Biography

A friend

My Cuban poet friend was riled into compassion today after Mass, inviting me into a conversation filled with coincidences.  The conversation involved two young adults, a male and female.  The young man, an Indian gentleman, astounded with his intelligence and insight.  Others have determined he is bound for a medical career as a doctor, yet through experience he ponders the contemplative life, spending three months of discernment at the monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia, a Trappist order.  I happen to spend a week at the monastery years ago, somewhat familiar with their ways.  It was remarkable that the young couple both knew Vermont intimately.  She was raised in New Hampshire, and both spent time in Manchester, Vermont—just north of the Carthusians, while knowing Bennington, the town I spent Saturday afternoon exploring, my second outing in the quaint town.  The significant other is also familiar, through childhood experiences, with the areas of Vermont I ventured into.  My Cuban poet friend was on fire, for good and bad, with spiritual excitation, or possibly torment, regarding the death of a friend.  Her friend died of cancer.  Refusing treatment through the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospital, ignoring their impassioned pleas for Lymphoma treatment, she stubbornly pursued medical options self-chosen in Paris.  Her decision proved unwise, the Paris treatments failed.  She passed away before the age of sixty.  The Cuban poet was distressed, reading the eulogy at her friend’s funeral.  She emailed me words she wrestled with in outlining her words to honor her beloved friend.  I feel secure in sharing them.

Writes Rilke: “Through loss, through great immoderate loss, we are actually quite introduced into [completeness]. Death is only an unsparing way of placing us on intimate and trusting terms with the side of our existence that is turned away from us.
(What should I emphasize more: our or existence? Both are here of the greatest significance, as if balanced by the weight of the stars!)”

(…)

“Whoever does not at some point absolutely affirm and even rejoice fully in the dreadfulness of life will never lay claim to the inexpressible powers of our existence; he or she will pass through life along the periphery and will have been, once the decision has been cast, neither one of the living nor one of the dead.”

I add: Adrienne did not pass through life along the periphery. She was and is part of our existence.

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Vamos

Twenty-eight straight days of work, massive hours, and now three days off.  Turning everything down, as close to off as possible. A song, a remarkable find and an artist to keep an ear upon.

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Memorial Day

I am finishing Donald Cozzens ‘Notes From the Underground: The Spiritual Journal of a Secular Priest’.  He is a priest serving as the writer in residence at John Carroll University.  Complex while unassuming, the book has antagonized, compelled indifference—the sort I have always felt when considering Thomas Merton, and deeply inspired—piercing with insight from an authentic individual committed to the contemplative path.  I will post some of his thoughts I am convinced deserve profound reflection.  I was impressed with his insistence to transcend Catholicism beyond superstition and dogmatic practices.  The need to forego exterior exertion aimed toward righteousness.  The importance of interior transformation usurping rigid adherence that only adds to worldly division and the severe angst of modern times.  He guides to the practice of faith profoundly consisting of the ability to let go, the exercising of prayer dominating, and the elevation of trusting in God all coalescing to form a superior hope and love; a living example of peace, gentleness, and kindness pointing toward eternity through Christ.  Yesterday during early morning Mass at St Dominic’s, the priest was ranting dogmatically regarding Catholicism being the one true way.  He sarcastically remarked that if you were going to explore outside Catholicism to please go to an Eastern Orthodox church.  I smiled since I have been fascinated with the Orthodox faith for the last several months.  The utilitarian ‘Jesus Prayer’ evolving into a life companion, a metamorphizing mantra compatible to moments throughout the day.  The last several nights I have been viewing documentaries on Russian monasteries: Valaam—Step to the Skies and the world’s northern most monastery, invigorating with exoticism, while familiar through simplicity and romance.  Today, we toured a Greek Orthodox church in Cleveland, The Annunciation, a quaint vibrant church whose interior, brushed with a soft aqua blue backdrop, offered images and information on the practice of the Orthodox faith.  The church is a highly visible adornment to the Cleveland landscape as it is perched majestically along side interstate ninety just south of downtown; its peculiar golden domes announcing something foreign.  The parishioner presenting today’s tour, a fifth-grade religious teacher, possessed a passion for his faith that easily accentuated his words.  He commented that he would like to claim he was a devout Eastern Orthodox practitioner, however he found that every day he was discovering new aspects of his church, historically and theologically, and within that discovery his place within the church of his upbringing.  Every day he felt he was starting anew.  He spoke of an entrance: the Narthex, a part of the nave, entering the church being the entering of an alternate reality, the altering of time.  Everything changes as one enters and leaves the world behind.  The temporal is replaced by the eternal.  The focus of the church once entered is three doors, Holy Doors, holy being associated with the presence of God.  The doors stand amidst an array of large icons illuminated by presence candles.  The central door, the Eastern Door of light, opens to the sanctuary, the Crucifixion and tabernacle.  The King of Glory returning to His people.  Only the priest and deacons, who bear the Eucharist, use the Eastern Door.  The Northern Door is the entrance door.  Once opened, colorful icons display to the congregation the resurrection of Christ.  Counter-clockwise, time is tampered as the end of the story is told first.  The Southern Door, the departing door, exhibits the beginning of the story, the birth of Jesus.  It was a pleasant day.  I want to post the words of Donald Cozzens.

