Thursday, April 5, 2007

We Shed Our Certainties Like Clothes*

"I never meant to return to the scene of my great disaster. But one day after a weekend among alcohol and adulterers, I took a wrong turn on the motorway and saw the sign to Starbridge. Immediately I tried to escape…1988 dissolved into 1963. I glimpsed again my Garden of Eden, and as I hesitated at the wheel of my car, the rope of memory yanked me forward into the past… I drove to the city but it was not as I had known it."

-Venetia Hoffenberg
From “Scandalous Risks” by Susan Howatch

I have a coterie of friends who are currently rediscovering their healthy boundaries. There is also a singer friend of mine (of whom I am very proud) getting accolades for a current single that is at the top of the charts with a song that propels us to reach out. It is a paradox. We are all truly enmeshed—identities, loves, enmities and acquaintances.

I am currently reading a book about a young, socially inept woman who embarks on a path of self discovery through the entanglements of love, spirituality and adultery. Sadly, I know the forlorn ending of her character yet only because I read the series of the Church of England books out of order. In this particular book, a man who perceives too much tells her not to go out onto the moonlight soaked roof of the cathedral one night. She tipsily defies him and spends her days after 1963 in the drunken defecation of her life.

If I would have known how my life is today, would I have embraced my life fully as it was? I reference this question frequently. If my friend the singer would have known she would one day have a song reaching the top of the charts, would she have counted the years between her childhood dreams and now differently? Would my boundary-rediscovering friends have couched their relationships at the start if they knew they would become driven so witless by their interpersonal relationships?

So many of my own life’s circumstances have been driven by hope, interfered with by human potential, broken down and restarted. I think that I can’t take any more way too often yet it is only because my mind goes into fright or flight and I look for the nearest exit door. I see the budding of spring on a crab apple tree down the block yet the snow falls on this Maundy Thursday.

"We got the news, Ithaca got snow
It was just that kind of day
All I know is that you've gone and left us here below
All I wish is that you'd stay
We leave this cursed city in the same way we come in
We trace the roads
On the way out, we shed our certainties like clothes
We thought this was our sacrifice
But the world knew otherwise
And took you from us
Before your time, right before our eyes"

Ithaca* by Peter Mulvey
from the album Glencree

I read the story of the crushing situation the disciples carried within the week of the passion today. They had this amazing miracle of a man casting his golden presence around them—living and laughing with them, loving them and reconciling them to God. At the last supper, he disrobes. He creates an awkward scene—especially with Peter—and asks them to preserve the solemnity of the moment by letting him wash their feet. What was going on in the disciples’ minds? He then inserts himself into the traditional Passover meal in such a macabre way by asking them to remember him, remember his flesh and blood. They must have trusted him enough to let him say what he needed to say and do what he needed him to do. Yet what could they have possibly been feeling inside?

"We think we're walking home
But you can't go there unless it wants you
You can stand on the streets
But still the destination haunts you
Is that where you are now?"

I may have felt like Peter, desperately trying to lead and assert a sense of control of the situation yet being rebuked and molded to form a better leader. I may have felt like one of the others who just knew Judas was up to something by the weight of his purse and the look of coolly managed guilt in his eyes, yet had been unable to say anything and confounded by guilt. I may have stood back to see the strange unraveling of community and felt powerlessness in the midst of all the destruction. Yet I can easily find the exit door and step back into my current reality.

How can we assert our proper selves into situations? How can we truly feel the history and growth of our gifts? If I knew what was in store would my heart be quieter or would it rear up in dissatisfaction and choose decay? Just how can we ever know?

Tomorrow we observe the cross. It gets bloody worse. Tomorrow we remember that he died. And knowing that death is the biggest unknown for us all, we embrace his. It doesn’t end it here. It just can’t end here. Our process, our pain, our love for him begs an ending to our stories, begs the unseen resolution of our past.

"To have believed, that's truest love
Ain't it clever now that we have love and we don't have you
It took this much to make me see
Still I barely understand
Love will always, always be larger and different than our plans
Love will never listen to us
And why should it?
Love knows the score
It builds better songs than we do
It sings a better metaphor"

- END -