The Way of Scrooge

As I write this, I am looking out my picture window and noting that it’s still dark at 7 a.m.  A fresh snow fall increases the sense of expectant hush this dark time of year has, especially in the cold states.  There is a feeling of waiting, of advent, and also sometimes a feeling of hybernation, of sleepiness and weakness, even if you aren’t sick.  Sometimes, I feel a little like a hybernating bear dragged out of a cave and made to deal with tasks I’m just not up to–deadlines and gifts to buy and parties.  Yesterday, on Monday, the most tired day of the week, I dragged myself like a drowsy bear over to my local post office to have a passport picture taken so I can get my passport renewed in time to visit my daughter at Oxford in February.  There, before a grim audience of people waiting to mail packages, I stood against a grimy wall and let a well-meaning postal employee take my picture (“Wait, I’m not pushing the right button…oh dear, that one’sreally not good, let’s try again….”)  The resulting picture, the best of three, chilled me to the core.  The holidays coming around again themselves can remind a person of the inexorable way time passes, but this, well, I felt a bit like Scrooge encountering the Ghost of Christmas Future.

It wasn’t just that I look much, much older than I feel, who doesn’t?  It was the expression on my face.  Even though I stood there trying to be present, sensing my feet on the ground, willing my heart to be open to the postal worker and the impatient customers and all beings–even though I wished very much to show some evidence of my true humanity when I cross borders,  I looked, well,really  under the weather.  Literally.  I looked like a creature who is carried along passively by the  life, blown by the winds, washed away with the floods, crushed under the great wheel.   There was no denying the truth, dear reader.  The evidence is overwhelming, and has been for years.  Take that train trip that I described last week, right after 9/11, when fear was so strong in New York.  A perfectly nice young woman sitting next to Alex and I asked us to watch her insulated lunch box while she went to rest room.   Alex and I agreed, but after she didn’t come back for what seemed a long, long time we began to stare at each other.  We were afraid of it, dear reader!  Even though it looked like a perfectly ordinary lunch bag, we thought it might be a diabolically clever bomb planted by a very cleverly unlikely terrorist!   If you wanted to know the power of fear to strip you of your own senses and intuition, those were days, my friends!  I remember screwing up my courage to open the thing  I wanted to show Alex her mother could be brave and noble!) when the nice woman came sweeping back into her seat and thanked us.

It was one of the many moments in my life when I have been aware of the truth in this quote by C.S. Lewis, which was recently posted on the Parabola Facebook wall:  “Five senses, an incurably abstract intellect, a haphazardly selective memory; a set of preconceptions and assumptions so numerous that I can never examine more than a minority of them–never become conscious of them all.  How much of total reality can such an apparatus let through?”  I no illusions about my capacities on the train that day, or in the post office yesterday.   Yet, at the same time I was–and am– aware that there is another power source in us, a heart that glows and assents to things unseen and even sings while the mind (what we usually call the mind) struggles to keep up.

Sometimes, there is a clear seeing awareness that can visit us like an angel–or like one of the ghosts in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.  It is not something that we conjure up.  It is a greater awareness that we sometimes allow in–sometimes we can feel like a reluctant hero in a movie or a myth, pushed into stepping out of the cramped old world and onto the path of the unknown.  Like Scrooge (or a bear, dragged out of it’s cave).   We are not ready, no able to be part of the great adventure that is offered.  Except the heart is ready.  The heart has not been sleeping.  It has been waiting for this moment.

“Be helpless, dumbfounded,/ Unable to say yes or no./ Then a stretcher will come from grace to gather us up,” writes Rumi.  The heart stays awake and opens the door and lets grace come in and gather us up and make us Whole.

This Christmas, consider giving away all your illusions about yourself, all your cherished ideas and opions and assumptions.  Give away the best of yourself too, give big, like Scrooge.  Open up the doors and the blinds and see who or what comes in.  “Where one is emptied of self, ideas, concepts, assumptions, images, and all else; God pours himself into the soul, and the light at the core of the soul grows so strong, it spills out holiness and radiates through the whole person.”  Meister Eckhart.

 

7 comments

  1. Tracy, like the last three paragraphs of your post. I too have been wondering about a special awareness that as you say visits us like an angel.

    How is it that sometimes of a sudden I am aware and free? Is it because of all the attempts at work that I have made, because of Wish, and how does that appear? There is a movement that I can make of bringing attention to the sensations of myself/body. Beyond that even though I’ve heard ‘the elders’ say over and over that we can allow this awareness … it is always there they say … but hearing this doesn’t make it happen. It is a question … a question I am glad to have; because without a question there is no journey.

  2. There does seem to be a higher consciousness that visits us from time to time, that let’s us be part of it for a moment. I agree about the importance of a question, and that it is a journey. Something is up to us. We have to go beyond what we know, what is familiar…and it’s especially easy at certain times, when we’re confronted with the real state of affairs.

  3. too reminiscent of my similar dark thoughts but it was a good read.
    i dropped my camera on sunday at a christmas celebration. when it hit the ground it took my picture. today i emptied my google phone into the cavern of my computer’s memory. i was shocked at this candid shot.
    i was pretty happy that day but i guess we can’t be radiating joy unless we are conscious of it.
    now reading this i suddenly remembered something i heard recently.
    “are you happy? then tell it to your face.”
    naturally, i uploaded it to my facebook page. isn’t it about faces?

  4. Tracy wrote:

    This Christmas, consider giving away all your illusions about yourself, all your cherished ideas and opions and assumptions. Give away the best of yourself too, give big, like Scrooge. Open up the doors and the blinds and see who or what comes in. “Where one is emptied of self, ideas, concepts, assumptions, images, and all else; God pours himself into the soul, and the light at the core of the soul grows so strong, it spills out holiness and radiates through the whole person.” Meister Eckhart.

    ********************

    Matthew 19

    16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
    17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

    18 “Which ones?” he inquired.

    Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’[c] and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]”

    20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

    21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

    22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

    23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
    ****************************

    Giving up our illusions, especially when we are rich in them, is far easier said than done.

  5. Yes! And not just illusions. I’ve heard or read–and even repeated!–that it is easier to give away wealth than our views and opinions, which just keep springing up: “Blessed are the poor in spirit for they shall be comforted.” I think this means accepting an inner poverty, so we can receive.

  6. Tracy –

    “Blessed are the poor in spirit for they shall be comforted.”

    Does mean accepting an inner poverty, so that we may receive God, as love and compassion, even wisdom. It is very similar to the path of a Bodhisattva, in Buddhism.

    It is one of the key teachings of Father Laurence Freeman, who is the spiritual director of the World Community of Christian Meditation. He is also a close friend of the Dali Lama, they have taught together and prayed together on many occasions. Prayer and meditation in this tradition is a process of letting go and of being emptied so that we may receive.

    The Kenosis Hymn – Philippians 2:5-8
    Kenosis is the Greek word for emptiness.

    5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
    6 who, though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
    7 but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
    And being found in human form,
    8 he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.

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