But for today I am going to write something real. Just put it out there. My thinking on this morning of the new year when the sun is shining in warmly on my neck and reflecting off the computer screen, and my feathered finches are earnestly splashing and chatting their morning ablutions.
If you know me well you know that I am blessed to be mentored by Susan Muto/Adrian Van Kaam. I say their names almost as one, although Susan is the person I know. She and Fr. Adrian share a body of work and a world view that profoundly influences my thinking. I hear Susan's voice in my head and it is Adrian's ideas I often ponder.
Last night instead of trying to 'sparkle' I read "150 Writing Guidelines" by Adrian Van Kaam. As with anything he writes, the ideas are about life and living, not just about a craft, in this case the craft of writing.
A fundamental tenant of Van Kaam's idea of spiritual wellness is that one must remain gentle. (He himself incarnated this value to the end of his life.) Gentility, by his definition, is not about social graces. (I think here of a tall, thin gentleman standing in a morning suit smoking a thin cigar and staring elegantly out the window.) Rather, it is about an inner emotional attitude of ease, grace, playfulness and detached restful creativity that excludes anything forced or demanding.
This list of 150 guidelines returns often to the idea that weariness in a task is not likely caused by the task, but rather by the attitude taken during the task. While one's work needs to be carefully enacted, quality of work (functionalism) must be subordinated to a spirit of openness, peace and, even, radiance. To succumb to functionalism is to become forced, stiff, eventually angry and from there, exhausted of inner reserves. (I have worked for persons whose whole work is done in this kind of anger.)
"Check your attitude when you are overtired, not your activity; your emotion, not your production; your concern, not your application; the tenseness of your activity, not its quality; your stiffness of posture, not the posture itself."
I think of all the times I have been utterly worn out by work and people. How it has made me uncaring, unable to love. How my meanest striving has not produced harmonious clear results, only headaches and tension and sometimes hurt. I sense this idea needs to sink deep into my soul - it has layers that I cannot understand yet - I want to allow it teach me a new way. I must become a student here. If what Van Kaam is saying is true, and I think it is... then a world of possibility has opened up to me.
Van Kaam suggests we relax as if at a sea shore. I did not see an ocean until I was 36. I was stunned at the effect it had on me. The ocean coast now is my best place. Waves and sand and wide spaces soothe me, make me feel my life, open my heart to love. Can my work be done from the ocean that is in my soul?
Another mentor and friend, Charles, once told me of regretfully leaving a monastery after a meaningful retreat, and being encouraged by a resident monk to 'take the monastery with him' into his world. I think Van Kaam is saying the same thing.
Jesus did this. We miss seeing it, mostly, of course. We think Jesus was about accomplishing things. Maybe he carried an inner landscape within his soul. Maybe it was a landscape of the hills of heaven, or of the other side of the universe.
So that is what I am thinking about today. I have more. It might show up here or on a site called "Sand in my Pants." Who knows?