An extra half-cup of not-especially strong coffee, looking around the kitchen as I plan supper, checking out what needs to be cooked before it goes off (those big brown mushrooms, the slightly wilting Swiss chard, the last two tomatoes) , what can be done with left-overs of boiled rice and baked butternut.
Thinking too about the woman, a friend of a friend, who came and spoke with me yesterday about doing a spiritual retreat, somebody who has never as far as I can tell, spent any time alone with herself, let alone with silence or any sought presence or mystery. I know many people like her, who have grown up in churches where the crucial question ‘Is any of this true?’ is never asked, in families where ingratitude or cruelty are the norm, where sons and daughters emerge into adulthood obscurely guiltridden about themselves, and without any hunger for mystery or strangeness. People to whom religion only signifies lies and hypocrisy. Who would rather believe in ‘nothing’ than ‘something’ so as not to find oneself disappointed. Or who believe what they were taught as children in order to stay children. Unparented adult children of disengaged parents, incurious, discontented or complacent, blinkered, adrift.
We have all been there and many of us have then found ourselves thrown into some dark night of suffering or awakening. We sit down in silence and ask, ‘What else might be possible?’ and a new journey begins, we change direction, we venture into unknown territory where the horizon lies in shadow.
The turning point of the year, the seasons of lights in Hannukah and Diwali, Advent’s candles and wreaths, the winter solstice for some, the high white midnights of mid-summer, the year about to end, turning and burning in darkness. I go on reading Frederick Buechner each evening by lamplight, making notes to myself and letting those sentences sink in.
“The original, shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead we live out all the other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather”