Thursday, October 15, 2015

The 'workshop'

I wish I could tell you how many Making a Difference Workshops I've been involved in since I took it in whenever I took it....I may have mentioned that I am lost, lost, lost in linear time. My memory of things is relatively good. But knowing 'when' the memory belongs is lost to me.

I used to tell people I took the workshop in 1978. Now I know that's not true. I took it when I left parish ministry for a spell and I didn't do that until 1985. Eight years off seems rather serious to me.

87 vs 78, well, another flaw in me is I invert numbers. I may have tried to call you but kept dialing 4-7 when it was 7-4. Given all that, it's a wonder that I still pass for 'very smart'--magna cum laude/Phi Beta Kappa as an undergraduate, second in my class in Seminary--just saying....last time I took a IQ test it was 150. But I have no idea what year things happened and I invert numbers on a regular basis.

So, I've been with MAD and the Mastery Foundation for nigh on 27 years, best I can remember. And 'the workshop' has been a radically important part of my life all that time.

The workshop in DC this week was beautiful, moving, transforming...but then, they all have been for me.

I started writing this to tell you about the workshop, but I know that is vain and beyond doing.

One of the distinctions we make in MAD (the workshop is a series of distinctions and Centering Prayer) is the distinction between the domain of 'presence' and the domain of 'representation' and how those domains--experience and what we say about experience--are, ultimately 'distinct'. But we don't live as if they are. We live in the collapse of the two domains.

Another way of putting that is this: Something Happens and We Talk About It.

And the story we tell about what happens ISN'T what happened. But we live as if it is.

Here's an illustration of how we think "what happened" is "what we say about it".

Back in the Middle Ages, a new Pope was elected. One of the Cardinals told him his first act should be to throw the Jews out of Rome.

"Why should I do that?" the Pope asks.

"It's what a new Pope does," replied the Cardinal. "They drift back eventually, but you need to show them this is a Christian city."

"I can't do that," said the Pope. "I need to quiz one of the leaders to see if it's necessary."

So, envoys were sent to the Jewish community. None of the Rabbi's wanted to talk to the Pope and most of the leaders of the community were busy packing, knowing what was coming. But a tailor named Jacob volunteered to meet with the Pope and the envoys took him to the Vatican.

Jacob and the Pope did not share a common language but the Pope told the Cardinals, "never mind, I can test him by sign language."

So, the Pope held up one finger and Jacob responded by holding up two fingers.

Then the Pope made an expansive arm motion as if to embrace the room. Jacob pointed to the floor.

The Pope held up an apple he took from his desk and Jacob reached into his robes and held up a piece of matzo.

The Pope turned to the Cardinals. "He's an orthodox Christian. The Jews can stay."

When pressed by the Cardinals, the Pope said this about 'what happened'.

"I held up one finger to say, 'there is but one God.' But Jacob raised two fingers to say 'but there is also the Son and Holy Spirit'. I waved my arms to say, 'God is transcendent' and Jacob responded by pointing to the floor to say 'God is imminant, present here'. Then I asked, 'is the world round as the heretics say?' and Jacob responded, 'no, the world is flat as the church teaches'.

The Cardinals were amazed.

Jacob went back to the Jews and told them to quit packing, they'd be staying in Rome.

Everyone wanted to know what happened and Jacob told them this:

"The Pope said he'd poke me in my eye and I told him, I'd poke him in both eyes. He said the Jews needed to get out of Rome and I told him we're staying right here. Then we showed each other our lunches....."

"Something Happened", but as you can see, "What We Say About It" isn't at all "What Happened".

I can't 'tell you' about the workshop. I'd love to talk with you about it and enroll you to take it. There's another in April in West Park, New York, at Holy Cross Monastery. Something always Happens at them. It's called 'transformation'.

Want to be 'transformed'? Risky and courageous business. Would love to enroll you in that.

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About Me

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.