I’ve written at some length about the silent, wordless, often imageless, prayer called contemplative or centering prayer.  Now, from a different perspective, this “sitting in the presence of God prayer” has a purifying power that allows us to see instinctively what really matters most, “Be still,” the psalmist says, “and know that I am God.”  Be still, in other words, and know that you are not God.  Be still and have faith, be still and hope, be still and love.  Our stillness, metaphorically speaking, breaks down the walls of our monasteries and lets the contemplative charism escape into the streets of our global village where it’s “infecting” ever growing numbers.

People tired of being out of balance, out of sync, tired of being spiritually sick are experimenting with contemplative prayer and reporting extraordinary, if subtle, changes in their lives.  They say they are more centered and less restless; they tend not to judge others, they seem more content with what they have; they are more patient with spouses, children, and co-workers. They report being less neurotic, less anxious, less fearful.  In a word—they are peaceful….

Contemplative prayer, as we have seen, sooner than later leads to contemplative living.  And contemplative living makes a defining difference in our broken world.  By contemplative l;iving I’m referring, with repeated urgency, to the quality of awareness, of mindfulness, that prompts to live fully in the present moment.  Contemplative living honors the now.  It is instinctively willing rather than willful….

Contemplative prayer, while not the only path to contemplative living, remains the truest path, at least from my experience.  I sometime think our only hope rest in an ever-expanding arc of men and women, from all corners of our planet, living contemplatively.  More than through diplomacy, government intervention, military power, or economic policy, the violence and injustice of our world will be diminished by men and women leading contemplative lives. Put less starkly, only a contemplative factor in diplomacy, politics, and economics will prove ultimately effective. 

I’ll conclude this section with striking words from two of the twentieth century’s major theologians.  Turning to the level of the individual, Raimon Panikkar writes, “In this crucible of the modern world, only the mystic (contemplative) will survive.  All others are going to disintegrate; they will be unable to resist either the physical strictures or the psychical strains.”  And from Karl Rahner, “The Christian of the twenty-first century will be a mystic (contemplative) or not at all.”  –Donald Cozzens ‘Notes From the Underground”

Greek Orthodox Metropolis Of Pittsburgh
Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church
Cleveland, OH

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A new mindset

This latest struggle slips into the reality of an arrogance and negativity in my mindset, the need to be right, at the deepest core opinionated. There was a nurse caring for me in the emergency room who made a strong impression. His kindness and concern astounded me. I understood it was an aspect lacking within my interior. I trended toward one who attempts to be right rather than compassionate. First, I intellectualize, forming judgements, attempting to identify deeper meanings, establishing personal dogma, before simply being kind. Walking through the amazing University Hospital near the Case Western campus, the breathtaking architecture and setting produced a sense of awe. I felt connected to those around me, understanding I was truly abandoning an analytical mind.

