pursuit and stillness

Posted on January 28, 2009


I left san diego on november 26. I arrived in portland on december 2. today is january 27.

time has callously marched on despite my hopes to stop it, reverse it, or have it move forward faster than at the rate of one day per day. and so it progresses without discrimination or pity.

maybe that’s why I find myself becoming possessed by aspirations dyed deeply in what is ahead. it’s easy to become enamored with a life not yet realized, especially during a time when the public seems to be turning its collective head toward new beginnings. and that’s okay. just looking back at the race for the presidency, there’s a reason (aside from all things W) barack obama’s rhetoric of hope and change struck such a deep and natural chord with the majority of american voters.

I admit that, right now, I’m stuck in the pursuit of the what-is-to-come: a paying job, relational healing, a sense of permanence and belonging in this new city. I don’t anticipate any of these things to come easily, and I’m at peace with that. however, I can’t help but believe that this constant pursuit of such things is only part of the picture.

being still is certainly a lost art (to me, at least). I can’t listen to a 3 1/2-minute song from beginning to end, no less pause my life to let  both the treasures and dregs of daily life float past me unconcerned for and untouched. I also think it requires a gigantic spirit of concession for me to be still, since:

stillness forces me to relinquish control of the seemingly controllable.

stillness forces me to stop shouting into the distance and, rather, listen to what surrounds me immediately.

stillness forces me to value who I am at this time, not just the frilly words that describe who I want to become some day.

stillness forces me to remember my promises, not make more.

and, most importantly, stillness reminds me to embrace the parts of life that don’t fit neatly into the boxes I’ve created to make my life manageable and safe.

Never forget: We are alive within mysteries.

-Wendell Berry

what a concept! we are not failures within mysteries. we are not hopeless, lost, or resigned within mysteries. we are alive within them.

in an odd way, my pursuit of the unrealized can be taken as an attempt to impose my will (and my wishes) on the future to shape my life ahead, minimize variables, and in effect, create a life dry of any mystery. this isn’t to say goal-setting, preparing, and working toward results is bad. rather, I think it’s the fetishization of personal expectations as the be-all, end-all that lends itself to a shortsighted and heavy-handed approach to the whole of the human experience.

for me, now – when the mystery seems to be the greatest and most overwhelming – is the time to pump the brakes a bit on my pursuit and just be still. to listen. to trust. to remember. to be alive.

let’s see if I can do it for 3 1/2 minutes.

Posted in: reflection, updates