Wednesday, October 12, 2005


I recommend doing the things you need to do, the things you must do, without having to understand, or explain, why you are doing them. Work them in. Do them in your spare time, maybe when everyone else is asleep, or no one is watching, so that you don’t have to spend your time defending, excusing, justifying, and explaining. It doesn’t matter if nothing ever comes of it. If you have to write, then write, even if no one ever reads what you have written; even if nothing is ever published; even if you never read one poem to the local garden club. If you have to draw, draw; if you have to paint, paint; if you have to fish, fish; if you have to read, read. If you have to go to the mountains, or to the beach, go.
Where are you most “yourself”? If it were up to you, what would you spend your time doing? Do more of that. This is the best advice you’ll ever get.
I love two cups of coffee in the morning, two glasses of wine in the evening, writing for an hour or so before going to the office, a hot shower, and going to bed. I love at least those five things about every day. They are rituals, of sorts, cherished moments with their own time-within-time. Time stops for them, and waits until they are done. I don’t have fifteen minutes in which to drink the coffee or the wine, or an hour in which to write, or ten minutes in which to take a shower, or eight hours to sleep. I have as long as it takes. These moments are immune to the clock, off limits to “hurry.” And, they are part of every day. And, redeem the day; and, make the day possible.
I think a ritual has to be loved, relished, cherished, in order to be worth anything. The church is dead, and dying, in part because the things we do there don’t mean a thing to us. The standing and the sitting, the creeds and the hymns and the prayers. Crystallized rituals. Who are we kidding? I don’t drink two cups of coffee because someone else thinks I ought to. Or two glasses of wine because I’m supposed to. Not many of us love what goes on “in church.” Most of us are glad when it’s over. We are very aware of the clock. If it goes past an hour, we are hacked. We bear it grudgingly week after week, and don’t miss it when we skip it. What would it take, do you think, to get our hearts into the rituals, to love what we are doing? I think we would have to change the rituals, for one thing. And, we would have to change our mind-set, our perspective, for another. We would have to change what we think and what we do.
To what, is the question. To a more conscious awareness of who we are, and how it is with us, what we are about, and what we need to be about it, and what needs to happen in order to make these things possible. We gather on Sunday mornings for what? To do what? We have to sit with these questions and feel our way into the answers. “To be with one another” feels right to me. “To be encouraged and sustained by each others’ presence,” feels right as well. “To be reminded of how it is with us and what we can do about it,” feels right as well. “To put a little distance between ourselves and our lives”; “to get our feet back under us”; “to recover from the past and store up for the future”; “to be enabled to live toward as much as we know of God, to live toward as much of the good as we can imagine, within the circumstances and conditions of our lives”; “to gather ourselves for another go at the lives that are ours to live”; “to find what we need in order to get up and do what needs to be done.” These are the things that occur to me.
None of these things has much to do with prayers of confession, assurances of pardon, the Creed, and the Our Father, three hymns and an offertory and a Gloria Patri. We need new rituals. New ways of being together. We need to reinvent Sunday morning. We can’t just play the organ louder.

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