Walking home from the hospital campus on a sunny day, I meandered through the historic Cleveland Heights neighborhood, admiring the homes and gardens. It amazes me how friendly and sociable the people are in this neighborhood. There is always a smile and a wave for a passerby. The sense of community is authentic. The significant other and I recently took a walk through the gorgeous neighborhood and I was a bit stunned that she was approaching woman asking them about their gardens, walking right up to their porches. The response was always an enthusiastic sharing. There is a cultured willingness to engage others openly and kindly, abandoning judgement and the constant maneuvering to be right.

The significant other brings that endearing charm into my life: kindness, gentleness, attentiveness, commitment and concern before judgement. I am positive it is why God has put her in my life. I am being asked to recognize and remove my arrogant need to be right. I was recently driving listening to EWTN, hearing the woman go on and on about the absurdity of millennial ‘snowflakes’, their weakness of personality in demanding their ‘safe spaces’, the intellectual foolishness of using words like ‘microaggressions’, when I comprehended that was me, always viewing the world with the need to be right. Respectfully to the EWTN broadcaster, I understood I have to let go of such ways.

Nietzsche identified a fundamental human flaw as laziness. I think society has advanced to the degree that over exertion, trying too hard, has become a human  flaw. Opinions, ideas, feelings, and thoughts are taken extremely serious with the majority putting an intense effort in developing and presenting their positions. There will not be a lacking in those willing to engage in battle. For me, I must remove any vestige of an opinionated mind. My spiritual goal is called to advance to a core being centered in kindness and gentleness, open and willing to be wrong, rejecting judgment and proclamations. I must take myself less serious in order to move closer to God.

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Post Easter Vacation

Mary statue Rosary Cathedral, many prayers and travails here.

Today is the end of a meaningful Easter vacation, a subtle advancement in peace of mind and contentment with life. The first night, Wednesday of Holy Week, the significant other and I traveled to Toledo to enjoy a memorable Tenebrae service at the Rosary Cathedral. In all of my religious explorations, I have never experienced anything on par with the Toledo diocese’s expression of the pre-Triduum prayer ceremony. Toledo’s elaborate Cathedral, Spanish Plateresque architectural style honoring its sister city in Spain, was packed. We arrived over a half hour early and already the church was half filled. The solemn ceremony involves the individual extinguishing of fifteen candles after the respective reciting of Psalms, hymns, and readings from Lamentations; including choir singing wafting down from hidden lofty chambers—the ceremony ends in darkness and a dramatic roll played upon a Timpani drum. It was a powerful opening to a shared Easter vacation. I expressed to the significant other the desire to meet a gentleman involved in the cathedral’s administration. When we arrived in the late afternoon to take photos, there the man was walking in the parking lot, leading a band of school children. The conversation was a delight. Hopefully, he will pursue his longing to visit St Paul’s Shrine. We picked up my mother for the event, meeting my brother at the cathedral. Spending the first night of vacation with my mother, a grandnephew who is the child of a single mother, and my mother’s dog proved profound in the experience of familial charity. The rest of the Easter vacation’s religious celebrations would be conducted at St Paul’s Shrine. Last Super Thursday, we participated in the washing of feet, a blessing with Father Roger cleansing and kissing. Good Friday included a communion ceremony and the Stations of the Cross. Saturday presented an Easter Vigil Mass, and Sunday Easter Mass followed by baked goods and coffee. Everything coalesced into a manifestation of gratitude, joy, and exultation. Good Friday morning proved significant with a return to my basketball buddies. The significant other came along, sharing lunch with the gentleman, enamored with their maturity and fellowship. Several of my basketball buddies were not in attendance as a sponsored trip to New Zealand, a tournament in the exotic locale providing their Easter amusement. It warmed my heart to witness the significant other genuinely thrilled to share the men’s company. Texts from the basketball buddies following the lunch, expressing elation for meeting the significant other, proved the matter must not remain a onetime deal. I felt blessed to share the friendship of Cliff, an eighty-seven year old man who still participates in the full court games. Easter Sunday with my family, celebrated at my sister’s abundant home, proved worthy in furthering the bond with the significant other. Children were everywhere, in most part due to a newly arrived Toledo family who joined my sister’s church. The family of six boys under the age of nine provided plenty of energy to the event. The father/husband engaged with interesting conversation regarding his childhood in Louisiana, and intimate knowledge of New Orleans.

