Monday, January 2, 2012

PALM SPRINGS




Hey, man, I'm in Palm Springs. At my friend Christine's all-white house. I'm not even kidding, the whole place is white: outside walls, inside walls, counters, floors, chairs...my biggest fear the last few days has been that I'll explode and get coffee over everything. 

Christine gave me detailed instructions before I came out--the garbage, the alarm, the butterfly chairs in the event of wind. I kept it all together, dutifully writing everything down, until the day she called to say, "You can't vacuum the (long-haired angora, dyed, one bright orange, one midnight-blue) rugs. And if you run the Swifter around them, make sure you roll them up because if they get wet, they'll bleed all over the floor." "Okay, stop right there,"  I said. "Back up just one minute. What on God's green earth is a Swifter?"

It turns out she was saying Swiffer which is apparently a common cleaning implement these days. I wouldn't know, being stuck back in the era of Bon Ami, elbow grease, and a rag cut from an old percale sheet, which is how me mum cleaned and how I would clean, if I cleaned all that much. I am not a slob (I think I said that last post); but I am kind of a lick-and-a-promise person and will dab ineffectively around the edges of things. I'm super conscientious around other people's things, though, so even though I'm here for another week I'm already obsessed with leaving Christine's house clean. I 'shared' and she said Don't worry about it and I forgot to say there's a pass in my name for the Indian Canyons you can use.  That's Christine, who is a gem and is attending a spiritual retreat while I sit gazing out over Mt. Jacinto, her Meyer-lemon laden Meyer lemon tree, and her pool. 

What interests me more and more, as I gaze (and wander around old Las Palmas, and read, and nibble, and write) is that God knew/knows from the beginning that good will triumph but whether, like us, he’s waiting and hoping to see how. He says I’ll be with you till the end of time. He’ll never give up on us. He’ll never abandon us. But I have to believe that we are literally given a chance to change the course of the whole drama, to steer it, in however an infinitesimal way, toward the light. Because time has not ended yet. The jury is still out. And if He literally…what if God Himself is in the same boat we’re in—watching, hoping, wondering? What if He made this whole insane cosmos, has been willing to let it go, and is simply praying with all his heart that we turn to Him, WITHOUT BEING SURE THAT IN THE END WE WILL? What’s way more wondrous than all of science is that we seem to be in a kind of friend relationship with Him. That he calls us friends. That he invites us to be co-creators…

OUR LADY OF SOLITUDE CHURCH
151 W. ALEJO ROAD
7:30 A.M. DAILY MASS
My beginning-of-the-year reflections is a sense that I am being called I don’t think to anything drastic but to a way deeper level of surrender. Of depending on God for everything. Which I really don’t, or not nearly enough as I could. I try to handle things myself and then I obsess about them. I can’t be like my dear dear late father, who when he was finally in the hospital near the end hated to ask the nurses ("the poor overworked souls") for help, for fear of bothering them, for fear he would not be good or loved if he asked for help. You have to become like a child who has no choice but to ask for help, who instinctively, with a pure, innocent heart, asks for help, knowing it will be forthcoming.

And meanwhile you don’t do one thing out of guilt.
And you don’t let one person hold you hostage.
And I am crazy grateful to be in this beautiful house where it is QUIET and this sun-kissed (that is not an exaggeration) town where there's a church, tons of sober alkies, and lots of places to wander.

Here's a little piece of hand-written wisdom I discovered yesterday morning on the inside cover of my Hope for Today, which I bought used off of amazon in October and thus, it being one of those a page for each of the 365 days of the year books, I had never opened from the beginning.

"Do not--accuse, attack, berate, belittle, apologize, explain, make excuses."

She/he meant don't apologize if you haven't done anything wrong. Guaranteed.

20 comments:

  1. Nice pics, especially the traffic calming -- we could use some that in NE Ohio right now where winter has finally arrived. My in-laws winter in Palm Springs, we've been there and this time of year it feels like a different universe.

    Speaking of which, do you really believe that God is in the same boat we're in? Or are you just kinda thinking out loud and stirring our individual/collective complacent perpetually ungrateful worldview pot? It's not a bad question -- who He is and what is He thinking -- actually, now that I think about it, it's a great question. Much as I've tried, He has refused to be compartmentalized, which seriously threatens my particular lifelong coping strategy.

    But you don't really think He's like us, do you? That He's not sure which way we'll turn, toward Him or away. It's a fair question.

    Remember, too much sun (just like Brussel sprouts) can be detrimental to one's health.

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  2. Hi Erin, well, who can fathom? But we do know Christ was like us, Christ was one of us, in everything but sin (which granted is a big but: nonetheless...).

    And Christ himself said, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me?" [John 14:9-10]. Christ was/is God. And Christ himself, in his agony, said "Father, Father, why have you forsaken me?" Which means God, while being of total faith, while constituting faith in reality, in some sense "doubts" himself...

    I think Chesterton writes about this in Orthodoxy, how Christianity should in fact be of great appeal to non-believers, as GOD HIMSELF is in solidarity with them...

