Tuesday, March 27, 2007

being still

I'm attempting emotional quietness in my life. I am almost done with Annie Dillard's classic, "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek", and the whole book reminds me that I live not seeing much of anything. The book is all about this woman's observation and exploration of a specific area of nature, but really only in terms of location. She threads her observations to larger, sometimes disturbing truths that most of us never, ever get near in life, let alone touch on. In order to accomplish this she lived alone for the most part and spent her days simply being still and watching the world around her. There were no attempts to manipulate, analyze, control data or make a sermon out of what she saw, because what she saw spoke so eloquently in it's own workings.

As for myself, I realize I'm so noisy I can't hear myself think, let alone anyone else. I also began to read the letters of Simone Weil, and as much as Annie Dillard observed the outside world, Simone Weil observes the inward world. Along with that book I am reading the meditations of Marcus Aurelius and Edith Hamilton's Mythology. I have forgotten that I need to let my mind wander about on it's own and digest things slowly. Weil was one to recognize the multiple revelations in a culture's old stories and through the scriptures, and somehow I am beginning to gain that skill maybe a little. But revelation unfolds through quietness.

I need the quiet, and I know saints of old and wise men of many cultures understood that quietness begins in the soul. The whole world can be screaming and twirling around us at lightening speed, but we can be centered and still in the midst. Sunday I had to pick up my daughter Becky from the Poconos, and the whole trip was hurried and tiresome. I got there on fumes and had to find a gas station immediately to get home. The first one I saw on the way I was in the wrong lane of traffic and getting to the right one probably would have caused an accident. I drove down the highway to another one, which I realized was closed upon sitting there. The third was out of my way further down the road, and was jam-packed. I sat and waited, and waited and waited for an open pump. Finally....and the thing stopped at one gallon. Ok, not enough to get home. I swiped my card again, and once more...nothing. The attendant motioned me over to another pump and he tried. Nothing. He tried again. Nothing. He tried another pump and NOTHING. He apologized and I zoomed off in a hurry, as though that would help matters. I went back to the first station, and realized there I forgot the gas cap at the other one. I was so angry I hardly knew how to respond. Now writing this all down makes it seem easy to deal with. But my fury knew no bounds. I gassed up, bumped illegally over a lane divider and cut across three lanes of traffic to go retrieve my stupid gas cap. When I got to the other ill-fated station that was thick with cars just ten minutes before, it was deserted and the cashiers were outside having a smoke. I don't know why, but that made me even angrier, plus my cap was gone. Inside I seethed with rage, blamed them all for being idiots, got mad at everything my daughter was saying and the fact that we had a passenger.

I tried to calm myself, I knew it was ridiculous, I knew we would get home just fine. But I still overreact when things like that happen. I did everything I could and there was nothing more I could do. But in doing so I was torn inside. My anger raged through my body and soul like shards of glass. Annie Dillard observes we get through life ragged, like the butterfly with part of a wing shredded by a bird, or insects minus legs or antennae. We get digested and ripped the further we go. But we learn to adapt. And the best way to avoid predators and injury is to move slowly, observe carefully and stop when necessary.


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