Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Following into the Dark: Solitude and Community

I heard this song by Deathcab for Cutie this weekend, while taking my son Eric to music camp at St Olaf College:


It's full of that "alone yet together" angst..... I love these lyrics!


I Will Follow You Into The Dark

Love of mine some day you will die
But I'll be close behind
I'll follow you into the dark
No blinding light or tunnels to gates of white
Just our hands clasped so tight
Waiting for the hint of a spark

If heaven and hell decide
That they both are satisfied
Illuminate the no's on their vacancy signs
If there's no one beside you
When your soul embarks
Then I'll follow you into the dark


In Catholic school as vicious as Roman rule
I got my knuckles brusied by a lady in black
And I held my toungue as she told me
"Son fear is the heart of love"
So I never went back


If heaven and hell decide
That they both are satisfied
Illuminate the no's on their vacancy signs
If there's no one beside you
When your soul embarks
Then I'll follow you into the dark


You and me have seen everything to see
From Bangkok to Calgary
And the soles of your shoes are all worn down
The time for sleep is now
It's nothing to cry about
Cause we'll hold each other soon
The blackest of rooms


If heaven and hell decide
That they both are satisfied
Illuminate the no's on their vacancy signs
If there's no one beside you
When your soul embarks
Then I'll follow you into the dark
Then I'll follow you into the dark

Sometimes I get the feeling that there are very few of us out there who really think about the eternal things. This is not meant to dis-respect the seekers and our other co-religionists who present a very ubiquitous presence in the "media" and on the Internet. But when we actually do find each other, we need to hold onto each other, and walk by each other.


Yesterday I shared an all too brief lunch with a spiritual leader whom I respect very much. We were both busy, and so a large part of our lunch was taken up with sharing our differing "journeys" on the road to community. That's an on-going journey as well as a deep sharing that can take place only over time. But even after that brief hour I glimpsed some wonderful truths about life in community.


First, there is a real "hidden-pearl" joy of discovery which occurs when one encounters a group of people who share values and lifestyle similar to one's own. I have spent so many years in my life praying privately (Liturgy of the Hours) and solo in a communal setting (Mass) that the real excitement of finding others who share my mind-set had really been almost lost. Yesterday it was re-kindled.

But this morning I was also reminded of the other side of that truth... the need to do things in such a way that glory and attention are drawn to God and not to self. Today's gospel:

Mt 6,1-6.16-18.


(But) take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.


But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.


But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.


When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you."


Finding others who share one's values and lifestyle is a valuable part of the spiritual journey. But it's never the whole story. There is also an internal, secret-garden aspect which can be nurtured by community, but which community itself can never replace.


There needs to be a part of us which we share with God alone, a quiet place, an alone (if not lonely) place, an empty place. Henri Nouwen spoke of that place, at once very private and really the most public:

"We like to make a distinction between our private and public lives and say, "Whatever I do in my private life is nobody else's business." But anyone trying to live a spiritual life will soon discover that the most personal is the most universal, the most hidden is the most public, and the most solitary is the most communal.

What we live in the most intimate places of our beings is not just for us but for all people. That is why our inner lives are lives for others. That is why our solitude is a gift to our community, and that is why our most secret thoughts affect our common life."


God give us grace to find each other and finding each other, to find Him.

2 comments:

Lily said...

Amen

Sam said...

So very true. When you find a community that is absorbed with interest in God, the evidence of God's grace cannot be missed. I'm looking forward to rejoining my parish for Morning Prayer again. It has been a year long absence due to work, and while it isn't "life in community" it is a community where I share an important part of my life: prayer.

LOH prayer privately sustains, but when the hinge hours are communal it becomes much more.