My Silent Friends

(from an email I sent in Dec 2001)
I sat in the rain alongside a cemetery today. Silent rows of tombstones, like saints sitting in pews, welcomed the patter of the rain. Some recent graves had flowers on them, the leaves neatly brushed away. Over time, we miss our friends less selfishly, and less painfully. We let whispers of memory return our friends to us. Their most urgent whispers shout to wake us, to remind us we are still alive.

They know we prefer shadows to light, a sleepy fog over watchfulness. What courage it takes to live, to be present, to be aware. Basho, a poet from the last half of the 1600s in medieval Japan, wrote:

“It’s admirable to have an undistracted mind, praiseworthy to be without worldly talent and knowledge. The same can be said of a homeless wanderer, but leading a life so liberated requires an iron will.”

Across the ages, some have given themselves completely to their passion: painters, poets, warriors, priests. Such people set everything else aside for the prize and the passion that possesses their imagination. Far too many of us live our lives in the limbo of half-awakeness, never fully in the moment, hidden away in busyness and possessions and position. I still have hope to follow Him without reservation and without thought of cost. There is no other path worth walking; no other beckoning that finds purchase in my heart.

As I thought about these things through the day, I thought of you folks, many of whom have already entered such a journey, or, like me, stand at the precipice of such a journey. How I miss you this evening, yet contented, Him warm in my breast. Such a hunger. I want nothing less than to be a simple man, but completely present in each moment, awake, alert, aware: who I am with Him burning within, who we are together. Without Him, and without each other present in Him, are we alive?

I hate each moment and thing in my life that takes away this awareness of Him, swallowing me into caricature, an empty shell without a heartbeat. To become, or pretend to be anything less than our own simple selves is a great loss. But to be alive, to have now in this moment eternal life pulsating within . . . It defies logic that anything in this world should draw us from Him for a moment. Sadly, you know as well as I we have no iron will. May He be even this for us.

Following our Master together.

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