Sunday, November 2, 2014

the kids in row 51

This is the secret delight in singing in a choir:
even if, outside of the music, your voices are more often than not discordant, disagreeing, arguing, talking in different keys, to different rhythms, not at all on the same line, much less on the same page,
when you sing next to one another, your voices do what I assume human voices were meant to do--make music.
Music, definition: two voices singing in harmony.

Here is the thing about other people: it is vitally necessary to surround yourself with them.
Because they are always so gloriously unpredictable and indescribable. Because they can be so darn annoying. Because they help you remember that The World According to You does not exist.
When you live with them day in and day out, you find they are perfectly imperfect--there are a thousand little habits that you so easily forget about when they are not smacking food loudly right next to you at table, or clipping their fingernails into a paper bag in the common room.

Being with someone, living alongside them, is such a vastly different experience than simply meeting them for coffee and having a civilized conversation. It is messier than just meeting them for coffee, then going your separate way, certainly. But it is only if we embrace the mess of letting another person into our lives that we will reap the joys that come from living alongside other humans. You will find the joy of simply sit on your couch holding a pillow, and listen to the sound of friends' voices wrap around you in the music of their conversation.
You will find the laughter in rolling around on your floor, listening to Stevie Wonder and giggling with your sisters.
Living alongside is a fundamentally joyful experience, because it teaches you that very important lesson: the world is not about you.

There were days in undergrad I was confronted by the inescapable realization that my college experience was slightly different than the average undergraduate standing next to me in the god-forsaken row 51 of the senior section at the football game.
The debauchery of the Jazz Age has nothing on Row 51.
I call this: "Before Our Snowy Innocence was Scarred by Row 51"
When people ask what's in like being a theatre and theology major, I would often start spouting off some eloquent commentary on the sacred art of story-telling.
Really, what I should have done was describe a typical Saturday night: discussions of practical living out of theology of the body, interrupted by loud, low beltings of: "...I've never seen a diamond in the fleeesh..." and renditions of Lorde's appearance on the Ellen Show.
That is what it means to live a life infused with both theatre enthusiasts and theologists [new year, new word].
For, that was one of the deepest and sweetest gifts of the programs of study that I found: I was surrounded by people too precious to describe.
Thoughtful, kind, intentional, just, good, and passionate: I took for granted, I realized, all those years of how those people had shaped me so completely. Becoming satisfied with who I had evolved into, I forgot that it was only because constant daily interaction with others that I had been sanded down into the shape I currently wore.
But I have found that the friends who have influenced me most are those who have the magic of what Romano Guardini describes as "composure":

Composure is more than freedom from scattered impressions and occupations. It is something positive; it is life in its full depth and power. Left to itself, life will always turn outward toward a multiplicity of things and events, and this natural inclination must be counterbalanced.

If you hear the account of someone who has met a holy woman or man (Think John Paul II or Mother Teresa), usually they are so struck by that person's attentiveness and peace. As they recount their meeting, they usually include a sentence or two to the effect of: I felt as if I had their whole attention. Or: I felt like I was the only person they were thinking about, or something to that effect.
Essentially, these holy men and women have mastered composure: calming their busy hearts and minds, focusing them on one person. They are able to attend with charity to each person who approaches them, with serenity. And the person encountering them basks in the warmth of their serene attention.
Robert Bellarmine, a Jesuit of the 16th century, writes that this composure, this solitary peace settles into a heart because that heart loves not "with a private, individual love, but all in Christ for the sake of Christ." In other words, the souls that have learned to see their neighbor as a sacrament of Christ cannot help but devote their entire attention to that person who, at that moment, is completely and utterly Christ to them.
After these past two feast days that have celebrated the multitude of saints, living and dead, who populate the Body of Christ, I cannot help but feel grateful for all the saints in my life.
Those who do not even know how beautiful they are, yet still model Christ to me.
Those who wear their beauty with poise and grace, and inspire me with their pursuit of beauty and truth.
Those saints who have been in my life for so long they are part of the architecture of my heart, and those saints who cross my path for a brief and beautiful moment, shedding their light in my life with a brief and brilliant flash.
And for those saints who have helped me cultivate composure, by helping me to slow down my busy day, by disrupting my schedule, by pulling me out of my plan for the day, and helping me see Christ in the present, in the here and now. 
In the friend I welcome into my heart, and in the stranger I encounter on the subway.
They are all the saints who assist me on my journey, as I learn to love them all with not a private, individual love, but with a love that is greater than my own.

Community means lots of photo shoots.

Colorfully Composed.

Thespians are the most composed.

Remember, ladies modest is hottest. And so is composure.

Wine. Cheese. Pearls. Curls. And lots of composure, of course.

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