Saturday, May 15, 2010

Clarification of Thought

May 14, 2010

This week I was stuck on the thought, “I can never be of service if I am not rooted.” Not a new thought for me, but an uncomfortably persistent one of late. It comes in company with the thought that if I pursue all my plans for the summer, I will have very little time here with my community. I may be off learning, collecting experiences, “doing good,” but what will I be building?

There is the thought of being in formation, and I believe that is a healthy and necessary thing. But what is the goal? Am I aiming towards it? Right now I am thinking it would have made a lot more sense to stick with interning at the LA CW than going to Africa. Dear God, lead me in my discernment. Please help me to not squander resources in seeking fulfillment. Please help me to not neglect the best in dividing my attention between various goods.

* * * * *
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends”
(Jn. 15:13).

For the first time, this saying of Jesus has struck me with a new depth, one that hits close to home. To lay down one’s life for one’s friends does no always mean to “take a bullet” on their behalf. To lay down one’s life can be a daily, lived sacrifice. To lay down the life you had planned, to lay down ambition, to lay down travel, to be present. Community is what is essential to demonstrate love.

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.”

That someone puts all else aside and says, “I am going to be here for you.” The gospel reading from the Daily Office is John 15:12-17 and I just keep reading it over and over and though I don’t fully understand, my heart is pounding:

“You are my friends if you do what I command you…you did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide…these things I command you, so that you will love one another.”

You cannot bear fruit unless you are planted, least of all food that abides. How can you feed the hungry unless you bear fruit?

“These things I command you…”
“Greater love has no one that this, that someone lay down her life for her friends.”

As I consider these things, my thoughts keep turning toward Mary and Martha, toward the one thing…

“Martha was distracted with much serving…”
“’Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things but only one thing is necessary…” (Lk. 10:40-42)

I felt like crying when I read this.

I think the time is right for me to intentionally and intensively learn to live by my convictions; here and now. I am fresh in commitment to God and to the Church and to community. How do I live that with integrity? How do I enter into the depth of that? Not by lingering online, skimming the surface of relationships. Not by stuffing myself with news until I am too full to process any of it. Not by committing myself to such a variety of events that I am distracted from the one thing that is necessary.

* * * * *

I read an article that I friend has written in another Catholic Worker’s newsletter. It was one more thing today that stirred my heart. He wrote about the things he was renouncing and I was moved and convicted. So much of what he wrote resonated strongly, I have spoken these same renunciations and yet I look at my life and see little movement beyond the small ripple of words. Where is the lack? It is all in such remarkable harmony with a conversation I shared in a late night chat with two dear friends at Gino’s the other night. What are the things—material items, habits, relationship patterns--in life we desire to renounce and yet continue to hold on to?

Here are a few for me:

 overuse of the internet
 unhealthy food and over-eating
 working toward being pleasing more than toward being honest and understanding
 seeking entertainment more than relationship
 doing something halfway and then moving on to something else
 criticizing others (non-constructively)
 speaking before considering the meaning of my words
 listening politely instead of lovingly
 waiting to be told what to do
 avoiding intimacy where it is relevant and seeking it where it is not
 wanting new things

May 15, 2010

I just got back from “Haunted by God,” a one woman play about the life of Dorothy Day. Initially, I had some reservations about the way the actress was portraying Dorothy and a few of her life’s events. But I had to admire the courage and energy of her performance. It was good also to remember that my perception of Dorothy is not the only one. It was good too, over the course of two hours, to be afforded the opportunity to revisit my initial reading of the Long Loneliness and Krupa’s class. Funny too, I saw K. last night at the White Rose roundtable where we were discussing the Aims and Means of the Catholic Worker.

The actions and discussions of this week have been so remarkably complimentary. Even tonight’s dinner with L. seemed perfectly placed. We talked about our plans for the summer and for the third time today I spoke about Africa. I feel that each time I talk about it, I am coming closer to an understanding of what I want, closer to a sense of what seems right.

It would be inaccurate to say that I don’t want to go. I do want to go. What is more appropriate is to say, I don’t want to be gone. The four weeks I have planned for Arizona and Los Angeles are already so much time to be away.

I don’t know what my job will be or where I will be living, but I am feeling like I want to be here because this is where my home is. This is where I am learning to be grounded and “rooted in love.” Before I go off to serve, I want to know where I am coming from and what I am bringing to offer. What is significant about being here is not that I have found a place to live, but a Way. A way of Being: being awake, being compassionate, being in community, being of service, being genuine, being bold, being humble, being the Body of Christ.

Here I am, Lord.

* * * * *

It is a lovely thought to me that amidst all this existential sowing and reaping, I have been planting physical seeds in the physical earth. Larry used to say, talking the trees in his yard of which he was so proud, “to plant a tree is a declaration of hope.” I think the same can be said of planting a garden. I think along with that hope there is an indication too of faith, and of commitment, and—if the fruit the garden bears is to be nourishing—it is an act of love.


Luke said...

honest. beautiful. insightful.

thank you.

a.e. nee said...

thank you, Luke.

david of buffalo said...

I love the phrase you used in this post, "Community is what is essential to demonstrate love," and your reflections on your place within a particular community. It sounds like you have found a very good one to be a part of.

For me it sometimes seems that reading books like The Long Loneliness can be so inspiring and so difficult all at the same time. I am filled with so many ideas and longings and dreams that cannot possibly be realized in my life in the form that I imagine them, and it is frustrating. I see so many directions and nearly limitless possibility, and it's hard to decide which urge to follow. But it is in deciding which specific thing to do that the only real good can actually be done. Because you are exactly right, community is necessary to actually demonstrate love; love cannot be abstracted.

Thanks for sharing your meditations here. The place-less internet finds good purpose in this reflection on community and concern for place.

a.e. nee said...

How well I can relate to these words; "I see so many directions and nearly limitless possibility, and it's hard to decide which urge to follow. But it is in deciding which specific thing to do that the only real good can actually be done." The deciding can be so agonizing at times, but there's great freedom in committing to a focus/place/cause/person, freedom to go deeper. I long for that but still find myself reluctant to accept it. I do have an incredible community here though and am learning a great deal from their friendship and from the work they've committed themselves to.
Thanks for your encouragement, for reading, and for being generally awesome!