Story is about “my” story. The events and actions (or in-actions) that I experienced and my framing and then re-framing them 30 years later. The story has no intrinsic value and likely will be read by very few. Even if read by millions it’s long term impact is likely to be limited at best. One of the thoughts I’ve been pondering for several years is the notion that mostly, fairly widely even, my life and the life of the many billions of people like or similar to me will never be known. These lives and the impact they’ve had will rarely be legendary. If you look back upon the recorded history of humankind so few are remembered after thousands of years, perhaps a few more after hundreds of years and maybe several more during the direct reach backward or forward of a lifetime. Given my youthful penchant for musical icons, as an example I say who will remember, really, David Bowie, Prince, Michael Jackson, Freddie Mercury, Tupac, Beastie Boys, dare I say even Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd, (insert your favorite recently deceased icon of popular culture here) etc. in a couple of hundred years? Keith Richards maybe? What I’ve been pondering about that is that it is actually good news. Maybe we don’t need to live such carefully orchestrated lives? Maybe we can stretch out a little, make ourselves uncomfortable and make others uncomfortable?
Deep down (wherever deep down is – it’s not really deep anywhere, I think. It’s actually concealed just below the surface. The surface of what, exactly? Good question? Where is this deep down? I can’t find it. Where is this surface?) we likely know the essential meaninglessness of our lives. Mostly this manifests itself in a sort of resignation or cynicism and general hostility. We cover it up, or do our best to, so we can participate in day to day life without being shunned. Like putting lipstick on a pig.
This is just something I’ve been considering. If it bothers you, take consolation in knowing that it will be forgotten very soon.
One aspect of my experience that I do not often acknowledge or make known is my Catholic faith. As I type I consider why that is, and ignore it for later consideration. For now let’s say I am a “cradle Catholic” in the Roman Catholic tradition. This looks like baptism near birth and Catholic grade school attendee through the 8th grade with mostly weekly mass, and twice weekly during the school year. This set of belief can mostly be summarized in the Nicene Creed. How a set of “beliefs” and practices shapes one and their actions is always interesting to consider and provides plenty of fodder for many thousand word essays…perhaps another day.
Following my 8th grade graduation from grade school I was slated to head off to public high school. Freed from the bonds of institutionalized indoctrination, what would become of me and my relationship to faith? Interestingly, I know today that I am a Catholic based on some choices that I made. Perhaps the indoctrination was successful enough to have me continue on this path and make those choices, perhaps I really chose, perhaps there really is no choice because it’s all just a pre-determined already known and unalterable fate or destiny. Either way, it occurs to me that one of these choices was also a part of the opening to create an opening.
Knowing something, or “being able” to develop some knowing may sometimes require some prior knowing. As we often learn multiplication only after learning addition many knowings are incremental and based on prior knowing. Experiential learning may require some a priori knowing, or not, and in my path of experience the knowing was “of the space”. Knowing that there may be a place where knowing is more likely to occur – like a wondering or a questioning or an allowing for. Rather than a having the answer of. My route to that allowing for a space was a charismatic renewal prayer session where I had hands layed upon me and received the Holy Spirit. As a Catholic, this occurs at baptism, and again at confirmation technically and officially and this charismatic is another manifestation of that…the same, but different. A different expression.
Aunt Sylvia had been going to these events for a while from what I knew and at some point my sister and brother-in-law began going to these every Friday or every other Friday events. I allowed for the un-explainable in my faith much more than I did in my day to day life where knowing things, or at least acting like I did, was the rule. After all, I had been to a Seminary camp the summer after my 8th grade and prior to high school. (Mostly because I’d always wanted to go to some camp). I had been participating in “teen renewal” at my church parish (Mostly because my friends were also participating and then because I realized how many girls were participating in these things). And I had continued attending weekly mass, mostly, during my less institutionalized high school years. I allowed for the miraculous…thought that it could occur and that I didn’t have to understand it.
Even with half of Anthony Robbins Unlimited Power I still had nothing going on. My sister, or brother-in-law, or both invited me to go to this charismatic thing. I don’t think I had a car yet, and I certainly had no money since I didn’t have a job, so I didn’t really have anything else to do. I went once, maybe twice. Observed. Saw people speaking in tongues, wondered if they really were, wondered what they were doing. Saw some people maybe falling over after having hands layed upon them ala “You are saved!”…faint. Again, I think I just trusted some people. Eventually, maybe after the 3rd or 4th visit to this weekly or bi-weekly event, I tried it out.
I got in that line, sort of like getting in line for communion. I waited, nervously. Wondered what would happen. Would I turn into some “Jesus freak”? Evangelizing all over, trying to convert savages to the light of truth? Would I be speaking in tongues and driven to madness? There are seven gifts of the Holy Spirit according to the Catholic tradition. “Nothing” happened that I could see. I tried to speak in tongues, faked it mostly because that’s what everybody else was doing. It didn’t seem fake, and it didn’t seem real.
What happens in those moments between when the light is off, and when the light is on? When the eyes refocus and start to see what could not be seen before? It’s more noticeable as the sun (also) rises, as darkness gradually turns to day, as Mauna Kea comes into view as the jet lag keeps you awake.
This gradual seeing, and having knowledge that there is something to be seen – something that may and likely will – come in to view is what it was like to me. The gift of knowledge of the Holy Spirit – not immediate knowing, for me – but the knowledge of all knowledge. Maybe a little like what wikipedia says. Not immediate, but immediate enough that there was an opening – a space. Today I would refer to it as the possibility of knowing. Where knowing is a possibility, a space for what’s possible to occur.
With this gift, perhaps I was ready to listen and hear.