I am back from NYC, where I stayed at the apartment of a friend of a friend in East Harlem. I have always enjoyed a building that smells of roast chicken, and cheap laundry detergent, and Raid. The sirens from the cop cars at the projects across the way, the free wi-fi at Burger King, and the friendly cries of "Americana!" also went toward making me feel at home. I was tired the first day and thought, briefly, that I "should" go to a museum, or a gallery, or some sophisticated person-type thing, but I chose instead to lie in bed and look at the leaves on the tree outside my window, and listen to the sparrows. I am as driven, perhaps more driven, than the next person, but I am also deeply resistant to the cultural mandate of "busyness." How are you? we ask. I'm busy, we reply, as if that's an answer. I always think being too busy is a sign of some egregious failure on my part--a failure of faith; a failure of being true to my deepest self.
So I was busy but I wasn't too busy. I walked up to Corpus Christi on 121st for 8:00 Mass on Monday. Thomas Merton was baptized there and though I am not a huge Merton fan, I am grateful for him, and his work and life. Simone Weil, during her brief time in New York, also attended Mass at Corpus Christi, and though at some point I always somewhat impatiently part ways with the good Simone, I am also grateful to her, and sympathize with her, and see that her suffering, like all suffering, is a mystery that none of us are equipped to judge. I had lunch with my dear friend of 20 -plus years Ann. She has always been beautiful and she still is. We walked a bit in Central Park, near the West 80's, afterward. I walked every chance I got, as walking is how I come to know a place. Walking and sharing a meal and looking at people's faces and going to Mass.
Monday night, I spoke at a series called Theology on Tap, at Slattery's Midtown Pub. As Carl Jung said, the Latin word spiritus is the same for the most depraving poison and the highest religious experience, so it was good to be talking about Jesus at a bar. The folks were welcoming, attentive, and kind and I would like to thank Tim O'Reilly for inviting me, everyone who showed up, and John Egan for giving me a gift I wasn't able to use this trip but will avail myself of next time.
Wednesday I got to travel to Park Slope, Brooklyn--who would like to put me up for a week or two or three there? Come on, I'll be super quiet! I'll tell jokes and say the rosary with you!--and hook up with Deacon Greg Kandra, the lovely Francesca Maxime, and the staff at NET NY, where I filmed a segment for Greg's show, "Currents," that should be on any day/minute.
As I made my way around around New York, I thought a lot about how all the experiences of my life had fed my creativity. I thought a lot about an observation (thank God we had at least one that night) of Msgr. Albacete's: that sin doesn't generate pain; being forgiven for sin does. Suffering doesn't lead to joy; joy leads to suffering. It's only in experiencing the risen Christ, however momentarily, that we see our habitual blindness, our tragic cowardice, our desperate, doomed efforts to serve both God and mammon.
|"It is necessary to uproot oneself. |
To cut down the tree and make of it a cross,
and then to carry it every day."
Or as someone once said:
"I don't like guilt be it stoned or stupid
Drunk and disorderly I ain't no cupid."