I move beyond Easter of 2017 with peace in my mind and heart, content while contrite. During the upcoming Memorial Day weekend in May, the significant other and I will explore further deepening of our relationship with a workshop retreat at a Carmelite Monastery in Niagara, Ontario Canada, enjoying Niagara Falls during the time. The workshop will be a daylong session of meetings and discussions on the topic of falling in love. ‘Thy Will be done’, yet my desired intent aims toward a romantic advancement centered within the Church. On the backburner, a September trip to Spain, accompanying my mother to her homeland, is being suggested and processed. I reflect upon this year’s Holy Week vacation with remembrance of the struggles immediately following Christmas of this liturgical year. I am convinced the struggles announced the end of my recovery years. Oddly, the explosion concretized the fact the recovery world no longer possesses a viable means of enrichment. The relapse was not significant for the happening; rather its importance signifies the end of an immersion in recovery world entanglement. It is done. I owe nobody, and to stay attached or involved in any regard is improper. Everything about the recovery world is abolished and removed. There is no doubt it is the will of God. I eliminated a haunting $1,500 debt from my Indiana years, liberating in its eradication, another sign that everything from my recovery years is obliterated. The religious life lingers in allurement, yet the normalizing through romantic commitment and the overcoming of personal issues stands supreme as a personal vocation, a call to mature stabilization. It will be whole heartedly and singularly pursued. My prayer life broadens alone at the Shrine, amassing hidden treasure. That comes easy. I need no one in that regard, nor do I answer to others. Within the maturity of making an authentic attempt toward a Catholic romantic relationship, an exercising of familial commitment, devotion, and sacrifice, my life fits comfortably; soothing and freeing as with the sporting of a loose garment. I have conducted quite a bit of work and expense in establishing my temporary home as a relaxed, refined, place of residency. It has worked to establish a heightened sense of significance to my private time; escalating with film appreciation (Bergman’s ‘Fanny and Alexander’ and Tarkovsky’s ‘Nostalghlia’ notable), reading, writing, and significant other cuddling time. I am writing fiction once again, encouraged by my Cuban political science professor friend to pursue academic efforts at John Carrol University. Innovatively, life appears to be opening up, inviting me in. I came across two words I explored in a recently posted poem: centrifugal and centripetal.

“The difference between centripetal and centrifugal force has to do with different ‘frames of reference,’ that is, different viewpoints from which you measure something,” according to Andrew A. Ganse, a research physicist at the University of Washington. If you are observing a rotating system from the outside, you see an inward centripetal force acting to constrain the rotating body to a circular path. However, if you are part of the rotating system, you experience an apparent centrifugal force pushing you away from the center of the circle, even though what you are actually feeling is the inward centripetal force that is keeping you from literally going off on a tangent.”

I will end with what I feel is a particular recent blessing. A fox has moved into my life, making its home upon my neighbor’s garage, meandering about my backyard daily. I am enamored with the beautiful creature, drawn in by its sense of peace and lazy living. I am mesmerized when I am able to sit at the window watching it calmly pass the time of day. God is good and all giving.

