for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing
--Galway Kinnell, Saint Francis and the Sow
I am perpetually distressed by the inexplicability of human beings.
I had a dream last night I was moving. Moving boxes, emptying the apartment, wandering through empty rooms. Why do our dreams turn whatever is in our day into an extended visual metaphor for us to play in in our sleep? There's no reason for it. It could easily be not that way. But our brains at night keep dancing, even at rest, they engage in a contorted dialogue with the world around them.
The man on the subway, with the tattoos laced all over his neck and arms, stood by me, crying. And the man on the street corner last night, who looked like he was caught in the ugly throes of substance withdrawal, was crying, too. And my student, yesterday, was crying, too. Why do human beings cry so much?
We walked along the Highline last night, staring into windows, into lives that must be so markedly different than ours, for they are living in glass boxes high above the Chelsea night life. Their lives must be so different, because our simple lives would never leave us there. When you stare into the walls of windows, you see dining room tables that are more polished and chic than yours, but the inhabitants are living lives just as unpolished and pedestrian as yours.
The couple is caught in an embrace, the children are watching stupid TV with the highly saturated colors of children's entertainment, the family is eating, the mother is shopping online, the man is flirting, the boys are playing beer pong. They are all very normal. Why are human beings so predictable? How can it be that each human being is so startlingly different, when there is so much in common we share? How can it possibly be that we are the same species when we are so alarmingly unlike?
How can we spend months caught in patterns we don't bother to examine, that quietly sap us of our interior joy? How can we let this tiny leak go unnoticed, siphoning away our peace, until suddenly we find our cup is dry? Suddenly, we find ourselves unhappy, barren, all our words dried up.
I imagine that I am a very self-aware person, that I am very familiar with the interior movements of my heart. But I am constantly discovering what a large idiot I am, just lost in all the rolling weather fronts that crash inside of me. One of my finest talents I possess is ignoring small tugs of conscience (or even the large ones). I'm very good that that. That talent allows me to carry on with what I want to carry on with, without bothering to examine any other, perhaps better, course.
Eventually, I am led to a moment where I discover, to my dismay, that the night around me is mortally, endlessly dark. All the words that echo the light have vanished. Without any sort of gentle mercy to soften the blow, I find my own loneliness confronting me with violent, inescapable force. The shattering silence of God in my life rings through my bones, and I am forced to reconsider what I had mindlessly accepted, and inserted as an invariable condition in the formula of my life. I must rebalance the equation now.
Once acknowledged, unhappiness seems to lose its suffocating power over you. Once spoken and named, the stifling blanket of discontent loses some of its weight. The words come rushing back, like shower water on a hot summer's day. You gasp for breath as you drink them in, like water running over your face and down your throat.
It seems like a severe mercy; that we can never escape Reality. That, if there is something off-kilter in our heart, it will brew like a storm cloud and suddenly burst upon us. The Truth will always hound us down, and never allow us to ignore Him for long.
But it is a sweet mercy. It is a gentle and kind judgement. We are being wooed away from ourselves, and that invitation never disappears, even in moments we push Him away. He is closer to us than we our to ourselves. For I can forget myself; I can neglect to tend for that quiet garden deep in my heart. But He is always waiting for me there, beckoning me to Him, reminding me of the deepest part of myself where the binding and loosing take place. In the deep that calls to deep, I find the Words I had been seeking there.