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13 September 2010

Really? It is “too esoteric” for you? Really?

You can at least share!  When I pick out a gift for someone, it is because it is something I want, so, turning that around...

1) Alone in my room just back from today’s first segment of my work day, I sit down with a can of Coca-Cola, a bowl of fresh guacamole, and bag a fresh tortilla chips. When I am in public, I am careful to not be observed making the sign of the Cross before I consume a meal.  I do it, I just do not want to be seen doing it-- too intimate.  However, in the privacy of my own room, I overtly sign myself and even speak out loud. For example, today I said (I prayed), “Lord, this guacamole is really good.  Join me?”  I know how that sounds-- that is why I only do it in private.

I appreciate, but am now past, the sense of an amusing punch line to a joke, "The rich preacher answers, 'In our church, we throw the money from the collection plate up in the air and whatever God wants, He keeps!'"  But guacamole is tough to clean up-- I don't recommend throwing it in the air.  The truth is, I like to offer the goodness of what I am about to eat.  The best gifts I have received are those which I can share with the giver. 

Since shortly before my father died (a little over a year ago) along with almost any prayer, I sensed, ever-so-vaguely, the presence of others souls being near me, observing in an engaged sort of way. More than benign, that presence of at least a few is somehow pro-active, but I have no real idea of exactly how that is so.  Often, now, I sense my father among them.  I feel what I feel and have learned to allow that to negate the worldly accusation of "wishful thinking."

2) Much like my secretive method of making the sign of the Cross when I am not alone before a meal, for over sixteen years I have worn a wooden talisman around my neck on a short leather strap. I wear it inside my shirt, but if it was ever visible, those who might get a glimpse of it would wonder why I wear a wooden initial “T” on a cord. Actually, it is a Cross. It is a “tau cross” to be precise.

A bit of synchronicity from my past will explain:

Charles Caldwell, Priest

The blessed Father Charles Caldwell, in one of his many profound utterances, declared, “We do not choose our Patron Saints, our Patron Saints choose us.” One January 17th, long ago, the story of Saint Antony of the Desert struck me through-and-through. His story would not let me alone, and soon enough I realized that he had chosen me. I had a Patron Saint. One of the symbols of Saint Antony is the tau-cross— shaped like the Greek letter, it is a very ancient form of the Christian Cross—somewhat regional—almost a dialect of imagery.

The Church likes to universalize its images and symbols, but the indigenous ones are equally authentic. A few years later, I had just returned home from being ordained a Priest. Family was there and had brought in food from my favorite restaurant, El Fenix—Tex-Mex of the highest craft (with really good guacamole!). An old friend from my college days and now a brother Priest dropped by just as we launched into the meal, and he brought an ordination gift—two, in fact. The one I have in mind is a wooden tau-cross he had brought back from a recent visit to Assisi. It was on a leather cord with three knots tied into the cord for the three Franciscan vows: Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. Some Franciscan Brother had burned a tiny and hand written “Assisi” on the back.

I loved it so that I traced it thinking I might make some as gifts. Many years later, in the beginning of this, my present darkness, the cord broke and I lost the gift I treasured so much. I made a replica soon after, blessed it myself in the absence of a Bishop to do so, with Holy Water, knotted a new cord of leather, and prayed over each knot and what it represented.  The “poverty” prayer was in a silent half growl and half scream as I was then living in my car, and it was winter.

By-the-way, I was making a modest but livable $30,000.00 a year at one job and moonlighting at another. Highest to lowest, my check was garnished of Child Support for 55%, IRS for 15% withholding, and 11% for insurance was deducted, leaving me a take-home of 19% of Gross—thus, I lived in my car. Begin to understand my advocacy on behalf of the homeless and my outright rage at those who yell at them, “Get a job?”


Last week, the cord on my replica broke, but this time I noticed it when it happened and so still have the cross. I have not taken the time to tie a new cord. Yet, except for the day I sensed a strong need for such a talisman and so kept it in my pocket, a pattern has recurred that I have not seen in many years. Nothing conclusive—not like a lamp across the room suddenly falling over—but little things, dozens a time each day. I trip over things that I did not see, straps of my courier bag, shoelaces, seatbelts and clothing get snagged on things in ways that do not seem natural, things drop from my grasp and things seem misplaced amongst the usual clutter.