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Sunday within Lent

Saint Panteleimon the martyr and healer.

In the entry room, Silvester looked at Arseny, questioning.  Arseny knew that look very well but had not seen it before on a child.  He could not fathom what he should say to a child who wore that look. 

Things look bad, you know (Arseny turned away).  I feel pained that I cannot save her.

But you saved the princess, said the boy.  Save her, too. 

Everything is in God’s hand. 

You know, for God, it would be such an easy thing to heal her.  It is very simple, Arseny.  Let us pray to Him together. 

Let us.  But I do not want you to blame Him if she dies anyway.  Remember: she is likely to die. 

You want us to ask Him but not believe that He will grant this for us? 

Arseny kissed the boy on the forehead. 

No.  Of course not. 

Arseny made a bed for Silvester in the entryway and said, you will sleep here. 

Yes, but we will pray first, said Silvester. 

Arseny went to the room and brought out the icons of the Savior, His Virgin Mother, and the great martyr and healer Panteleimon.  He took to dippers off a shelf and put the icons in their place.  He and the boy knelt.  They prayed for a long time.  When Arseny finished reciting prayers to the Savior, Silvester tugged at his sleeve. 

Wait, I want to say it in my own words.  (He pressed his forehead to the floor, which made his voice sound more muffled.)  Lord, let my mother live.  I need nothing else in the world.  At all.  I will give thanks to you for centuries.  You know, after all, that if she dies I will be left all alone.  (He looked out from under his arm at the savior.)  With no help. 

Silvester did not fear for himself when he informed the Savior of these possible consequences: he thought of his mother and chose the weightiest argument in favor of her return to health.  He hoped he could not be refused.  And Arseny saw that.  He believed the Savior saw it, too. 

Then they prayed to the Mother of God.  Arseny glanced back when he did not hear Silvester’s voice.  Still kneeling, Silvester slept, leaning against a storage chest.  Arseny carefully carried him to the bed and prayed, now alone, to the healer Panteleimon.  At around midnight, he went in to begin taking care of Kesniya.  Eugene Vodolazkin ‘Laurus’

A review of the novel from The American Conservative by Rob Dreher

Last night, after midnight, I read the last lines of Laurus, a newly translated Russian novel by Eugene Vodolazkin, and thought it surely must be the most perfect ending ever. There is no way it could have ended any more perfectly or profoundly. And then I did what I have done nearly every time I’ve put this astonishing novel down over the last few days: I picked up my chotki (prayer rope) and prayed, as I was first taught to do in an Orthodox parish in the Russian tradition.

What kind of novel makes you want to enter into contemplative prayer after reading from its pages? I’ve never heard of one. But Laurus is that kind of novel. It induces an awareness of the radical enchantment of the world, and of the grandeur of the soul’s journey through this life toward God. It is so strange and mystical and … well, to call a novel “holy” is too much, but Laurus conjures on every page an awareness of holiness that is without precedence in my experience as a reader. Holiness illuminates this novel like an icon lamp.

A simple strange novel reviewed well.  The Russian influence continues to pervade my life.  Visiting the Lakewood Library, accompanied by the significant other, we happenstanced upon a musical show of a Russian folk musician, Oleg Kruglyakov, playing his balalaika.  The delightful man of simple charming disposition astounded with his skill upon the peasant three stringed instrument.  Wonderfully entertained, we sat mesmerized by the stories of Russia, the instrument, and the background of the songs Oleg played. The show complimented the powerful sacred performance of The Passion of John we witnessed the previous evening by the Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hasll.  Unfortunately, Oleg’s piano partner from Cleveland Heights was not there for the afternoon performance, although he did have taped accompaniment with her.  I spoke with the amiable man after the performance, sharing my new found love of Russian smoked salmon with him.  He vows to visit the Cleveland Heights Russian deli and meet his countrymen I praised so highly.  Enjoy the video, this man is a treasure, embodying the simple, while profound, heartwarming depth I am encountering in the novel Laurus.

