Thursday, July 3, 2014

Adieu doux Montréal: vous étiez aimable et sainte pour nous ...

We are now home in Pittsfield - grateful for our time away - and grateful to be in the comfort and gentleness of our own home. The ride home was easy and safe. Our friends were gracious as we picked up our wacky young dog, Lucie, from their loving care. And we settled back into a familiar groove eating fava beans and Israeli couscous before finding a new British TV show.  Here are a few inter-related albeit not consecutive thoughts:

+ On my urban walk about I saw two examples of the human condition: earlier in the day, as we sat in front of Notre Dame Cathedral in Vieux-Montréal, a duet was singing "Ave Maria." Out of the corner of my eye I saw a wizened old woman singing along quietly. From time to time, she wiped away a tear from her eye. The old Montréal has changed much in her life time - mostly for the better - but it is hard to let go of the deep, old time religion. 

Later that night, leaving the Jazz Festival, I was walking behind two obnoxious young men who were drunk. As one passed an old, homeless man sleeping in the doorway of a store on Ste.Catherine, he poured out the remains of his beer can on the old soul and laughed as he strutted away. I have to say that the wind was kicked out of me with such a cavalier act of cruelty and I found myself stumbling to grasp hold of a street lamp. I, too, found myself shedding a tear but for a very different reason, yes?  

+ Last night's "Zappa Plays Zappa" concert was another sacred time for me. First of all, young Zappa plays his father's music with panache and grace. As he said in an interview, "Too many people missed the genius of Frank.. and that was just wrong." Second, his opening set included a few of my favorite early Zappa compositions, notably "The Other People." To my mind, this song is a testimony to the community of God embodied and proclaimed by Jesus. The chorus is clear:  "we are the other people, we are the other people, we are the other people, you're the other people, too. Trying to find a way to get to you..." 

Then Zappa offers three verses about how we project our fears onto those we don't understand or who frighten us. Again, without any notice, I found I was weeping tears of gratitude.

+ Being home - and picking up our strange and wonderful dog - filled me with a sense of peace. I LOVE living here. I love the people in my congregation. And I love sharing all of this with my sweetheart. We both celebrated birthdays on this trip - as we have done for the past 6 years - and growing older with her continues to be the best thing I have ever experienced in my life save the birth of my two daughters. As we sat listening to Zappa - and then talking about the extraordinary genius of his music - I was reminded again of how blessed I am to share this time with her in ministry and life. I have one more week of vacation - time to rest and reflect and do some essential home improvement tasks - and I have to say I am looking forward to it all. 

AT 62 I am keenly aware that I must not take ANY of this for granted. Maya
Angelou said it best: Most people don't grow up. Most people age. They find parking spaces, honor their credit cards, get married, have children, and call that maturity. What that is, is aging. Little by little I find that I am starting to grow up - not a lot - but a bit - and that feels right.  When Di and I were first reconnected more than 20+ years ago, one rainy night in a bookstore I stumbled upon this poem by Kabir (translated/reworked by Robert Bly) and knew that my life had changed. It is called "The Time Before Death."

Friend? hope for the Guest while you are alive. 
Jump into experience while you are alive!
Think... and think... while you are alive.
What you call "salvation" belongs to the time 
            before death.

If you don't break your ropes while you're alive,
do you think ghosts will do it after?

The idea that the soul will join with the ecstatic
just because the body is rotten -- 
that is all fantasy.
What is found now is found then.
If you find nothing now,
you will simply end up with an apartment in the
          City of Death.
If you make love with the divine now, in the next 
life you will have the face of satisfied desire.

So plunge into the truth, find out who the Teacher is,
Believe in the Great Sound!

Kabir says this: When the Guest is being searched for,
it is the intensity of the longing for the Guest
that does all the work.

Look at me, and you will see a slave of that intensity.

Sitting on our sofa, eating Israeli couscous and fava beans, sipping red French wine while Lucie rested at our feet filled me with a whole new layer of gratitude.

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