Saturday, September 27, 2014

Without Me

Recently, for the first time in weeks, I (and my camera) re-entered the comforting indifference of the natural world. I found that summer had proceeded marvelously without me, and was gearing up for high post-harvest autumn, busily disseminating itself before the great, cold sleep of winter. It welcomed me (its semblable, soeur) as it usually does, indifferently: no smile, handshake, service leaflet, chipper good morning, invitation to membership, ministry, fellowship, committee.  

There is no question of membership: dead or alive, one belongs. There is no hierarchy -- no pope, no bishop, no priest, no laity, no faithful remnant, no apostates or heretics -- only carbon-based, interdependent life.

Dodder was doddering indifferently (and flagrantly)  across the field, barnyard grass was (beautifully) ignoring me --

What more could I want ?

From a distance there came the cries of children spilling from a school bus. A few crickets ticked and tocked in the tall weeds.

I find myself in a field beyond human projects. Ambition, competition, dreams, tasks, desires: I've left these behind. Let the schoolbusloads of youngsters take on the world -- fix it, decorate it, pity it, pray for it, snap reams of selfies in front of it -- whatever. It's their turn.

There will always be outsiders, loners -- mostly faceless, invisible -- for whom the available forms will never suffice. For every gladhanding there is an opposite and equal sadunhanding, but no one readily admits this. There are outskirts of temperament better ignored, or relegated to a DSM V category and jollied back into the herd with psycho- or pharmaco- therapies. The tradition of hermits and anchorites is rarely mentioned, except as an aberration or at least something deeply suspect.

Humans (the experts assert) are social animals. The single schoolroom desk of yore is supplanted by circles of chairs and long group tables; solitary dreaming by group projects. The eremitic cell gives way to the megachurch. The cathedral is gutted and the straight-on pews are replaced by concentric circles of chairs, just as the starkly geometric, fully inhabited cross with its lacerating edges is replaced by a cozy, luminous, empty nautilus shell.

So let's assume that The Tradition (in all its manifestations)  is a metaphoric ground on which one walks, or a language that one uses to discourse upon the unspeakable -- then, yes, sure, let's get on with it, there is merit in submitting to centuries of thought and experience. I'm not that smart. I don't re-invent the car every time I drive to work. The world is not simply weeds and sunlight, trees and rain: there is (as the not-nautilus starkly proclaims) suffering, affliction, cruelty, greed, confusion, anguish, violence.

There is suffering, and there is release from suffering, variously defined as non-grasping, non-retaliation, humility, generosity, letting-be, letting-go, forgiveness, egolessness even (trigger warning) love.

Lament: the hypertrophy of the horizontal, the homunculus. The Trinity flies apart at the slightest touch and Boyfriend Jesus is left strutting about, triumphant, in the ruins. God by coup d'etat. Metaphor become zombie flesh.

Time spent on the threshold of the house of God is, overall, well-spent. The dual perspective -- that which is in, that which is out -- is instructive because, after all, there is no real in or out. Silence and speech, the simple and the elaborate, all fingers pointing at the same moon, sun, void.

Early fall reaching back into summer: sunlight, heat, meteorologists crowing about perfect weather. Some of us ease ourself into sleep with dreams of a forest hermitage, approached though night and snow, to the accompaniment of the last of Samuel Barber's exquisite Hermit Songs --

10. The desire for hermitage

Ah! To be all alone in a little cell 
with nobody near me; 
beloved that pilgrimage before the last pilgrimage to death.
Singing the passing hours to cloudy Heaven;
Feeding upon dry bread and water from the cold spring.  
That will be an end to evil when I am alone 
in a lovely little corner among tombs 
far from the houses of the great.
Ah! To be all alone in a little cell, to be alone, all alone:
Alone I came into the world 
alone I shall go from it.


Tom said...

I read and re-read your post in a state approaching something like awe. The way the streams of words combined to describe experience in ways that I do not envy, but would love nevertheless to be able to emulate. It was like being lifted on an underlying ocean swell, a letting go of the certain and the sure. So why do I feel these pangs of melancholy?

tristan said...

sentient semblable

forsythia said...

Once again, I visited your pages and was blown away, but not violently---more like dandelion fluff carried aloft on a gentle wind. I realized today that, like it or not, I cannot have all the solitude I want. Somehow, without knowing how, I am woven firmly into the warp and woof of family (extended) and communal life. They come to warm themselves at our fire. Who am I to say, Stay away. I must find some other way to be alone.

forsythia said...

Because if I don't get enough solitude, I would probably kill someone. The clang and bang of the world are enough to drive an introvert nuts. It's OK--and safer for all concerned--to go off to be alone. And you, especially you, would not be able to share your deep gifts without getting away from the interminable chatter.