Friday, 14 March 2014

Sensing Lent 9: Two chairs, the significance of which I do not yet understand

I'm grateful for the church year which provides a special reason to go deeper in Lent. But this is often coupled with feeling personally uninspired and unsure what to 'do' through Lent. I think the year I finally agree with God that some kind of fasting is probably the only way to fit more of God in, I will have arrived. And then need to repent of my pride, and so be back at square one again. 

Today as I was driving more slowly than usual somewhere, I remembered that one year I tried to give up speeding for Lent. Not 100% successful I have to admit. This year I'm not giving anything up, but trying to live more in the moment, using the 5 senses; and theorising less. And trying to blog about it.

I'm not convinced about daily blogging. Ironically you need to carve out time from an already busy timetable to do it and that can end up being counter productive, especially as Lent is supposed to be a time when we slow down and be more aware. At the same time, I've always wanted to be a writer so if that ever 'comes to pass', as it were, at least I'll know what that discipline feels like each day. Because I'm a creature of habit and it's not a problem for me to sit down in the same place at the same time each day and tap out a few hundred words. Radically, today I am in a different font. The Spirit must be at work somehow then.

And I'm reading Richard Rohr. The cover of his 2011 book, 'Falling Upward', shows two chairs at a table (above). One is facing inwards towards the table and the other towards the observer. The one facing the table seems to match it while the other green one, which I find more attractive, doesn't match anything. If Richard Rohr is right in his other writing on the Enneagram (an ancient personality/spirituality model) this is because I am at home at the 'four' position where you have a need to feel 'special'. I like the green chair because it stands out and looks interesting. It looks special. And it looks down on the other chair, which is just ordinary, and no one wants to be just ordinary....or do they...?

But I digress. The thesis of 'Falling Upward' is that we live life in roughly two halves. The first half of life sees us building our outer life - our skills and achievements, education, partner, home, career and maybe family. We think in terms of being upwardly mobile and failure or weakness is to be avoided at all costs. 

Rohr maintains that there is a second half of life though, which we need to embrace if we are to mature; and this is more concerned with discovering that the very things we think make us strong are eventually obstacles to discovering 'real life' (in a spiritual sense). The ego which has been built, needs to be 'unbuilt' to embrace the life of God, which is made perfect in our weakness.

The idea that the things I tend to rely on each day - physical strength, natural gifts and skills, the hope that nothing will go 'wrong' might need to be undone as the second half of life spreads out into the future is rather scary. 'Down' is really 'up', he says. It's like the Beatitudes, I suppose, and I think I follow the idea. I'm still trying to get to grips with his style, which is to sound like a therapist a lot of the time, but I've had a feeling or a while that I should read this book so I'll persevere. And maybe the chair thing will become clearer.

Meanwhile I keep looking at things, including favourite chairs, trying to sense the meaning in things, and listening to the extremely small amount of silence obtainable in this house. And persevering with Lent.

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