Our service ended with a Eucharist, celebrated at an
imposing altar. I
learned to make my gestures big, to open my arms wide, to lift the cup
above my head. What I never quite got the hang of was the chanting.
The deep attention and reverence that Thomas Merton and Abdul Aziz brought to each other's books, traditions and lives undergirded their friendship, and the frank way they explored their similarities and differences enlivened it.
In 1993, not so terribly long ago, I signed up for my first e-mail account. I remember using it to compose and exchange haikus with other novice faculty about our daily travails, to keep up with friends from graduate school, and to sign up for more electronic mailing lists than I could possibly follow.
When I read in the newspaper recently that the U.S. Navy had decided to lift its ban on women serving on submarines, I remembered a woman who told me a story about how she communicated with her husband when he was serving aboard a submarine in the 1970s.
I recently flew with my family from Tel Aviv to Boston via Rome. The day was full of long lines, bomb-sniffing dogs, the opening and searching of overfull suitcases and the struggles to close them up again. In Rome, every single person on our flight was patted down and searched. We must have shown our passports 20 times.Impromptu debates arose as people from all over the world waited in line together. Was it better to search for the explosive device, as the Americans do, or for the bomber, as the Israelis do? Do the airlines need better technology or better training in behavioral screening? Has the war on terror made us more safe or less?
In spite of my best intentions, somewhere around Halloween my ability to stay on top of things begins to unravel. It gets more and more difficult to wake up before the sun and harder to meet all the demands of each day, or even of the previous day. As things left undone accumulate and the hours of daylight diminish, a kind of lethargy sets in.
It is autumn again, and life is speeding up. Students are back in school, classes are beginning and the fall programs of churches are in full swing. Wouldn’t it be good to find a spiritual discipline for these days that would remind us of the pace and the blessings of summer?
I’ve been wondering who would be a good patron saint for the deepening recession in which we find ourselves. The obvious candidates are those paragons of frugality who learned to live without a steady income or the comfort of regular meals. St. Francis, who threw off his clothes and took to the streets, alms bowl in hand, comes to mind. So does St. Clare.
“I am looking for a way to vocalize, perform, act out, address the commonly felt crises of my time,” Terry Tempest Williams writes in her new book, Finding Beauty in a Broken World (Pantheon). “These are spiritual exercises.”