Friday, 20 July 2007

The slenderest of cords

The days have come and gone since I last posted anything here, and, despite wanting to write and wanting my thoughts to take an understandable form that would lead to that sometimes (to me) astonishing production of words that not only clarifies for myself, but hopefully conveys to others, the meaning of whatever has been stirring within my mind, I have had no idea what will come next.
Despite all attempts to gather ideas and thoughts in ways that would stimulate the production of explanatory sentences, I have, it seems, increasingly become a blank canvas: a potential means of proclaiming and announcing God’s presence and truth, but with nothing to proclaim except my own willingness and desire to be used for that purpose. One moment a sense of filled and overflowing emptiness, and then, in unanticipated and uncontrollable ways, a wholly unexplainable fullness billowing from the effects of several things coming to mind all at once; an experience which leaves me devoid of all understanding, and certainly without any means of communicating that experience – let alone the meaning of it – to anyone else, or even to myself.

That is precisely what has happened through my thinking about and writing about the tree, trees in general, and the way ivy will overtake them if left undisturbed. The uncovering of that tree has drawn me out of whatever frame of mind enabled me to put together the various ideas and feelings I have had since starting to write here.
So many days have passed that I now find myself looking at the situation as though I have missed something.
I cannot relax my mind’s grip on the possibility of every incident and event being of significance, and of the superficial sterility of these days having hidden what is – in keeping with my undeniable sense of significance in almost all that surrounds me at this time – a serious and profoundly important instruction and direction for me.
Having felt as though drawn away from the edge (though in fact having had the edge transformed for me), and having been taken into a quieter and deeper absorption in the focus of my life, love and longing within this world, the presence of God has been manifested for me repeatedly within the things closest to me: my family , my home, and its calming effects on each of us who live here. My garden has become my lecture hall, my encyclopaedia, my teacher’s blackboard and my revision notes, as well as the screen upon which my heart casts and my mind views its collection of dreams.

I have had the basics of my faith laid out before me in ways that have brought the past, with its touches of wonder and innocent love, into the earthiness of my present. My mature and adult perception of myself, and of my weakness and strength, has brought a needed realism to the fantasy that has for so long prevented my having a real contact with the guide and the source of my faith.

Time has slipped away with a persistent inability to bring my mind to any form of focus; I have strained to utter within myself some coherent and cohesive phrase which will at least hint at the edification for which I long. At first thought so saddening, so hurtful, so strange, though ultimately such a balm, and such a blessing; – a bitter-sweet touch: a velvet-soft piercing by the talons of paradox.
The emptiness is full to the brim with some intangible and unrecognizable meaning which entirely negates all sense of emptiness while simultaneously maintaining and confirming the void. The undeniable sense of fullness and overflowing has at its heart an unassailable hollowness: an emptiness which grasps the heart so tightly that even taking breath becomes a tear-provoking strain against an unyielding and unforgiving chest. A longing manacled to a deepening regret drags at the heels of one who would fly; I am held, as it were, in chains before the seat of all that is, all that has ever been , and all that shall come to be.
Nothing is of any real consequence save that unknown permanence towards which I am drawn, but from which I am held back by other desires and seemingly unconquerable and undeniable weaknesses.

St John of the Cross tells us in Ascent of Mount Carmel. (I:XI) “…habitual imperfections…for example…some slight attachment which we never quite wish to conquer…is of…great harm to (the soul’s) growth and progress in virtue…for as long as it has this there is no possibility that it will make progress in perfection, even though the imperfection be extremely slight. For it comes to the same thing whether a bird be held by a slender cord or by a stout one; since, even if it be slender, the bird will be as well held as though it were stout, for so long as it breaks it not and flies not away.
It is true that the slender one is the easier to break; still, easy though it be, the bird will not fly away if it be not broken. And thus the soul that has attachment to anything, however much virtue it possess, will not attain to the liberty of Divine union.”

I have been allowed to drift within the folds of God’s cloak during these days, as though drawing breath after shedding restrictions of my own devising.
At one point in the freeing of that tree, it took more than an hour to remove ivy from a single foot of branch, so deeply had it embedded in a wrap-around grip that included the encasing of two stumps of smaller branches. These were not visible until the ivy had been removed and were much of the reason why I found the task almost impossible without damaging the tree itself. At that point, some twenty feet above the ground, the ivy and the tree had become almost one and the same structure, with the approaching death of that branch being un-witnessed, unnoticed, and having no effect on the outer image of the ongoing growth that clung ever more tightly to the frame on which it had hauled itself from the depths.
In the same way our own attachments become part of us: they become as natural to us as breathing, but so long as we allow them to thrive within us, they endlessly tighten their grip on our thought, our consciousness and our subsequent behaviour.
We unknowingly surrender ourselves to a living death in which our true self is buried ever deeper beneath the lethal caress of those attachments.
The delicate looking tendril of ivy is as the slender cord which prevents the bird from taking flight; it is easily broken, but so long as it remains it destroys all chance of potential being realized.
The bird was made to fly. Can it ever truly be what it was meant to be without the freedom to fly away?
The tree was made to grow unrestricted, to the limits of its potential within the ground that is its home. The delicate and attractive ivy shoots grow, become deeply embedded, restrict growth and eventually kill.
Our worldly attachments work in the same way; our spiritual life is at risk from the very first attractions, and those slenderest of cords, if not severed, soon become unbreakable through our own strength.
God alone can save us from them: He alone can cut us free, but we still have to surrender ourselves to whatever pains may be involved in the necessary amputation.
“… if you aspire to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an ordeal.” (Ecclesiasticus 2:1)

About Me

Who I am should be, and should remain, of little consequence to you. Who you are is what matters; who you are meant to be is what should matter most to you. In coming closer to my own true self, I have gradually been filled with the near inexpressible: I have simply become "brim full", and my words to you are drawn from those uttered within myself, as part of an undeniable overflowing that brings a smile to my every dusk, and to my every new dawn.
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