Monday, October 8, 2012

Irish Stuff III

Dromantine has it's own lake. It's much bigger than a pond but probably not called a lake, now that I think of it. And that body of water is populated by swans. Swans are some of the  most amazing creatures I know of. They are so huge, for one thing, and that neck thing they have going on is truly astonishing. I sat out in the rain for half-an-hour watching them one morning. Swans, it seems to me, should have been one of St. Thomas of Aquinas' proofs for the existence of God. Watching them glide and feed convinced me.

The Irish love to sing. Each day, after dinner, most of them, along with me, would gather in a room with an honor bar (Euros and Pounds accepted) and sing. Lots of Irish songs, of course, some in the Irish language, which lots of folks there could speak, but two of the guitar wielding guys loved to sing American songs. They did "Almost heaven, West Virginia" each night just for me, along with Kris Kristofferson and Bob Dylan and lots of blues stuff. Interestingly enough, they sang with an American or Southern or Black accent when they preformed those songs. I tried to get them to 'talk like an American' and there was no hope! Then I remembered that singing comes from the other side of the brain from talking. I knew a guy once, David, who had the worst stutter I ever heard. He sounded like he might choke when he tried to converse. But he sang in St. John's choir for 30+ years in a wonderful, tone perfect Tenor. Other side of the brain stuff. Not one stutter or halt when he sang. Amazing. (The almost perfect beauty of the human brain--another proof for God's existence?)

Just the lilt of the accents of the Irish is a kind of poetry itself, but they are also good about being able to recite poetry. Each night of singing involved reciting poetry as well. One African Missionary named Jimmy, a guy a few years older than me, recited "The Avowal" by Denise Levertov, one of my favorite poets. Denise Levertov once said, at a gathering of poets and theologians (add in physicists and that would be a meeting of minds devoutly to be wished), "The crisis of faith is the crisis of the imagination. If we cannot imagine walking on the water with Jesus," she went on, "then how can we ever do it?"

Here's the poem Jimmy recited from memory.

The Avowal
As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I lear to attain
freefall, and float
into Creator Spirit's deep
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding grace.

Much of the workshop I help lead is about just that--"knowing no effort earns anything, that free-fall is where we find grace."

It's astonishing to notice how people don't give value to anything that doesn't require 'effort'. Centering Prayer, as we teach it in the workshop, involves only this: "put your butt in a chair and shut up for 20 minutes, intending to be present to God".

People want to make that 'hard' and 'arduous' when, in reality, it is anti-hard and anti-arduous and requires only this: 'give up effort...."


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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.