Tuesday, July 3, 2012

NORMAL





I am made to creep about the edges of things.

Trying to make me into a "normal" citizen is like trying to “make” a gay person straight. We need people who raise families and we need people who consider listening to the birds a useful, vital, necessity, as essential as air and food. We need generalists and we need particularists. We need people who are happy, joyous and free and we need obsessives, neurotics, misfits, malcontents, and cranks.

In a way, St. Thérèse is the saint of people who don’t know how to do anything “useful.” You're on fire with the desire to give all and then you realize your all is absurdly small! Your all is like the child who burns down the house and then, filled with remorse, tenderly scrapes together a quarter to rebuild it. Here, here’s everything I have! A quarter, a penny...

Just as then Martha complained of Mary her sister, so to this day do actives complain of contemplatives. Wherever you find anyone, man or woman, in any body of people, religious or secular (there are no exceptions), who feel moved by God’s grace and guidance to forsake all outward activity and set about living the contemplative life and who, as I say, knows what he is about, his conscience and advisors corroborating, just as soon will you find his brothers, sisters, best friends, and sundry others, who know nothing of his inward urge, or the contemplative life itself, rise up with great complaint, and sharply reprove him, and tell him he is wasting his time. And they will recount all sorts of tales, some false and some true, describing how such men and women who have given themselves up to such a life in the past have fallen. There is never a tale of those who make good.

--The Cloud of Unknowing, anonymous,circa 1370




THE BACK YARD

18 comments:

  1. Great words for Independence Day, Heather.
    If you haven't read Godric, by Frederick Buechner, you must.
    If you have, you must read it again.
    It's Chris H., but my iPad won't let me log in normally.

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  2. I LOVE listening to the birds. I also love your writing. I've been making my way through "Shirt of Flame" this week; reading each chapter in the Adoration Chapel.
    Along with singing birds, this has been my favorite part of the day.
    thank you :)

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  3. yes, yes. SOMEone needs to listen to the birds, singing. so she can tell the rest of us about it.

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  4. You have described beautifully my exact feelings which I am too inarticulate to express. My heart is overflowing with desire to love and serve God, but my talents and energy are meager. Thank you, Heather, for helping me to understand myself. You are a beautiful soul.

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  5. Dear Heather,

    which translation of Cloud are you reading?

    Anon's suggestion of Buechner's Godric is a good suggestion. Haven't read it in years.

    And on a personal note, feeling rather "useless" these days as a certain dream/idea for me promoted by others including a number of priests is clearing a dead-dream. I am working through a purpose to my new uselessness. It's going to involve even more zen-like simplicity yet dedication. It's also proving to be grand fodder for poetry which is coming faster than art on my site these days.

    P.S. as today is July 4, a happy Independence day to you from a faithful Canadian reader.

    P.P.S. they did not take my suggestion for your SoF book as the summer reading pick. Sorry. Their choice is so lameo I'm not bothering.

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  6. Happy 4th, people, thanks, and glad you can relate...I'm in NH so my Cloud of Unknowing's back home and I don't know the translation, though I can tell you my little copy is old and it's orange...Thanks for Godric tip as well, Chris, everything I've read of Buechner's I've liked so I'll check it out. And that was lovely of you to recommend SofF whether that darned reading group picked it or not, Owen!

    I have already heard enough fireworks to last me another year...

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  7. I know- you do the right thing-
    but that doesn't mean the right thing will be done to you. I too, feel like where am I going? Where am I going to live that is affordable? How do I get out of debt? And, I look at the promises-but, those aren't all the promises I thought would happen.

    Yet, I can get up in the morning without an hangover, and go to the little park with my toy poodle and allow the sun to try and heal.

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  8. Praying for you and your mom. You are a blessing!

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  9. I've always found the liminal spaces, the edges, the fringes, to the only places where I can breathe freely.

