15 March 2007

the present

there are too many things going on inside me that i feel unable to give proper updates on the happenings of my life these days. so i turn again to annie dillard as she has been my primary companion as of late. i hope my few readers don't get sick of my talking about her. the chapter i'm most currently wading my way through is called "the present".

"catch it if you can," she implores in the opening lines. she goes on to describe, in a way that only she can, certain poignant moments in her life when she's been witness to "eternity opening onto time". another way of saying it is our glimpse of the present in the present. the earlier referenced tree with the lights in it is one such moment for her.

"experiencing the present purely is being emptied and hollow; you catch grace as a man fills his cup under a waterfall." there's this great tension inside me when i read these words. because i want to be fully present in the moment. i want to learn how to empty myself of all of the struggles and stressors, the busyness and the constant noise of life. but rarely do i find that a simple task. there is often so much that drowns out the possibity of truly emptying oneself.

i've had a few such moments of beauty in my life time. and they are indeed treasures i hold lovingly in my memory. do you know those times when you almost feel as though you are outside of time, you revel in the perfectness of being captured aloft by what is taking place both around you and inside you? it's as though those worlds intersect and you are completely unaware of yourself. those are the moments i think we all long for...to be fully outside of ourselves.

annie goes on to speak about self-consciousness being the destroyer of such moments. the instant you become aware of yourself in those moments of beauty, you lose the gift of being. self-consciousness takes us out of the present and it is a fierce battle to wage against. for isn't it so difficult to fully "be" when we're so preoccupied with who we think we're supposed to be or who we think others want us to be? i know i struggle desperately with my identity--with what expectations i imagine are placed on me.

lately, i've been so caught up in myself, so thoroughly self-concious, if you will, that i've been very guilty of squandering the present. my evenings, i'm ashamed to admit, have most recently been taken up with me burning my eyes out in front of the television set. any thing to distract myself from my present--because at the moment, my present is filled with deep loneliness and profound discontent.

it seems as though there's a great challenge presented to us in these places, and that is to learn how to navigate this tension between being "alive" in the present and not shying away from a less than happy existence. right now the sadness i am enveloped in is the most tangible part of my current existence. how do i find a way through the disparity that exists between my longing for wholeness and possibility with my current place of dissatisfaction and sadness?

i'm reminded of a quote from one of my favorite authors, frederick buechner:
"even the saddest things can become, once we have made peace with them, a source of wisdom and strength for the journey that still lies ahead."

i'm looking ahead to a time when i will be able to make peace with what is holding me in a tightly clenched fist and experience the freedom and joy that comes with that kind of victory.