Friday, June 24, 2011

A kind of Emptying

The other day some friends were at our house and wanted to see the backyard. So we took a moment away from the grill ("If you're looking it ain't cookin'"). In the back corner, hidden behind some fencing, we discovered what happens to a project left half-finished.

The work that I had done in preparation for a small shed, a place for our bikes and my mower, seemed to have vanished. The hard rains, the fertile soil and persistent weeds and scrub trees had conspired to undo what I had begun.

That image came to my mind today as I was reading about the middle ages. Not the European ones. If I find myself confronted with certain boundaries, certain limits or lines inside of which I live, it is because I realize that there are not just a few projects that have gone a bit wild, reclaimed while I was busy doing other things.
There is something worrisome about that.

Humility is tough to talk about. Don't worry, I don't think I have got it figured out. I may not even be more humble than I was. But I am learning something.

It is hard not to agree with Dave Goetz when he suggests that “self-knowledge and its visible corollary, humility, seem not to be a one-time acquisition like conversion or an urgent sense of call that often marks the beginner years of faith. It’s a slow, agonizing progression as the soul makes it way toward God.” (CT Dec. 2010, p.53) But that does not it make it pleasant.

My eyes are always on the horizon and my heart imagines what is possible and moves me forward to create what should be. I love to catalyze and encourage. I love to dream, and listen to dreams. And then to take action.

The weeds that follow me around are annoying, but I am inspired by T. S. Elliot who wrote: “old men should be explorers, ” and by these words from Isaiah: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” I am not old yet.
The illusion wanes, and in time we return
to our noisy cities where the blue
appears only in fragments
high up among the towering shapes.
Then rain leaching the earth.
Tedious, winter burdens the roofs,
and light is a miser, the soul bitter.
Yet, one day through an open gate,
among the green luxuriance of a yard,
the yellow lemons fire
and the heart melts,
and golden songs pour
into the breast
from the raised cornets of the sun.

from "The Lemon Trees"
by Eugenio Montale
(Translated by Lee Gerlach)