Now that I have had lunch, and after I finish writing and a bit of reading before part three of my daily work begins, I am going to locate my spool of leather cord and do what needs to be done.

3) It was almost a year ago that I sat chatting with a very intelligent and amiable man I know. He, rightly, has good influence with and upon a friend of mine who I work with and for. I do physical work for this person, but more importantly and more exhaustingly, it is the spiritual (and therefore unseen) work with my friend that is my focus. In fact, so unseen is this work that I am not certain my friend realizes it completely.

The man wanted to speak privately with me. He said “A__ had been very fortunate as regards to your predecessors; but she and I both realize that you are substantially out of the ordinary—in a very good way. We recognize it even though we cannot define exactly what it is.” Those were not words I expected or was even prepared to hear. I did not like the idea of being discovered—when what I do is known, the relationship changes— such has shown to have a tendency or trajectory which is full of false assumptions and false expectations. A crippling secularization takes place.

Society has its own expectations for you.

A month or so later, I spoke again with the man. A friend of mine had unexpectedly bought me a book as a gift for no reason what-so-ever. I only started that book today which is perhaps a coincidence, but more likely synchronicity or, if you prefer, godly coincidences. He saw the books I had purchased when at the book store with my friend as well as the gift book I had received.  He had read it, and asked about my own selections being unfamiliar with those.  I spoke of the spiritual themes, artistically imbedded in historical drama. We chatted about such literary methods for several minutes and he ended by saying, “All that is too esoteric for me.”

I was disappointed. I had gone from fear of discovery even though it meant some understanding, to wanting to believe that understanding existed— someone who saw (perhaps only dimly) and knew (perhaps only vaguely), even if the understanding was incomplete. The man, left alone in his consideration for a month (as I had been left alone in my own)  had come to a very different conclusion.   Nine months or so later, I look back on that and do not blame him—it is society. When exposed to spiritual events, most (I want to think, all) sense it, and try to process what they sense. However, without any reassurance, society will seek to deny the spiritual.

4) It has not always been so. Tribal societies have shamans no matter where on the planet and no matter when in history— all societies have some who see and hear with a measure of understanding. There have been few exceptions. Societies nearly always include Priests, Shamans, Pastors, Witch-Doctors, Seers, Diviners, Holy Men, and so on—but almost always providing the same service to the society. That service, in general terms, meaning in universality, is the affirmation that what is sensed by others in the society, but not seen, is most often real. Not merely real, but a super-substantiality: epiousia, in the Greek.

In short,
  • The transcendent God shared my guacamole with me, taking it as my thanks, and enjoying it with me while diminishing nothing of the substance remaining here— He took mere matter and brought it with Him to His greater reality.
  • The presence I sensed is, in fact, my father and Antony of the Desert, and others I have known in this life and in the other reality.
  • The snags, tangles and trips since being bare of by talisman are just enough to present a frustration without a target—a passive aggressive harassment always safely short of an outright attack. To an overt attack, I would of course be prone to react.
  • The smart and likable man— he went home and soon dismissed what he sensed and believed for a short time— surrounded by the mundane, he decided the mundane was enough and that he was simply mistaken. It is, after all, supposed to be easier to accept only the one reality. In his world, in his life which is deeply steeped in our post-modern society, the altruistic is laudable but impotent— a mere luxury which can be entertained at leisure as long as it does not preclude sensible acts and decisions.That is what society want of us, so that is what we do.
Me too-- but a bit less so lately as I marginalize society for having marginalized me.

That good man is wrong, but it is not his fault. While I still have that tau-cross pattern, I wonder if he would accept one as a gift; and if so, not knowing, would it have any effect?

Super-substantial reality:  Spiritually pro-active-- having an effect, more than merely benign, yet undefined, not fully understood.  Come on, there is nothing "too esoteric" for anyone in that--  you know it is so.

At least go share your guacamole?

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