|Winter Sky at Stonehaven - 7 January 2014|
Further emergence into consciousness causes me to remember that my wife is not on the other side of the bed. Of course (I now get clarity), she is in New York City visiting our elder daughter for a few days. That provides another reason that I feel sluggish. We had arisen at 3:30am yesterday to get her to the airport for an early flight...and I had a busy day afterward. I now sit up -- eyes adjusting to the darkened surroundings. It is 5:25am. Nothing unusual. The Duchess (our dog) does this every morning around the same time. Today, however, I do not want to climb out of the warm bed.
I hear the wind outside. Our townhome condominium is very well built. If I hear the wind, that means more than a stiff breeze. I retrieve my smartphone, activate it and access the weather app. Local temperature: 38 degrees; winds from the NNE at 12mph with gusts to 25mph. The radar shows that it has been raining, but the band of showers is moving south and east. What's this?! There is a band of pink with the greens and yellows of the radar....sleet in Central Florida. It is always colder inland than it is on the coast. Damn.
I slide out, exit the bedroom and pad down the stairs...Duchess leading the way with a rapid descent that sounds more like a group of animals than one 20 lb. canine. She is really enthusiastic about the early morning routine. I take my time...still groggy...and ease into my Gortex storm jacket and Crocs; retrieve the leash; attach Duchess and open the front door. I am met with the whirling wind on our front alcove. Now I am fully awake, as the chill slaps me in the face.
True, I am an native Floridian...having grown up 130 miles east/northeast of here...in Central Florida. But my years in Scotland, Wisconsin, northern Indiana and west Missouri conditioned me for the cold, ice and snow of winter. It was nothing as bad as what is now being experienced in those climes, but there were some quite harsh storms in that aggregate of 25 years. I shoveled a lot of snow, scraped a lot of ice and experienced the kind of cold that burned exposed skin. It is one reason we returned to Florida and settled on the west coast in what is known as Subtropical Florida. After nearly 21 months here, 38 degrees with a windchill of 22 degrees seems harsh at 5:30am. What the hell. Come on Duchess, let's get this job done.
Back inside, I give Duchess her morning arthritis supplement (a chewy nugget which she anticipates eagerly). Instead of making coffee, I head back upstairs to see if more sleep can happen. I am just about to lose consciousness when, to my utter surprise, a canine paw pulls at my arm...again. I open my eyes, and stare into the eager face of the Duchess. "We just did this!" I say. She doesn't hear well, so I am really saying this to myself. I have been back in bed for only about 10 minutes. I quickly come to the conclusion that this night of sleep is done. Duchess is often the sentinel for me needing to be about the business of contemplative prayer time. Early morning is most often that time of day when I am most able to center and listen for the "still, small voice" of The One who called me to my vocation and gives clarity...when I can park the chatty ego.
The coffee is good. The beans are roasted by a dear friend of mine in San Francisco. Actually, he is more like a brother than a friend. We are six months apart in age. He is a Ph.D. theologian, professor turned entrepreneur with a coffee roasting business called HelioRoast....roasting energy using solar power. I may be biased, but I think his coffee is the best. I receive a pound each month....about three days after roasting. I grind the beans as needed for a single dripped cup or a brewed pot. Sipping a cup of coffee in what has become known as the "prayer area" of our downstairs, having contemplative and Daily Office time (formal ritual prayers and reading of my tradition), and sipping a second cup with spousal conversation in the living room is the normal routine. Today, it is me and Duchess, who, now confident her job is done, curls up on the rug at my feet. Her light snoring and the sound of the wind outside being the only noises in my environment
Today, I have been reminded of my ancestors. Why does this "bubble up" in the quiet darkness of contemplation? The mind part of me begins to take part. Seven generations......going back seven generations, starting with my two parents, there have been 128 people who have contributed directly to the DNA that composes my physical being and makes it possible for me to be present to this moment. Through the choices made for each father and mother to enter a relationship and produce a child; and raise that child into an adult who would chose a spouse and produce a child.....ultimately, the seeming random meeting of my mother and father and their choice to enter a relationship and produce a child. In addition, each of those had other children, who followed the same patterns that created each generation of what we call siblings and cousins.
But, today, I am aware of Self -- the uniqueness of being that has made me a conscious person in this moment. My chance meeting with the person who would become my spouse and the two daughters we produced, raised and sent into the world as young adults fills me with awe on this morning.
As I grow deeper in my own spiritual journey, the term "random" seems less appropriate. My concept for this is "informed choice." Love, ultimately, cannot be driven by ego consciousness. We may choose to manipulate our environment (and most often do), but there are ramifications for such hubris...not always good ones. We call the negative ramifications "suffering." When our own suffering happens, it is easy...and convenient...to blame it on someone or something else. Biblical literature mentions the ramifications of hubris-driven choices being visited upon even the seventh generation. I think that is why that many generations of my own ancestors came to me in the pre-dawn hours of this morning. (see, Some Principles of Moral Theology, by Kenneth Kirk, 1920...a classic Anglican moral theologian; professor at Magdalene College, Oxford and later Bishop of Oxford)*
I cannot change my DNA, but I know that the gene pool carries the energy and and consequences of those 128 persons that preceded me for seven generations ... and all the way back. (see Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue, by Edwin Friedman, 1985...the chapters dealing with Family of Origin)*
My soul is the unique energy and character of my True Self. I have a reason for being for the sake of creation. This is precisely true for every human born into life...for whatever length of time we have. The greatest gift we have been given is the ability to consciously participate in creation that does not depend solely on bio-physical responses or simple response to stimuli for survival. We can actually make decisions and choose. At the very heart of this is the choice: Do I choose a Self born in love? Or, Do I choose the emotional and visceral response to stimuli that will gratify the moment for my benefit?
Kenneth Kirk suggested that both of those questions in our grounded choice are combined to produce a balance called the "informed conscience." If I am working out of Love in Self, I will choose (for instance) the kind of lifestyle that will provide the greatest benefit for physical, emotional and relational health. When Jesus said, "my yoke is easy and my burden light," I think he had this balance in mind.
My journey thus far has brought me to a place of shift. It is a relationship that I have known "in moments" throughout my life, but which is now becoming more constant. It is that "still, small voice" that is not my ego, but one that is driven by Love. It is the Divine...who is, for me, manifested in the person of Jesus. "Are you sure this is the best choice you could make?" Sometimes, "Don't do that, it will not go well." Sometimes, it is just a gesture or a pointing in a direction.
Today, I am at peace with my ancestral heritage and gene pool. I am grateful for the choices that makes it possible to be me and here in the moment. I am grateful for the choices made in, or driven by, Love. And, yes, I am even grateful for the choices made in the shallowness of ego-self. It is out of the suffering produced by those choices that I have grown...the "glass darkly" that gets clearer as I go deeper into true-Self.
Folks, we are all on this same journey. I am blessed to have a dog who wakes me up to remind me to take time to allow shift to happen and balance to be maintained. The pattern is now deeply enough set that, when her time of departure arrives, I will know instinctively that I need to get up and be about living life in a sacred manner.
*I had the honor and privilege of studying for eight years with the late Dr. Edwin Friedman, before his death in 1996. His work and his ongoing "Post-Graduate Seminars in Family Process" did much to shape both my vocational and personal journey. My major work in graduate school (seminary) was sacramental theology and pastoral care. In the latter discipline, I focused on the moral and pastoral theological reflections of Kenneth Kirk and Robert Mortimer...along with a number of other major scholars. Those two early twentieth century scholars, however, were foundational for my own vocational development.