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Things Seen And Unseen

Last night the moon was at less than ten percent, just the thinnest sliver. And black clouds were afoot in the black night and, as if from nowhere, they marched across the face of the moon sometimes making it go away entirely.

Because we are sophisticated and scientifically enlightened people living here in the 21st century, we know that clouds can't make the moon "go away." We further know that the moon was not only ten percent there last night. It's just that we could only see ten percent of it. the whole thing was still there... in darkness.

It's about what you can see... and what you can't.

When we sing or say the Shema we say the first verse at a normal volume, clear and strong:

Sh'ma Yis'ra'eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.

And the second verse:

Barukh sheim k'vod malkhuto l'olam va'ed.

is almost a whisper. Very, very, quietly...

The reason we do this is to remind us that sometimes we can hear God and sometimes we can't. God is there just the same, speaking just the same. Sometimes we hear, sometimes we don't.

It's about what we can hear... and what we can't.

In the same way, sometimes light shines on the cactus in a way that reveals the thorns...

And sometimes in a way that reveals the flowers.

But, look closely...
Both are present...

The flower and the thorn grow from the same plant, receive their nourishment from the same source, come forth from the same ground.

It's about where the light shines... and where it doesn't.

I've been thinking about how much there is that I don't know, things I don't see at all, even though in a different light, come the morning, or on another day they may be clear.

I once knew a boy, nine or ten I'd say. And he took to meeting me in the courtyard outside my office in the morning times. I told him about the various plants and taught him how to identify several birds by the sound of their call. We talked about the seasons, his family, what he was studying in school. Originally I thought of him as an intrusion. Later, as a friend.

On the second to last day of school he came to the courtyard and we talked about his summer plans and mine. Then he said ten words that pierced my heart, "Thank you for teaching me how to pray this year."

Obviously if I had known that that's what we were doing, if the sun had shown in a different direction or if the clouds had moved and I'd realized that that's what we were doing... learning to pray! Obviously, I would have run screaming from the whole thing. But, it was the second to the last day of school. Too late to run.

I remember rattling off some things that both he and I have forgotten. I told him that prayer takes many forms, that his praying would change over the years and I hoped to Hell that he would be better at it than I am, that he would be more faithful, more honest, braver, truer. And after he left I prayed all that for him knowing what a poor and weak teacher he'd had. ...Also hoping that his agnostic parents didn't find out.

I think that more often than we realize, we are not at all doing what it is we think we are doing. My young friend was kind enough to tell me what I'd done. It wasn't what I'd thought. I thought I was just being kind to a boy who didn't have many adults in his life. I thought I was being a patient administrator. I thought a thousand things... but not that.

I want to have a greater awareness of these hidden things. I don't know how to do it. I am not sure I have that level of sensitivity, if I can be that aware. Sometimes God does have to be awfully blunt with me.

But, I am going to be looking. I am going to listen more closely. I am going to think outside the box to see what might be there. Because I don't want my life to be what it seems, and no more. I want to believe that in all the mundane, boring, insanely stupid things I do all day long there is at least a little bit of God and that He is doing something. Please, God, don't let it all be for nothing.

How Do You See Things?


Jan said...

Lovely, lovely, lovely Lindy.

Diane said...

lindy, I especially like the story of the little boy who learned to pray.

but really, all of it.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Thank you for this reminder to question assumptions and to look twice.

Lindy said...

Well, Diane, you have to remember that's what he thought he learned... who am I to say.

But, I will tell you the tale of my great-grandfather, Joseph Thiele. He sold all his sheep and came to this country when he was just 17 years old. After he spent the money he had left from the voyage on beer for his friends, $2 I think, his first order of business was to lean English. He fell in with a group of men who were hired to pick cherries in New York State and he started learning their language. After he gained some fluency he went into town, probably for more beer. When he got into town he started talking to people in his new language only to discover that he'd learned Spanish! It's hard to say what he really learned from me... if anything.

I don't know what my friend thought that praying was. I did see him five or six years after that, he was in high school, and I asked him if he still prayed. He said yes but he'd figured out that the birds spent more time listening than singing and he'd adjusted his praying accordingly. Blew me away.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Lindy, you write beautifully.

How can you remember the time that you shared with the boy and ever say, "Please, God, don't let it all be for nothing"?

I'm reminded of the first lines from William Blake's "Auguries of Innocence":

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

Barbi said...

Lindy, love to you. You are beautiful.
And thank you for sharing the pictures of the prickly pear and its flower...such a pest yet such a thing of beauty. It soothes this misplaced Texan's heart.

sharecropper said...

Sigh. How grateful am I that you have given me the meditation for the week that I so desperately needed. It's difficult sometimes to think of the future and wonder what will it mean. I can pick out bits and pieces of the past that have meaning, but the future?????

Lindy said...

G'Mère Mimi, I meant all the business of life. I pray there is some meaning in that even though I may not see it.

Glad you liked that Barbi. I thought of you when I put that up. Those may be the only Texas pictures you get from me this year. I've only seen one little clump of Bluebonnets pushing up through the asphalt. It wasn't something you'd take a photo of. There are quite a few yellow daisy-type flowers but very few buttercups or wine cups. I haven't seen ANY indian blankets. It's just not a good year. I keep waiting and hoping but it IS July already. Hope you're finding beauty there.

Sharecropper, what makes you think that there's any difference between the past and the future? Having a linear day?

FranIAm said...

Hmmm... I thought I had left a comment the other day.

Clearly not - or blogger ate it.

This is beautiful -that is all I will say for now.