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Saturday afternoon

Saturday morning relaxing, bed lounging reading: Archbishop Charles Chaput’s ‘Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World’ and Eugene Vodolazkin’s ‘Laurus’, while holding close upon the covers a short collection on Silence from a conference held by Camaldolese Hermits in Bloomingdale, Ohio.  A scriptural quote from the back of the hermit book: The Lord is good to those who expect Him, to the soul that seeketh Him.  It is good to wait in silence for the salvation of the Lord.  It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth.  Let him sit in solitude and silence, when He has laid it upon him.  Let him put his mouth to the dust.  There may yet be hope.  Lamentations 3:25-29.  The Laurus novel is a strange Russian story of a young boy growing in medieval times.  Prone to superstition, a lack of scientific knowledge, religious misunderstanding, as well as religious fervor, a keen mind, and pestilence, the orphan boy is raised and taught by his grandfather, a healer familiar with herbs and traditional ways of confronting physical ailments.  The grandfather is advised by an elder monk to take up his abode next to the local cemetery.  Due to the plague and an abundance of empty homes, the obedient grandfather/healer lays claim to a comfortable home bordering the cemetery, a rail fence the only thing between the home and the resting place of the deceased.  Advancing in companionship, love, and learning, the boy loses his grandfather as he grows into his teenage years.  Without his grandfather, the boy understands he is alone in the world, grappling while accepting.  Neighbors—patients and friends, offer the boy their home, yet he refuses, comprehending he could never abandon his grandfather’s home for it has become his home.  It is his grounding point upon the earth.  There is no place else he could go.  He instinctively and efficiently takes over his grandfather’s role as a healer, making a reputation for himself for having comforting hands, the ability to lay his hands upon people and ease their burdens.  I am locked into the novel at place where the solitary boy growing into a man has gotten himself stuck in a serious conundrum.  A ragged fellow orphan entered his world.  One night, desperate eyes emerged from the dark forest begging for food.  The boy offered the soft voice the comfort of his home, as well as food, yet the girl’s voice refused, warning him her village was wiped out by the plague.  She explained she was not worthy to enter anyone’s home, and even more if others learned she entered his home it would be condemned.  She warned him if others knew who she was she would be killed and her body burned.  She begged the boy to leave the food beyond the edge of his fire so she could retrieve it unseen and disappear.  The boy immediately walked to the girl and brought her to his fire, recognizing she was a small famished red head child.  He took the girl into his home, allowing her to bath, and afterwards feeding her, unable to take himself away from her once she fell asleep with food remaining before her.  Putting her to bed upon a wooden bench, the boy sat with the sleeping girl, and while sleeping she brought him into her embrace.  The boy fell asleep next to her, waking to the moist touch of tears.  Awake, the girl was staring at him, crying.  Blushing, he tried to remove himself from her, yet she protested, telling him he was all she had.  Fearfully, the boy would take the girl into his grandfather’s home, hiding her from everyone lest they discover her origin.  An unrelenting panic subtly overwhelmed his waking moments that he would lose his girl.  He shunned the church, the receiving of communion, becoming distant and absent minded in his duties as a healer, convinced he could not share with anyone the love of his life.  I have reached a point in the simple fictional story in which the girl has become pregnant, urging the boy to take her as his wife.  The boy declares he loves her above all things, that she is already his wife.  For the first time, the girl challenges him, declaring that his secret and possessive love is not enough.  She wanted to be his wife before God, the church, and all people.  The Russian story blends in well with my recent immersion within Russian culture, now evolving with the branching out of the Hungarian filmmaker Bela Tarr, immersed within his film ‘The Turin Horse’, a strange tale breaking off from the incident of Nietzsche falling into madness after an encounter with a peasant man beating his horse.  The film is a brutal tale of existence, a metaphysical blustery visual meditation on the harshness of life for a father and his obedient daughter.  The father is the owner and thrasher of the horse that ignited the curse of madness onto Nietzsche.  The story reflected upon my mind the Biblical old woman raising her grandson who Elijah came upon begging food.  “As surely as the LORD your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread–only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it–and die.”  Elijah would compassionately be moved, endlessly filling the woman’s jars with bread and oil, saving her son.  The reading time and musing time comes conveniently through the blessing of no work for two days.  Following a Saturday early morning Mass and Holy Hour at St Dominic.  A prayer from the session:

