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April 10, 2019

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Broken expectations reveal what was expected.

Last night, when I walked out of Penn Staion I knew where I was – 8th Avenue and 33rd Street – but I looked for the Empire State Building to get my bearings. And it was gone. I looked up and down 8th Avenue and saw no One World Trade Tower, either way. No bearings.

I chose what I thought to be the right way, east, but there were no shadows, let alone a setting sun to walk away from. I walked down a couple of long blocks, and there it was. The Empire State with no visible crown of glory, no King Kong Beacon, its spire.


Actually very low clouds.

I laughed, but I was forced to trust a muscle memory of Manhattan’s grid. When my balance simply vanished 2 years ago for a few days, I had to trust my eyes and my upper body strength to hold me up to move anywhere. I had no gravity other than the weight of things.

The fundamental things do not change, but your perception does.

In about 12 hours I go to a far away place to teach for a few days. I do not have to have bearings, I am focused on those there, wherever there is. But after those few days I have a few days to see things. Not my usual practice, but I relented to those there who begged and my wife who likes to be part of a greater world.

I will have no bearings there, either.

I have had zero time beyond getting things done to think beyond getting things done.

The normal state of affairs.

We always have bearings where we want to have them. I know where I am with each small task, and where the next is. Until something happens. And things always happen. Bearings widen, or focus, or are completely missing. Things change.

But if I can get silence, or it is imposed upon me (as when I had no balance) I hear what was there, unnoticed. I am old enough that people that were with me from my birth are dead. I remain, they are gone. I now know, really know, that I will be gone, too.

I do not think our pets know that. My car does not. But the silence also reveals a bearing unknowable in coping. I am never alone. And have never been alone. Even with parents and siblings lost and away in full dysfunction from the time I knew I was me and not us: maybe 5 years old.

Sure, a rationalization via the delusions of youth is way easy, and would be empowering, Clearly my bearings were, and are, a reactive coping mechanism formed by an infantile abandonment. A coping mechanism. That’s it.  Like bad habits. Or bad friends. Or bad acts.

But I did none of these. My siblings did, in spades. Hell, my parents did. I just coped with chaos by avoiding it. I found no solace in being completely alone amid the din, I was lost. But I was not alone. I had the bearings of a tiny boat in a raging sea. But I did not sink.

I saw no Harvey, heard no voices, prayed no prayers save “sorry” and “thanks”, but I was not alone. In my youth there would often be silence for the 18 hours I was awake on weekends and school breaks. But the last 45 years there has seen no end to talking. I am fully engaged, with social bearings replete with action and effort.

But I will be silent again.

A woman I barely knew, but knew for 20 years, died yesterday. She simply did not wake up it seems. She was always happy to see me, and I tried to make her happier, riffing the funny line as well as I could. But her presence is now only felt in her absence, by her absense.

These 36 days of unbroken silent writing, in this Lent, largely in the dark, will now pause these coming 8 days of high performance. I will return for the Trideum, and a coda. I know this because I know Easter is there, even though like the Empire Stare Building’s Tower I cannot fathom it.

In absence and in distraction, the reality of God is so fundamental, personal and incoherent that it is daunting, even just a bit annoying. No activity, distraction, tragedy or triumph hides or reveals what is always there. There is no low hanging clouds to hide the reality of the presence of Grace.

Its there, whether I want it or not…

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