Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Mike: Reply to Rami's 5/27 Post

I rather like Brother Lawrence's little book, which recounts a conversation with him. His secret lay in his ability to focus on one thing: being open to the experience of God's presence, even as he went about the simple tasks of his typical day, such as washing pots and pans.

That's the ticket, isn't it? Whether making use of spiritual practices, such as the ones you note, or going about our daily chores, the trick is to learn to see the divine in the mundane. For me it now comes most often as the result of a mental discipline, but it began long before I read or heard of spiritual exercises.

Actually, I don't think I started the matter. It came to me, mostly through books. Three examples must suffice. As a small boy, I remember reading the Norse story of the death of the gods. The battle itself did not intrigue me, but the resolve of the gods to fight though they knew they must die did. In fact, the story took me out of myself for a few moments, and I knew I stood in the presence of One greater than myself.

Another breakthrough came when I read The Lord of the Rings, while in the eighth grade. Gandalf's self-sacrifice on the bridge, when he fell into darkness along with his foe, the Balrog, broke through my deeply engrained reserve. For a few moments, I lay open, and One greater than myself touched my deepest heart.

In my freshman year of college, while sitting in a physics class and listening to a lecture, a sudden vision of the universe's integration struck me. I doubt the experience lasted more than three or four seconds, but for that instant I "saw" the big picture.

These, of course, are only examples gleaned from a larger group of experiences in my formative years. Later, I began to discipline myself to look at people, history, story, physics, the cosmos and the like with eyes wide open. Sometimes I experience something similar to what you describe, not often, but sometimes. I find the occasional experiences sufficient to sustain hope.

If you open the coffee house, perhaps you'll need a quiet (though scarcely silent) partner!

On to the Tenth Commandment!

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