I want to beg you, as much as I can, to be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart; try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms or books that are written in a foreign tongue. … (Rainer Maria Rilke)
I applied for a consulting job one time. I completed a variety of personality assessment, competency exams, and interviews. I wound up getting the job. I resigned about a year later. It wasn’t much fun and I wasn’t a great consultant – especially for the municipality clients I worked for at the time. On a more positive note, I learned something about myself because of the final interview. The interviewer said: “Mr. Strader, when it comes to learning, you’re like Winnie the Pooh. There isn’t a honey pot out there that you won’t investigate. Keep that trait up.”
I have followed up on his advice. I’m a curious guy, in more ways that one. I investigate issues. Frequently, I make bold and inaccurate inferences about people and circumstances. Then, I decide that I need more facts or more opinions to validate my initial observations.
I get bored easily. So, I scan and gleam information about all sorts of topics. Politics, spirituality, news, sports, relationships. You name it…I dig after sweet wisdom like it is in the bottom of the honey pot I’ve got in my hands at the moment. Consequently, I’m kinda shaped like Winnie the Pooh too.
A quick scan of my google history for today reveals that I’ve landed on more than two dozen websites since 6:30 a.m. (Oh, for the record, I read Rowan Williams’ words on Rebuilding on a Contemplative Foundation in my daily email from the Center for Action and Contemplation. and that was before 6:30 am) I’ve checked my banks accounts, looked in on what’s going on at Wimbledon and with the Tour De France. I met with a few of my colleagues this morning to consider the scripture texts for this Sunday’s lessons. That inquiry led to me skimming quickly a palette of Internet websites. Alyce McKenzie wrote an excellent critique of the Parable of The Sower article. (I’ll be coming back to that later this week in my blog). From there, I read David Brooks New York times op-ed. (you should too). I investigated a Philly.Com story about how glorious worship spaces of the past are now havens for heroin addicts. I participated in a somewhat correlated Facebook conversation on Bishop Audrey Scanlan’s facebook page. A number of people are exchanging ideas about why millennials are not attending or leaving The Church. My engagement in that conversation sprouted seeds for a distinct conversation. I Facebook messaged with a person about her experiences with sagging church attendance among young people. She possesses insights on that matter as a faithful Episcopalian who is the parent of a 17 year old son. Right now he’s at the Episcopal Youth Event in Oklahoma City with about 1,000 other teens and adults.
Let’s see what’s going on @ EYE.
There are lots of bishops I don’t know. And the worship is awesome. More tomorrow. Next, I wound up recalled hearing an interview on Fresh Air with Jonathan Safran Foer. He and Terry Gross discuss the themes of his new novel, Here I Am. One of the main topics they discuss seems to be a golden thread running through all of my 11 July musings. Safran Foer says that he wrote a book: “about people trying to mend things, even at the expense of acknowledging an end when necessary. People who want to find a place of rest, want to find an integrated personality, sense of self, want fewer fractures in their lives.” (Jonathan Safron Foer, On Marriage, Religion And Universal Balances, para. #5 – read the manuscript or listen to the interview here.)
Now it is lunch time and I’ve become more curious about my own curiosity.
I don’t mean to make myself out as an Internet Surfing Stud or a contemplative behemoth. I’m not. I think I probably just drink too much damn coffee and/or not get enough sleep. I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that I enjoy learning. I think I should spend some more time digging beneath the surface of my curiosities and give them more time to speak to me, intentionally. I pick through things out of my interests’ grab bag. However, when I slow down just enough and focus my attention on one idea, I catch a glimpse of what I’m ruminating on in my mind. I may be distracting myself with so much data on so many websites. Or, I may indeed be seeking to synthesize something that’s important to me. Consequently, when I invest some energy in such contemplative curiosity and analysis, I might just be getting to the heart of what really is on my mind and my soul.
Earlier on, I mentioned a section of one of Rainer Maria Rilke’s poems. “Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart; try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms… My analysis is that I’m much better at running from room to room while throwing my questions into a laundry pile for further reflection and action. Maybe you are too. If so then perhaps we can learn something more by exploring another Rilke poem:
I am, you anxious one. Do you not hear me
I am, you anxious one. Do you not hear me
rush to claim you with each eager sense?
Now my feelings have found wings, and, circling,
whitely fly about your countenance.
Here my spirit in its dress of stillness
stands before you, — oh, do you not see?
In your glance does not my Maytime prayer
grow to ripeness as upon a tree?
Dreamer, it is I who am your dream.
But would you awake, I am your will,
and master of all splendor, and I grow
to a sphere, like stars poised high and still,
with time’s singular city stretched below.
— Rainer Maria Rilke, Poems from the Book of Hours
Curiosity and contemplation – yet another sort of personal paradox. I trust that God is working through it in ways beyond my imagination and with another breath and depth to dig into the thoughts that lead to purpose, wholeness, and hope.