O Eucharist, source of charity made present at every Mass, form me into your image and into the image of your saints.
Open in my soul, “in spirit and truth,” a real and unfathomable love that seeks to grasp your sacrifice.
May I see in your sacrifice love, and may I respond to it in love.
May I not only know love, but may I begin to love as you love.
May I walk along the path of love that you have set before me, the path of progress, of development, of deep and strong growth.
May I see in your Eucharistic presence my most authentic and deepest Christian vocation of perfecting the image and likeness I was meant to be like, the image and likeness of you O Lord.
Help me to be a sign of unity and a bond of charity in a world so hostile, cold, and distant.
O sacrament of love, help me to fulfill the commandment of love of God and neighbor.
O Eucharist, source of charity made present at every Mass, form me into your image and the image of your saints.
Amen.

The woman orchestrating the Holy Hour establishes herself as a blessing; a distant, silent, beautiful woman providing companionship.  Her smile and nod of the head is properly invigorating, a sharing worthy to look forward to once a week.  It is enough.  I left work last night feeling confident, humble and proud.  I received an hourly raise of seventy-five cents last week, retroactive to the start of the year.  Providing nourishing pride, I am comprehending I am worth the money, standing behind my performance and who I am.  Something transforms inside, grace providing, allowing a strength within the lack of clarity regarding the future.  The significant other, although the term is used respectively and tenderly, is returning as a companion.  I am proud of her.  Over the last two weeks she conducted a Master Cleanse, fasting for ten plus days, demonstrating discipline and the corresponding consequences.  Furthermore, a brutal honesty emerged allowing a bottoming out, a confrontation of a momentous personal shortcoming demanding reparation.  Without the acknowledgement of hitting a bottom, we are only prone to fall deeper into another bottom.  There are always bottoms beneath every bottom.  We can spend a lifetime descending to lower and lower bottoms.  The only thing bottomless is death.  I am honored to assist in her immense progress, inspired by her acquired devotion to Our Lady Undoer of Knots.  A comforting companion, able to share in enriching entertainment, she has attained tickets through her employment for the Cleveland Orchestra tonight at Severance Hall, a performance of Bach’s ‘St John Passion’, with a preceding lecture on the work.  Our first experience at Severance Hall proved a meditative splendor with the enjoyment of the choral and musical piece ‘Sabet Mater’.  I expect nothing the less this evening.  Regarding companionship, the erroneous thought was placed before me that my recent struggle was to be a means of stagnation and the continuation of destructive ways.  Unable to even confront, weary of debating on levels that continually prove fruitless, I trust in patience and the grace of love to penetrate unknown regions.  Where there has been a shattering of trust, commitment, and devotion, the wreckage and ruin are only emptiness calling for the imagination to dally within nonsense.  I will only receive frustration pursuing.  When there was never the formation of trust, commitment, and devotion—a selfish void filling—when such holy things were properly laid before one, when these virtues were never advanced upon, rejected and refused, it is only obvious a delusion and inability to receive grace exist.  Regarding the latest, when there is such a misconception of truth, a severe lack of insight, a clear demonstration one cannot be open and willing—desiring to see through the eyes of God, then everything seems futile, an inevitable clash awaiting.  When grace is not providing understanding, sincerity is not enough.

Bella Tarr ‘The Turin Horse’

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