    As Meister Eckhart said, "God is greater than God." And God is perhaps stranger than God, too...

    Fyi, I'm inside, wrapped in shawls, well out of the sun at the moment...

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  3. Hmm ... Ps 22? That works, I guess. Very inconvenient, tho.

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  4. YOUCAT (Youth Catechism) quotes St Augustine: We cannot talk about God, but woe to the one who remains silent about him. As fools rush in where angels fear to tread, here I come.
    Aren't we into the mystery of the Holy Trinity here? Jesus, Second Person, fully God and fully man, in His manhood died on the Cross and in His Divinity conquered death by His Resurrection...so it was in His manhood that He cried out to the Father in death's agonies.
    In the "omnies," God is omniscient, all-knowing. He is outside the confines of space and time, so He knows the end of the story. He knows who among us shall end up accepting His Love. But He is a gentleman in the Third Person; the Holy Spirit does not force Himself on anyone. We have our free will to accept or reject, which is a necessary component of love; love must be given freely and accepted freely or it would not be love.
    This God-knowing-the-end-of-the-story brings end times into the conversation. Jesus says that no one knows the day or the time. Omniscient God knows, but He doesn't force it. It is our freely choosing (individually on a personal level and collectively on a worldwide scale) to embrace His Love that consummates the union of His Bride (the Mystical Body) and Himself, which consummation marks the end of the world, the end of time. Since the whole thing is all about love, and since we are in the picture as co-creators/co-actors, it is in a sense all up to us, i.e., God didn't preordain and 'know' ahead of time 'a priori' just when there would be enough love to call it a wrap. His Love is complete; it is our love that needs to grow enough to become His Spouse; we are the ones holding back the progress of Eternal Love. The King cannot espouse a mealy-mouse queen--we must as the Mystical Body be somehow so full of love that we merit to marry Him--and it is impossible for us, so we must (individually and collectively) surrender our small selves so completely to Him that it is no longer us but Christ who lives in us so that He is loved by an equal Love to that which He gives--so that He is Loved by His Own Love, really, which is why we need to let go and let God. This is why pride is such a menace and humility is all important--my pride doesn't want me to let go; it wants me to hold on, reign, rule my (and, by necessity, your) world. It is mind-boggling, but each of us contributes to ushering-in the Mystical Marriage every time we renounce our selfishness and embrace God's freely-given grace to act out and build His Love in our life and in our world. This is our mission as Church; my personal mission is the facet God gives me in this picture; I think that our individual facet grows to the extent that we respond to God's grace to be a saint. When any one of us is good, it helps us all. When one of us is bad, it harms us all. We are in this together, fellow members of the Mystical Body. Thank you for your goodness; thank you for your love!

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  5. Heather, I think I forgot to sign my comment...I went on and on about the Trinity, Love, Mystical Body...sent it a few minutes ago...Your blog gets me to thinking...thank you!

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  6. I just think it totally amazing that we can communicate with pilgrim souls all over this globe!
    To read and see pictures of life in Palm Springs.....whilst I am stuck here in cold,damp Yorkshire, UK,Havent seen the sun since before Xtmas !
    Probably Von Balthasar had something to say about God being one with us. He must be waiting for us as He gave us Freewill. Ciao

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  7. I would love to see that serene and beautiful-looking church from the inside. It looks like a place of warmth and peace.

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  8. Explanation of "traffic calming", via questing reader Kathy Wikman...http://www.pps.org/articles/livememtraffic/

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  9. TRAFFIC CALMING AHEAD!, Oh, would that go over well in NYC?

    Swiffers are very good. Quick, too.
    The thing about living with less, is well less to clean and less to worry about cleaning. Of, course, when I think about all the downsizing that I HAD to do-giving the monetary circumstances, I am suddenly getting nostalgic. I know it was "STUFF",BUT, sometimes you need that STUFF.

    It sounds so peaceful and looks so beautiful there. If, your friend ever wants a housekeeper with a toy poodle, I might be willing.

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  10. God definitely knows the end of the story...He knows everything.

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  11. Hi Oddy, yes, but knowing the end of the story doesn't necessarily preclude excruciating anxiety, suffering, pain.

    Christ knew he had to die and be raised on the third day: that didn't preclude him from being in utter anguish in the Garden and utter agony on the Cross.

    We, too, "know" that love will reign. We, too, while knowing we will die, believe in the Resurrection. That doesn't save us from fear, anxiety, pain and anguish on behalf of ourselves, our loved ones and the world any more than it did Christ.

    So as I'm sure you understood, I'm not questioning God's omniscience; I'm bowing down to his infinite and ineffable tenderness. If Christ is God, and Christ suffered so terribly, then God himself seems to suffer the anxiety of waiting, of our human knowing but not knowing, with us...

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  12. surely Christ's earthly,human suffering ended on the Cross ?
    We cannot enter the mind of God. God cannot suffer like we do.

