Running in the morning — thinking, as usual, of how I might improve myself, live closer to my feelings, devote myself more completely to God — I’m stopped by two women, who want directions to some church. Jolted from my reverie, annoyed that they’ve asked me rather than someone walking by, I tell them exasperatedly I don’t know. They thank me politely; I run on.
It takes a minute for the irony to catch up with me, like a waiter chasing me with the unpaid bill: I was too busy thinking about God to help these women on their way to Him.
Numbers call to me. The phone rings. I’m surrounded by letters, manuscripts, bills. The work is important, but it’s just as important not to lose myself in the work, in the higher realms of efficiency, in my little myth of progress. How easy to be a busy man: to sacrifice myself on the altar of accomplishment; to light the incense and chant the mantra of success — not for money or glory, but success nonetheless. Theodor Storm: “I felt that tiny insane voluptuousness,/Getting this done, finally finishing that.”
I don’t want to set one moment against another, this moment against that moment, the present against the past. Am I better now — better than I was then? Does she love me more than she loved him? Today, on my forty-fourth birthday, I was determined to do at least as many push-ups, run at least as far, as I did last year. Oh this chase! Murray Mednick: “Time, the eternal blow job; you never come; she never lets go.”
Wandering through the house at night, as I wander through my feelings, never quite at home. Come in. Sit down and stay a while.
Well, I’ll come in, I say, but I can’t stay for long.
Deena Metzger: “We can only heal so much. Some of what is broken in me will always be broken. Some grief is irreparable.”
I didn’t save the world. I drank too much coffee. The trees were nearly dead before I noticed.
Once an hour, the beeper on my watch goes off. I use it to remind me to pause and remember, if only for a moment; to draw back the veil, and look at the One who looks back, unblinking.
Gurdjieff: “A man may get awakened by an alarm clock. But the trouble is that a man gets accustomed to the clock far too quickly. He ceases to hear it. Many alarm clocks are necessary, and always new ones.”
This day is Yours. I thought my lists made it mine, but I was mistaken.
What do these words make mine?
Early in the morning, I make time to be alone. I don’t call it meditating or praying. I call it closing my eyes and feeling my way across a narrow ledge. I call it dropping like a stone into the depths. There I’m reminded nothing is what I think it is. Joy is real. Everything lives.
Wanting to be naked: nothing between me and my intention. Not this fear, this armor of propriety, the weight of the past upon my soft skin.
Ramakrishna: “One must seek God as a drowning person seeks air.”
Do You test my faith, or do I test Yours?
Like a child, I see how far I can turn from You, abandon You completely, before You remind me You’ve never left. Do Your reminders seem harsh? How many do I ignore? You whisper to me, but I sleep. You come to me in a dream. I wake in the dark, cursing the alarm.
In the shower, the shampoo bottle slips and hits my foot. It hurts. But I don’t take the time to bend down and rub it, the way I would for a child. I’m in too much of a hurry, and it’s a distant little pain, easy to ignore.
Later, at my desk, I’m scribbling out checks for Oxfam, Amnesty, Seva. These modest donations, I reason, are the least I can do. But I’m still in a hurry, annoyed at the time it takes to deal with the world’s pain, too.
Do the seasons hurry? Does the Earth turn more quickly because someone, somewhere, is impatient for the dawn? I can’t rush my seasons, or the dawn in me of understanding.
Offhandedly, I joke with a friend when she mentions how lonely she’s been. Later, I’m amazed I could have been so insensitive. It isn’t what I said; it’s that I didn’t pause to really hear what she said.
I’m fully present, or I’m not. The moment doesn’t come again. I don’t make up for it, like catching up on missed sleep or the lunch I skipped.
I hide behind being busy, pretending there isn’t enough time. Time for what? To remember who I really am? I deny my radiance, my brokenness. I confuse my life with the lines I’m reading, with the dog-eared script.
If truth is an arrow, pain is the bow. True, true, I say, as the arrow hits home. God arrives all at once, the air sighing around Him.