    I wonder if some of us are meant to wander in these places, to minister to the lost and fellow misfits the Lord sends to us there, to be vessels of God's grace as He sees fit. To listen to the song of the robin, to be useless... after all, all God asks for is our love, not our success, right? :)

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  10. "Normal" is really the definition of self that God calls us to. Jesus never fit anyone's definition, that's why they killed him. True normal (God's) leads to the only kind of genuine freedom. "Freedom is a decision about oneself and a setting of one's own life for or against the Good, for or against the Truth, and ultimately for or against God." (JPII)

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  11. True "normal" is really God's own definition of who we are in the world. Jesus did not fit anyone's normal, that's why they killed him. Normal is the only thing that leads to true freedom. "Freedom is a decision about oneself and a setting of one's own life for or against the Good, for or against the Truth, and ultimately for or against God." (JPII)

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  12. @Jason, you may not have been addressing me but you really spoke to me today. Thanks.

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  13. "I feel like I've spent the last three months corroborating that I am just made to creep about the edges of things. Trying to make me into a "normal" citizen is like trying to “make” a gay person straight. We need people who raise families and we need people who consider listening to the birds a useful, vital, necessity, as essential as air and food. We need generalists and we need particularists. We need people who are happy, joyous and free and we need obsessives, neurotics, misfits, malcontents, and cranks."

    I think I'm in these shoes, Heather, someone who will always feel like all he can do is creep about the edges of things. But I'm not comfortable with that. I feel like it's not enough, that I'm slack in following God, that I'm ducking the call.

    Do you have any advice on how to come to terms with being always on the edges of things?

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  14. Hi there Patrick, well I'm not sure I've ever "come to terms" with anything, completely...I do know that to creep around the edges of things doesn't mean to duck a or the call. More and more, I see the wisdom of St. Thérèse of Lisieux's "If you are willing to bear serenely the trial of being displeasing to yourself, then you will be for Jesus a pleasant place of shelter." The point is we're called to love God with our whole heart, soul, mind, strength, but we're not capable of making ourselves over into someone we're not. I think many of us have an idea of what our spiritual progress should or is going to look like and if my own experience is any indication--good luck with that! At the end of the day we will be judged on how we treated the least of these, whatever form "the least" take in our lives. "...We are not judged by what we are basically,” Flannery O'Connor wrote. “We are judged by how hard we use what we have been given. Success means nothing to the Lord, nor gracefulness."

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  15. Thank you, Heather. I always forget that central insight from St. Therese.

    I suppose what I still struggle with too is knowing what to DO for God, with my life, with whatever I have that I can offer.

    And with that, I suppose I have a hard time accepting that we also "need people who consider listening to the birds a useful, vital, necessity, as essential as air and food, ...obsessives, neurotics, misfits, malcontents, and cranks."

    I always think that whatever I am or do is not what God really wants, even if I try to give my all. I just can't SEE God in that way, and I don't understand how others do, how they know that we also *need* the types of people you mention.

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  16. Patrick and Heather, have you heard of Daniel Johnston? He's a musician who lived much of his life with manic depression, writing simple, tender and odd songs that remind me of your post on The Belle of Amherst (although I don't know much about Emily Dickinson).

    I'd heard some of his songs off and on for years. "Worried Shoes", the original and the Sufjan Stevens/Daniel Smith versions, was one of my favorite songs for years.

    Recently, my brother recommended I listen to his song "Story of an Artist" - and it reminded me of this post. If you decide to check it out, please let me know what you think!

    Prayers for your mother, you and your family,

    -Greg

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  17. Thanks, Greg, I'd not heard of Dennis Johnston--listened to a couple of youtubes--sweet, thanks for letting us know of him. And thanks, too, for your prayers...

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  18. Yes, I have heard of Daniel Johnston but I don't think I've listened to his music.

    I've found it interesting to read a bit about him. Sometimes I wish I had mental illness (I might, I'm not sure - frankly, who is?) because at least I could understand perhaps my personal malaise.

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