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  13. Heather, I can't tell you how much I love you and everything you write, and how your mind works and the WAY you write,too. I know New years Day was the day your loving readers said hi - well, today is my day. Have been following you since your piece in the Sun (like another reader here). I love your erudition, your breadth and your depth. I love the spontanaeity of your thinking - the freedom to wonder about things, your room for uncertainty - and all with such deep faith. What a wonderful question you raise here - whether God might be wondering, with us, about how "the drama" ends. You have juxtaposed two apparently contradictory thoughts - that Christ is God, and yet Christ cried out from a sense of abandonment. Right now I just enjoy that puzzle.

    Most of all I just had to add my voice to the many who follow you, and say that many of us are mostly silent, yet love you. Who else speaks as you do? Nelson Mandela said something about how as each person lives authentically, he frees others to do the same. That is the best legacy anyone could leave.

    And hello, too, to all your other readers from around the world. It just shows - depth, truth, honesty really draw people. Thanks, dear Heather!

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  14. I was thrown off, Heather, by the 'wondering' part because if I wonder then I don't know yet--so I really did think you were somehow calling Omniscience to the table. I do believe God suffers with us (immensely, even) and that he He beholds His creation with a form of wonder. Hardon SJ says that The Sacrifice of the Cross is continued on earth through the Sacrifice of the Mass. In some way, Jesus' passion is still occurring. On the other hand, it is also said that God doesn't need us, that He is perfect happiness wholly apart from us. But then Mother Teresa was spurred to quench Jesus' Thirst now, present tense. Maybe He wants us desperately but doesn't need us at all. Heather, I think you have opened up a holy, beautiful paradox for us here. Sorry to go pedantic on your lovely prose.

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  15. What I'm really pondering here are the stupendous, earth-shattering ramifications of the Incarnation. That God came into human history at a particular place and time, suffered, died, was buried, rose on the third day...and that he also existed before time began (that's clumsy but shorthand for the also unfathomable mystery of time) and will exist after.

    So while his earthly suffering is over, his Body is broken and his Blood is spilled anew every day, all day, on every altar in every Catholic church throughout the world, not to mention all day, every day, in each of us...just as he is also resurrected, all day, every day...If I did not believe Christ suffers with us I would not for one second have become or stayed a Catholic. So in a way maybe I'm wondering what does it mean, from God's point of view, to "suffer with?" How does God experience his "suffering with" us?...Just because we can't answer such questions doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't ask them.

    I had a very distinct sense one day, just going about my day but my body was aching in various ways, and I suddenly "knew" absolutely that God's shoulder is to the wheel alongside ours. He's not just "up there" saying Do my bidding, he has pitched his tent among us and works, toils, sweats, worries and as I said necessarily waits with us somehow...I'm no theologian but isn't that the very essence of the Incarnation? That, to me, does not diminish God; it enlarges Him...

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  16. oh yes, Heather, how many times I have felt His shoulder intimately next to mine against the grind stone, and He seems to say 'You can yield my child, for I am here...'
    Or I have felt His tear drop mingled alongside mine on my cheek, and He seems to say 'See, your tears are precious to me'...

    And because I DON'T see the end from the beginning, or even the next good moment from my present despair, all the more I lean, trusting that He does know and I realize I desperately need to trust that He does know...

    But you raise another question for me: does He need me to trust and to yield in order to accomplish what He sees? Am I (are we) critical to His desire... or simply along for the ride...?

    and I love the last pic :) That's one to take up as a banner!

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  17. Also, thank you, "Unknown"/Sun reader! So happy to know of/hear from you--yes, this is just it: we ponder the paradox of Christ; we puzzle. Truly God and truly man: along with Mary, face-to-face with the angel Gabriel, we ask, "How can this be?"...

    Denis, glad you enjoyed the Palm Springs pix in the drizzly UK...it IS kind of unbelievable, all of it...and thanks, too, to Barb, Dylan, Carie, Maire, Erin and Oddy for puzzling along with me...

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  18. ECKHARTISM. General name for the spiritual teaching of Meister Eckhart (1260-1327), the German Dominican mystic and of his followers. In 1329, Pope John XXII condemned twenty-eight of Eckhart's sentences as heretical or dangerous, e.g.: "We are totally transformed into God and changed into Him … Though a person commits a thousand mortal sins, if he is rightly disposed, he should not wish not to have committed them … A good man is the only begotten Son of God."

    Investigation of his doctrine has since indicated Eckhart's personal orthodoxy, while admitting indiscretion in language and the fact that his writings have been used by persons unfavorable to the Church, as Kant to defend agnostic idealism, Hegel to defend pantheism, and Rosenberg to defend Nazis.

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  19. Thank you for your January 3, 1:44 p.m. comment on pondering the mystery of the Incarnation and the mystery of suffering. I read a Vatican document about a year ago by JPII on "Suffering", and he asked, and tried to answer, these very quesstions. One thing I love about the Catholic Church is its embrace of the reality of suffering.

    John W. White
    Purcellville, Va

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  20. Thanks, Maria--I still think God is greater than God.

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