I've found myself in lighter days, days with shining, luminous edges. Silver linings are real, I've found, and I can say this with some certainty--this life ain't so bad. I suppose I've found my way through a hole of sorts. It's a hole that took a while to dig, one that involved a marriage, a career, the slow realization of the unimportance of a life, a little sickness, a little liquor, and a hell of a lot of my own stupidity. The odd thing about the hole I dug was that I dug it--for the most part--without realizing it. Is this the way we all do? Does anyone set out to lose themselves six-feet-under, buried by their own ambition, or pain, or penchants for addiction? I don't suppose. I suppose most of us die by way of involuntary diggery.
You know this, right?
There's an equal and opposite truth, though. I don't suppose I pulled myself back into the light. Sure, I showed up; I did the work--yadda, yadda, yadda. But how was it that I climbed up the slickery, mudden sides of my own hole? If I'm honest, I feel as if I were pulled from it, predestined as that may sound. I feel scooped, maybe like the way God scooped the first man from the earth. Who knows. And though I call this the hand of God, a few of you might not believe in God the way I do; you can call it the long reach of the universe, or karma, or whatever, so long as you realize that I'm writing of the transcendent grace, that grace I find myself incapable of. Wherever you are and whatever you call this pulling, this grace, doesn't so much matter to me. What matters is that I extend a little invitation to you. (Please know you're all invited.) The invitation goes something like this:
Come and see.
That's how all the good stories start, and I started telling this story yesterday in my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. Here's the introduction:
There is a disquieting stillness when you sit with a holy man, a proverbial oracle. There—in his office, on his back porch, in his bedroom, wherever—stillness is acute, sharp, maybe a needle point. It's the stillness that pushes through skin, muscle, bone, and marrow into the very center of something (The heart? The soul?). The holy man, the oracle, he knows who he is, and he rests in the way and shape of his life. The student, or novice, or receiver (in this instance, me) does not know the way or shape but instead fumbles to hold the weight of any wisdom. Holy men and oracles smile at this fumbling. They know that fumbling leads to holding, at least over time.
“Remember the child?” they ask.
I could have started the first Newsletter of 2017 two thousand and seventeen different ways, but this is the only way that seemed right. I broke words for weeks before scattering them on the page like breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs seem about right. How else should I lead you to my friend—my friend—John Paine?
If you'd like to meet the man who's acted as a sort of rope and pulley in my life, I hope you'll read the full piece by signing up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. I'll be letting this story unfold in serial fashion over the coming months, and only my monthly newsletter subscribers will have the opportunity to follow along. I hope to see you there.
***The Practice of Prayer: Thanksgiving***