the reality of souls absent

Rushing to arrive at an empty space with no deadline or outside force compelling urgency.  The rush comes from within.  Something of the ego-driven desire to be first, to seem omnipresent.

The parking lot outside the office is empty at 6:30 a.m., my most frequent and preferred time of arrival.  Like an empty canvas, filled repeatedly with colorful variety, then whitewashed for another days creation.

I park in the same spot, the farthest from the doors, in spite of the lack of competition – my typical, stubborn desire to avoid the clamoring near the closest or most convenient.

With keys and bag in hand, I climb the small hill to the doors, bend to pick up the daily paper in its plastic sheath and stride over the curb to the double glass doors.  Insert the key, pull the door to me so the latch will turn away, and lock it again behind me.  Locked in, comforted by the temporary barrier, soon to be breached by those also in possession of a key, but pleased with the temporary isolation.  Another door, another lock, then the alarm code, and silence.

This is my favorite part of any day.  It’s the emptiness; not devoid of humanity, but filled with its ghostly, empty presence.  Lives at work, and their evidence fills this space.  Darkness, quiet and the reality of souls absent.

My mind imagines a time lapse of this place as an entity of its own, quiet in darkness, then filling, overflowing, billowing with activity from outside itself, as a flower garden dawning to the swarm of the worker bees, then relishing the reprieve of the sunset, when its fruit can be replenished with vitality for another day.

The comfort, the secret joy of such a space, I imagine, draws its appeal from from my own deep-seated, pastor’s-kid memories of empty church sanctuaries, dark but for light pushing through stained glass.  The walls still dripping with the songs, prayers, sermons, and the silent cries of the human heart, and the aroma of the one to whom they have all been addressed.

unpublished drafts

Drafts of 16 posts written by my eldest son, William, remain unpublished in the list of posts that I’m able to see as the administrator of the blog I set up for my kids.

William is an excellent writer, and the unpublished drafts include works of fiction, poetry, journaling, and philisophical observations filled with honesty of emotion.  His mind engages his environment with insightful and introspective clarity.  I’m sincerely impressed, and not just as a parent-fan, and I’ve told him so.

He has a litany of reasons for not publishing his thoughts.  “It’s all crap,” he says.  “I can assure you it isn’t,” I reply.  He laughs.

I have had difficulty conversing with William, always, but more lately.  Arbitrary, superficial, tyrrany-of-the-urgent stuff usurps a dominating role in our lives, but that’s not the full explanation.

In the flash-flood of my all-too-often, anger-fueled lecturing tirades, he has struggled  to keep his head above the water.  I heard somewhere once that in spite of theatrical evidence to the contrary, it’s impossible to cry for help when you’re drowning.  Apparently, you can’t gasp for breath and verbalize your need at the same time.

William and I are quite alike in so many ways that I’ve often belly-ached to God for his cruel mockery of my weaknesses by having them appear so obviously in my son’s predisposition.  Of course, William also has been gifted in ways for which I’ve only wished and prayed.

I love him fiercely.  I’m often caught unaware by the depth of the emotion of it.

Unpublished drafts give me a window into his thoughts, those he portends with silent, desperate gestures as he drowns in my flood of words, or the expectation of them.

I wonder about the misunderstandings of so many relationships incurred by the inability of one party to gain administrative access to the unpublished drafts of other parties.

So much is left unsaid, unpublished.  So many misunderstandings persist, and become historical fact, under the constant pressure and pace of time, and our passive-aggressive ability to assume and impose motives and rationale on the empty spaces of conversations.

Imaginations run wild, offense is taken, defense is mustered, assumptions make what they will of us.

After going to bed last night with misunderstandings busily building mountains of molehills, it took 2 calls and 45 minutes this morning for me to hear my wife clearly, and to explain myself adequately to draw out her typically gracious response to my shortcomings.  “Thanks.  That helps,” she said.  That was an understatement of abundant grace akin to Jesus saying, “Father, forgive them.  They don’t know what they’re doing.”

Lives become past-tense with unpublished drafts of real words divulging truth only to audiences who remain perpetually unaware of their existence.

God forbid, please God, that precious gifts and their days are wasted without notice on misunderstandings borne and sustained by silence.

God, please, make me a listener, especially to the silence.

And grant me, always, please, administrative access to unpublished drafts, or at least to the knowledge of their existence, so that I might, with love and grace, persuade their publication.

And thanks, God, for the depth of the well dug in William’s earth.  May it be a fountain of living water.  May your grace be sufficient for us both.

May your grace be sufficient for us all.

writing and self-confrontation with Lefty and Rusty

“The act of writing puts you in confrontation with yourself, which is why I think writers assiduously avoid writing.” – Fran Lebowitz

Though I have on occasion written actual words, to characterize myself as a writer would be an awkward fit at best.  In the same way that, although I’ve been known to wash a dish or two on occasion, my wife would assertively attest to the fact that I’m far from what anyone could reasonably consider a dishwasher.

Yet, I am the actual writer of these words, at least, and the others connected to this production, and happen to find myself feeling the sharp point of the words expressed in the quote above, in spite of the awkward fit.

In any case, here I am, after weeks months away from this place, confronting myself in a relatively weak attempt to quiet the conflicting voices inside my head.

They yell back and forth at each other – the one on the left diligently enforcing the darkness of the soul’s self-imposed lock-down, and the one on the right screaming to throw the doors open to the light and revel in the freedom of expression.

The voice on the left – let’s call him Lefty – lives by the creed of writing wisdom proven generally applicable by centuries of lauded writing experience:  “Stop writing about yourself!  You’re not as interesting as you think you are!” 

When the counter-proposal, made in response to that piercing proclamation, is launched by the voice on the right – let’s call him Rusty – saying, “Fine, then we’ll write about someone or something else!”, Lefty spitefully, and with a venomous smirk across his thin lips, lobs the old standby cannonballs of self-deprecation:  “You can’t.  You don’t know anything about anything else!”; and “Why bother?  Nobody cares about your opinion, anyway!”

As you can imagine, I’m sure, Rusty’s heartbroken response to such vindictive and violent warfare is to tuck his tail and run for cover.

Yet, despite his wounds and anxiety, Rusty is haunted by the yearning – initially, fearfully derided as weakness and pathetic hubris – for the light of the open doors.  Rusty longs for the great outdoors, and the longing builds the fuel of a fire that burns reluctantly, but persistently.

Rusty finally concludes, with a twinkle in his eye and a skip in his step, that Lefty is just a big scaredy-cat.

Moved to rebellion by the physically-felt inspiration of all that’s holy and right in the world, Rusty builds enough momentum to crush the locked doors like so much aluminum foil and launches himself into the light of day, completely exposed for all to see, twirling with exuberance in the joys of freedom.

Right?

Well, not so much, maybe.

Rusty still has to write something.

Words are hard to string together in so cohesive a manner as to express the inexpressible depths – the thoughts that form knots in the stomach, that move us to tears, that inspire courage and action, that launch us into love with giddiness and recklessness.

Words are hard to string together.

The soul’s first language isn’t English, or any other language of men for that matter.  We’re always translating its transcendent cries into the broken words of men, filled with holes and tending to lose great portions of meaning in route to destinations unknown.

Realizing, again, that he’s come ill-equipped for the occasion, Rusty slinks back to an awkward respite just outside the destroyed gates of Lefty’s lair, realizing they can never fully contain him, but unwilling to venture too far from their safety net of darkness.