Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Living Spiritual Rhythms - June 26

An empire in disarray?

Forging through the empty streets at midnight, I noticed that there were no lights in the windows. Everyone sleeping? Not likely. Power outage? Possibly. There was a strong odor of something dead pervading my senses. Humans? Animals? Not sure. I had no idea. My hands were tightly jammed into my pants pockets and my shoulders hunched up against the glacial cold. It was freezing. Walking more quickly now from block to block, nothing changed. I kept expecting a light, some warmth, and to escape from the stench. Same darkness, same cold, same smell. Recognizing that I was immersed in that which I didn’t choose or determine, I became even more unsettled and alarmed. Who am I? Where am I going? I used to somehow be able to pretend I was in charge. No longer. In actuality, I’m so fragile and continually affected by all that’s in and around me. I’m dust, like grass, and flowers in the field. I will all too soon disappear. But then, I realized that I’m still here on these streets, experiencing fear, feeling cold, and smelling death, as pangs of loneliness over take me, I wandered around desperately searching for life, which appeared to be gone. Terrified, I pressed on.

I trudged through loads of debris strewn all over. This scene reminded me of some of the relational contexts of my own life. What a mess. I used to think that people were hell. I detested the old superficial drabble about the weather or the hum drum of working at SB. Get a life, I thought. But now that I found myself alone, even the trite comments of another person would be cherished. I longed for human contact. A voice. A touch. A face. Frantic. Then, I realized I heard someone. There were muffled words. Hope and excitement flowed through me. My heart felt like it would explode. Even though it was still freezing, I stripped off my tattered blue coat and with my hands began to uncover some rubble. Pieces of concrete and broken glass were piled up. I removed them. It only took a few minutes to realize the voice I heard was not a breathing fleshly being as I, but a cell phone recording, repeating over and over, “the person you have called is not available - try to call again later.” Terrified, I pressed on.

Daylight was breaking. I put on my blue coat again and stuck my hands back in my pockets to try to get warm. I turned right and headed up 19th street, or at least what I think was 19th street. Hard to tell. So much around me appeared the same and I began to realize that it was going to be difficult to escape the sense of being caught in a sort of labyrinth. At that moment, I remembered back to discussions I had about language being a never ending series of signs without referent or meaning. I thought, well, this is what that’s really like, except in a visual manner. I can’t even distinguish one street from another. Pitiful. Stumbling along in a sort of daze, taking a foray in one direction and then another, led me into alleyway. I had to climb over blocks of concrete and be careful to avoid fallen wires setting off weak, but dangerous sparks of dying energy, to get back out into the street. The wind was stronger now and I was in desperate need of shelter. It was still freezing. Turning into one of the few buildings partially intact, I entered what once was a vast museum and library. Books were scattered about. Shelves and tables were toppled over. Paintings were lying in the rubble. I thought to myself, the hallmarks of beauty and learning are shattered. Terrified, I pressed on.

With the violence of darkness receding, it was a relief to be out of the wind and somewhat protected from the cold. I plunged further into the library, deciding to explore later what was left standing in the museum. What a masterful book place this glorious library once was. The stained glass windows here and there, now shattered, must have given a beautiful atmosphere within which to read, ponder, and imagine. Proceeding carefully and moving on through the wreckage, I had to duck to avoid beams perilously hanging from what must have been a magically oval shaped ceiling. Struck by what once was, I began to weep. Overcome by the emotion of my own state of being and shrouded in the mists of time, I had a strange and strong sense of lost splendor. This drove me further into the recesses of my own life, probing the joys and sorrows of my existence. In a flash, I thought about and explored so many previous relationships. Robert, my gay friend, who was a promising opera conductor and gave it all to become a monk, Julie, a whore I went to school with, who ended up married to a plumber and never cheated on him, Winston, an artist, Tina, a ballet dancer, and Vera, the electrician. These people and a barrage of images flooded into what felt like every nerve ending in my body. I couldn’t detect anymore who were and what was real. Fleeting impressions drained me and zapped my feeble strength. Bewildered. Gathering myself together seemed like a long voyage deep into the heart of who I was and what stood before me, but it was probably closer to a matter of minutes before I regained a slender thread of composure. Difficult to tell.


Nita said...

Nice text, Greg, beautiful prose & poetic texture. Right here in Brazil, the times they a-changing, perhaps very much like France and California in 68 --people get nostalgic as they grow older, but even if we somehow gave up on social utopias we are awaken from our dogmatic slumber by our own students and children. Antonio Damasio was here for a couple of talks --to remind us that we're still looking for Spinoza, as much as we continue to seek G-d in nature and its other. The ANE metaphors for Adon Olam made me wonder anew --and write you this short note --just to say shalom and wish you well. Nita

Greg said...

Thanks Nita. We're following some of the developments in Brazil. Be interesting to see if any sustainable changes unfold. We have a PhD in Phil from Notre Dame with us for the lectures this week.
Hope all goes well.