I've been pondering the past--my life for 21 years as Rector of St. John's in Waterbury. I never intended to stay that long and all those years passed as if a fast train in the night.
I have a remarkable capacity to 'move on'. I have no friends from my childhood or high school. My son has lots of high school friends yet, in his 30's. I have none. I email one or two on occasion and have talked with a high school friend on the phone within the past year. But, by in large, I have 'moved on'. I seem to have friends and people I love in sequence.
No friends whatsoever from college--except for Jorge, who I am in touch with on rare occasions.
Not even friends from seminary--either Harvard or Virginia--though my good friend Dan Kiger, one of the best friends of my life--and I were going to get together this spring or last winter when he was in CT but never did.
The amazing thing is that if I bumped into someone from High School or college or seminaries I have know, I would fall right in step. Year ago I visited 30 of my Virginia Seminary classmates on a sabbatical. And though it had been 25 years since we knew each other, I was remarkably comfortable with each of them. I can pick up the strings and threads of friendship after years and years. I just can't keep them strong.
Which is to say, though I miss St. John's I don't miss it nearly as much as I imagined. I see several people from those years on a pretty regular basis. And it is great each time. No effort at all. But I begin to wonder if I have a personality disorder that I can be so intimate and close with people for a long time and then, well, move on. I think of them and imagine being together, but I don't 'do' anything about it and time passes and I accumulate a whole new set of folks.
I do still have friends from my time at St. Paul's in New Haven and John Anderson, my dear friend, goes back to before I went to Seminary--but he lives in New Haven now and we spend holidays and go on vacation together. He's the exception that proves the rule that I tend to 'move on'. It seems heartless in one sense, but in another it is a way of living in the present.
I did want to share a poem I wrote for the staff at St. John's on the occasion of our private party for my leaving. There were lots of parties for my leaving, but the precious one was with those people who worked with me and dreamed with me and we a family for me--the people I worked with and shared life with.
So, here's the poem:
Most of the best things require
only a few ingredients.
Flour, water, yeast, a pinch of salt
(a pinch of sugar too, I’d say) and time:
kneading , rising, kneading, rising, kneading,
baking—you’ve got bread.
Grape juice, sugar, yeast (again) and more time…
there’s the wine.
A simple reed, plucked from the marsh,
a sharp knife and breath makes music.
Paper, thin wood, some string, a tail and patience
makes a kite and flight….
Then there is this—what you have made,
perhaps not knowing….
The Patience you needed to deal with me!
The Commitment and Skill you brought to the mix.
The Hope and Trust to make it
And dollop after dollop of Great Good Humor—
that most of all.
few ingredients, but enough and more,
to make my life here joyous, wondrous, profound, incredible, magic
and so much fun….so much fun….
And I thank you for the feast of life, the song and the flight.
jgb/April 29, 2010
I've also been musing about the present tonight. I'm teaching a course in the Gnostic Christian Literature at UConn in Waterbury for their Lifelong Learning institute.
I've decided my role in that classroom is to be the 'disrupter'. To begin to be open to whatever it is the Gnostic Christians have to offer us, we must shake the foundations, disrupt the default thinking, pull the dock away from the pilings, set it on fire and let it sink in the lake, hissing as the water meets the flame.
Today, in class, I realized I'm doing a good job because there would be three people either asking a question or questioning what I was saying or challenging my words all at the same time. I love it! I adore chaos. I'm good with chaos. And, as I think back, if things aren't chaotic I might just create it.
(I convinced a lot of people that I was "winging" Liturgy at St. John's. Truth was, I wasn't 'winging' anything. I always knew exactly what I was doing. I just found that putting people in a vulnerable place brought out their creativity and their magic. Nothing like chaos to call forth vulnerability and creativity and magic....At least that's what I believe....)
So, even though I have no idea what people are 'learning' in this class, I am confident that I'm disrupting things enough that they might just be open to learning something.
My friend Ann (a whole category of friends I have had for over 20 years are those involved in the Mastery Foundation, a group I help by leading workshops...and Ann is the Executive Director of the Foundation) once told me that she was a person 'you can tell anything.' I've tried to emulate that.
I usually say, much to my detriment, that "I don't care" what you tell me. People hear that wrong. I don't mean that what they say 'doesn't matter'. Quite the contrary. What I mean is that I, to the fullest extent that I can, don't take anything personally. I really like to hear criticism and critiques and even disagreement. I find it informative and bemusing.
Over the last 30 years of my life several people have told me that I seem 'to have no ego'. Even more people have told me my ego must be the size of Wyoming or some similar vast, mostly empty place.
What they are referring to is that I don't take stuff personally (unless you start trashing President Obama or Democrats or Universal Health care or any minority group or my children--then I become a Mama Bear protecting her young....) Life is simply too short--especially since, at 64, I know I've lived more years than I will yet live by a long shot--to take anything personally. I simply 'don't care' if you have criticism or disagreement with me. I'll try to learn something from it but I'm not going to get in a tizzy about it. BFD if you don't like that I'm yanking your dock off its moorings and setting it on fire.
Sitting on an unanchored dock as it bursts into flame and begins to sink might just be a place to discover wisdom. That's always worked for me.
Try it sometimes.