Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Efficacy of Life

I seem to remember writing in this space some time ago about a book by Henri Nouwen called "Reaching Out." That book is one of the most important books I've ever read, and continues to reverberate within me to this day. However, I must admit that over the course of the last year I've been falling away from some of the vital disciplines that I learned in this spiritual classic. Any of you who've read the book will remember that Nouwen constructs his narrative around what he describes as the 3 critical movements of the spiritual life, viz. the movements from loneliness to solitude, hostility to hospitality and illusion to prayer. I remember how stunningly clear and navigable Nouwen's guidance made my internal geography seem at that time; and what followed were some of the most spiritually rewarding months I can remember. I was feeling profoundly alone going into this meditation, and as a result quite hostile to life and those around me, as well as lost in a number of internal illusions and illusory remedies. The realization that I needed to move away from my own pain-and trying to conform my life-world to the perceived needs arising from it-and move toward God in solitude, was as profound and cathartic a spiritual revelation as I've had.

So, why am I sharing about this at present? I'm sharing because a series of events over the last six-months has cast me again into that all too familiar space of loneliness; and though manifestly aware of past experience and clear about the contours of this rugged land, I've mostly tried to make my own way. Suffice it to say that such an approach only leads to the same old illusions. How slow we are not only in learning, but in remembering what we've thus learned!

So, today I'm on my way back from lunch, and as I approach the back of our office through the parking lot, I'm looking directly at the back of the building, as always. Only today, unlike dozens and dozens of other days over the last several months, I'm finally captured by the message of the very amateurish graffiti scrawled on the building a few months ago: not alone. I look at it, shake my head and have to laugh at how foolish I feel to have come to work every day for the last several months, looking at these words, and never once allow them to look at me. I guess the hand-writing is on the wall....the joke is on me.......and the efficacy of life and God's provision-however improbable it might be-is made plain once again.