Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Wisdom of Distance

Searching for Hidden Affinity

We are paradoxical creatures. Simultaneously we long for the expression of our uniqueness and yet yearn for belonging. Given our seemingly oppositional proclivities towards individuality and relationship, it is often the case that we view the distance between ourselves and others with fear and self protection. John O'Donohue reflects on these tendencies of the soul in his book Eternal Echoes – Celtic Reflections on Our Yearning to Belong. He names this space we call distance as “longing.” This longing is a manifestation of the deepest nature of the soul which is relationship. How odd that we are seemingly drawn towards the very thing that reveals this distance. It is O'Donohue's following statement that intrigues me and is the focus of this pondering.

“Distance awakens longing; closeness is belonging. Yet they are always in a dynamic interflow with each other. When we fix or locate them definitively, we injure our growth. It is an interesting imaginative exercise to interchange them; to consider what is near as distant and to consider the distance as intimate.”

So much of our inner world is unclear & opaque even to ourselves. Why are we are so amazed at how incomprehensible many of the acts and feelings are into which we inhabit the idea of ourselves? As much as we desire transparency, there is at our core a portion of our soul that is inaccessible to those without. Yet community reveals that no one is cut off from others completely and much of the reticence and caution we display regarding others reflects a deeper yearning to connect. Although much of our world is private nothing is indeed exclusive.
Scripture speaks of unity over and over again. The Spirit’s advocacy appears to bring with Him a profound sensitivity to discord. Harmony within the Body of Christ is more than group think or unanimity. Surely it is the restoration of what the Creator’s intentions must have been from the beginning within the Trinity. That is a complete awaking to just how much we all belong. Many in our community have read Rohr’s "Everything Belongs.” In this work Rohr points again & again to the powerful awareness that our own center is never discovered alone. At this core reality we uncover the sacramental moment where no one need compete, judge or make comparisons, or seek to dominate. In this present moment God uses everything. In and through the lens of divine foresight nothing is wasted, all is recycled, & everyone & everything belongs. All is grace.

It is only the holy fool who walks into this way of being for it is beyond mere thinking. Until I regard the distance between myself and others as an invitation rather than a signal to cut & run, I will name it punitively. In a post modern world where much of our humanity is abstracted and real presence is always tempted to become mere simulation, how do we quell the crisis of belonging and the great divide between us all? Once again we must seek a new designation for this longing? Could this restlessness within our hearts be a voice rising up for form and presence? Are we like the Greek mythological character Echo who sitting in the eerie silence of the forgotten self longed for Narcissus’ love? But alas, mistaking Narcissus words for her own she ran to him and discovered his self absorption and felt her own deep rejection. As Rohr alludes in Everything Belongs, there is a place within the heart that we all share. In this silent depth we are open to love, to touch, to affection, to trust. Out of this place the distance we thought was powerful & real now is transfigured into a guiding vacancy, a divine opening in the soul awaiting the shelter of community. Being is being with. I am fully myself in & through my brother’s welcoming.

Let me end with another O’Donohue quote as his writing is so powerfully guiding in this piece.

“There is something incomplete in purely individual presence. Belonging together with others completes something in us. It also suggests that behind all our differences and distances from each other, we are all participating in larger drama of the Spirit. The life and death of each of us does indeed affect the rest of us. Not alone do we long for the community; but at a deeper level we are already a community of the Spirit.”