Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Rule is not a Rule is not a Rule

We’ve been talking a lot about Rules lately, and how they are so easy to rely on and so hard to let go of – even when we know that the Rules may not take us where we mean to go. We hope that doing our homework helps us learn, but it’s the learning we mean to achieve. . . .

I got to thinking last week about the fact that I’m not much of a Rule person myself – never met one I wouldn’t break is how one annoyed person once put it. But I usually break them in the service not of the Spirit, but of Getting Something Done. Completion and deadlines are my bêtes noirs, as it were – the thing that reduces me to mindless behavior, as if my life depended on it.

Which, of course, it doesn’t; though I fear sometimes the people around me may fear that their lives might.

Talismans. We all have them. The things we think (or, often, don’t think) we can do or say or be that somehow buy us the right not to pay attention to anything else, no matter how important it might be. If we just eat enough spinach, nothing will ever defeat us – no man, no beast, no disease, nothing.

Nothing but inattention – the very thing I begin to think is the most impermeable boundary between us and the Kingdom. The thing that ensures that we don’t relate to anything or anyone, not God, not friend, not neighbor.

As I think about some of the many ways we’ve talked about making space for the Spirit, I am struck by the ways they are variations on a theme: stop and enjoy the wildflowers; really listen to our partners, children, and colleagues; enjoy the exhilaration of that really perfect wave. All are really about Paying Attention. Even acknowledging the depth of some pain that must be lived through is a prelude to giving it up . . . .

Maybe on the days the World is too much with us, if we can just shift our focus and really pay attention to something – anything – we can let down enough walls and create enough space for the Kingdom to touch us on the shoulder or take us by the hand and begin to draw us back in.

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