was more effusive. Di was more cautious and tender. Such is part of our respective natures, n'est-ce pas? And yet the challenge for us both now is how to claim the spirit of les flâneurs during what is likely our last year of parish ministry? How do we create time to wander and explore? Wait, watch and listen carefully to the world around us, the people we meet, loved ones who matter profoundly as well as the very Spirit of God?
I know the complexity of this challenge is one of the reasons for my tears: I am so weary of the bullshit. When I was a younger clergy person, I was not only willing to endure more BS because I had a long view, but because it goes with the territory of building relationships of trust. Not that there is much tolerance for clergy bullshit in a local, middle class congregation. That is both soundly rejected and professionally penalized. No, I mean clergy are expected to take shit as par for the course because, after all, we are women and men of God who should model the essence of Jesus in public. If, however, we really shared the essence of Jesus - who never tolerated BS but always called it out in the hope of true healing - our folk would be shocked and we would be unemployable. So most of us learn to eat it, deal with it and find ways to hold on to a modicum of inner integrity as the years roll by. Afterall, we're building trust and lasting relationships, right?
My problem is that I have run out of gas. And tolerance. And empathy. Real relationships of love and depth are more important to me as I have less time in front of me than behind. Having seen precious souls die too young - or with too much unresolved baggage - has also diminished my BS quotient. As I have nurtured a commitment to flâneurie, I find I no longer have much of a long view: if it doesn't lead to love and hope right now, I want to move on. Others can tread water and waste time, and that is their right, but I want to taste and feel the living presence of God's kingdom as fully as I can right now.
On our way home today, we listened to Krista Tippett's interview with Naomi Shihab Nye. So much that was said that spoke to my heart... so much that urged me to make peace with this moment. And live it fully. Not longing to be elsewhere. Or doing something different. But just living and loving fully right now - beyond the bullshit - and trusting that that is enough. That's what I hear in this poem.
There was the method of kneeling,
a fine method, if you lived in a country
where stones were smooth.
The women dreamed wistfully of bleached courtyards,
hidden corners where knee fit rock.
Their prayers were weathered rib bones,
small calcium words uttered in sequence,
as if this shedding of syllables could somehow
fuse them to the sky.
There were the men who had been shepherds so long
they walked like sheep.
Under the olive trees, they raised their arms—
Hear us! We have pain on earth!
We have so much pain there is no place to store it!
But the olives bobbed peacefully
in fragrant buckets of vinegar and thyme.
At night the men ate heartily, flat bread and white cheese,
and were happy in spite of the pain,
because there was also happiness.
Some prized the pilgrimage,
wrapping themselves in new white linen
to ride buses across miles of vacant sand.
When they arrived at Mecca
they would circle the holy places,
on foot, many times,
they would bend to kiss the earth
and return, their lean faces housing mystery.
While for certain cousins and grandmothers
the pilgrimage occurred daily,
lugging water from the spring
or balancing the baskets of grapes.
These were the ones present at births,
humming quietly to perspiring mothers.
The ones stitching intricate needlework into children’s dresses,
forgetting how easily children soil clothes.
There were those who didn’t care about praying.
The young ones. The ones who had been to America.
They told the old ones, you are wasting your time.
Time?—The old ones prayed for the young ones.
They prayed for Allah to mend their brains,
for the twig, the round moon,
to speak suddenly in a commanding tone.
And occasionally there would be one
who did none of this,
the old man Fowzi, for example, Fowzi the fool,
who beat everyone at dominoes,
insisted he spoke with God as he spoke with goats,
and was famous for his laugh.