Saturday, 12 January 2013

Musings on being human

I'm getting into a writing mood, and began by simply making some notes. A whole lot of things have come together in the last week or so that just seem to fit together - accidents ("There are no accidents. Our guide is Aslan."). Turning the radio on at random. Several times. A link on facebook for CBC Radio - Part 1 of "Genius Born of Anguish" about Henri Nouwen with in depth references to Anton Boisen, the founder of CPE, Boisen was a pastor who suffered from schizophrenia and who came to view his illness (and psychiatric hospitalizations - yes!) as spiritual experiences and then helped the rest of us to wade deeper into the oceans of faith, humanity, and ministry. Boisen was the inspiration (I didn't know this) for Henri Nouwen's writings and speaking of wounded healers.     

Then I picked up a book that's been lying about for a couple of months (Made for Goodness by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu, his daughter, an Anglican priest). He spoke to my heart - and as it turns out, :-) my heart and longings are simply our human hearts' longings - to belong, to be loved, to be part of community, to live out of goodness, which he contrasts with 'being good' !! Hmmm... Not me! You? Ahem!

Here's a paragraph from Made for Goodness
"Science testifies that goodness is a survival strategy. God created us to depend on each other for our very lives. As primatologist Frans de Waal explains, "We belong to the category of animals known among zoologists as 'obligatorily gregarious,' meaning that we have no option but to stick together. This is why fear of ostracism lurks in the corners of every human mind: being expelled is the worst thing that can befall us. It was so in biblical times, and it remains so today. Evolution has instilled a need to belong and to feel accepted. We are social to our core." p. 14. You'll have to read the rest of it yourselves.  :-)

OK - so I am often driven by a saying "Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes." Speaking the truth can lead to being effectively ignored, left in silence. Yes, it happens. and yet, we have to answer to God in the end, eh? We're then sometimes thrown back into early stories in our lives - and then - God given - we realize that we have friends. There are people who see us as we are and rejoice in our growth. Humility, contrary to my earlier understanding of it, is honesty – to own one’s strengths and weaknesses and to act out of one’s strengths

In 1983, when I was still in Boston and trying to decide whether or not I could return to the convent (after my own journey to the Pit, including psychiatric hospitalizations), Sister Rhoda was dying of cancer. I visited her often after work. One day she sat by the desk in her infirmary room, light breezes moving the curtains. She had gone inwards, as the dying are apt to do. When she 'came back out,' and opened her eyes, I asked if there was anything I could do for her. She said, "Remember me." Echoes. Of "Do this to remember me..." We all want to be remembered. To matter. I received a gift from Sister Marjorie Raphael a few weeks ago. SMR was Mother when I was at the convent. She reminded me that now that I was retiring from so much activity, I could return to the contemplative self that I am. She saw me and remembered me - even after all these years. We've been sharing thoughts on life, death, and meaning. 

I began to realize there are others - from the convent. There were especially Sr Rosemary, Sr. Mary Eleanor, Sr Rhoda, and Sr, Winifred - all of whom have journeyed past me into whatever comes next. They saw me. We loved each other. We aren't alone. I'm not.

I spent two days with Lisa, Josh and Lisa's boyfriend, Kevin. Then Monica and nephew Kevin invited me to Trenton and I spent two days with the rest of my family - Holly and Cody, Mark, Taylor and Nathan (all except Sandi and Jim who are happily gallivanting with their trailer in the southwest US). Family. Another form of belonging. Roots discovered. Friends and family here, there, and about - in all corners of the globe - community in so many ways.  

Then there are lots of goings on - Idle No More - which I support. First Nations peoples rising up after the last straw - an omnibus bill passed by the Harper Conservative government that - well - read up on it if you like - treaties ignored, 1000's of lakes and rivers unprotected, selling out to China (oil), poisons beyond belief as a result of the Alberta tar sands... and of course, the ongoing extreme poverty on many reservations, lack of educational facilities, inadequate (understatement) housing, youth suicides 15 times the rate of the rest of the youth suicides in Canada... horrors that resulted from the residential schools ... 

And then today in the car I turned on the radio - and they were discussing a program in Ottawa that helps Inuit and Inuk people who want to get their lives together - free of alcohol and drugs, and find healing. After the 8 weekly meetings, they go to the land for a weekend, and healing often takes root. At the end of the program, the journalist said. "These are my heroes." And I cried. And I remember people like our Johnny at the Mission who suffered a life of abuse and tragedies beyond our comprehension - and who cares about other people, who has a sense of humour, who struggles ... who said at Connie's funeral, "She gave me clothes, She fed me. She loved me. I'm going to miss her." Who often asked, "Why do you care about me? Why do you love me?" And my reply in variation (and Lori's): "Johnny, you have suffered so much. You are alive. In your heart, you are a GOOD man." I'd call him a miracle. Johnny is one of my heroes. There are so many. 

Oh, yes!
I hope it's ok to put images from facebook on a blog :-)

So ... all of these pieces are helping me with a new living stained glass window. Recognizing in new ways that we are all on the same often lonely journey, longing for the same things. To be loved. To belong. To be part of community (family or otherwise). To be seen as we are, accepted and loved. To be remembered in the deep sense that includes all the former... 

I'd appreciate your prayers as I grow into what it means to have left Mile End, continue in the parish, wait for word after an MRI re the sciatica, and write ... and breathe and work with our Haitian sisters and brothers in the long term - remembering meaning to continue to act ... 

Epiphany - Gospel Light - St. CHL, January 6, 2013

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