How do you see the world?
As a Franciscan, I get yelled at by many different people. Some of them (probably rightly, too) tell me that I need to embrace quiet and stillness and be in those elements in order to be a Franciscan. One of them, my spiritual director, used to look at me and point blank ask me how my prayer life was. I think, deep down, we both knew how I would answer, yet that certainty that she always knew that she wouldn’t like my answer never stopped me from feeling guilty, or feeling as though I was going to need to duck momentarily. She never hit me. That’s besides the point, though. While I could never embrace quiet and stillness, and I could never just sit down and pray, I could sit down and write. Write my book. Write my creation allegory. Hey, are those things connected?
To me, writing my book was better than praying. I maintain that God and I both know that even though I can’t sit down and pray and be still and quiet, that it doesn’t change anything. I maintain that God and I are on good terms.
The point is, when you’re trying not to get hit, you come up with interesting (and valid) intellectual leaps that you wouldn’t have otherwise realized were true. In my opinion, sitting down and writing my book and being still and tapping into the voice that was and is so much bigger than me is a form of prayer, and a less precise form of iconography, in a non-artistic manner of speaking. Trusting that the voice will be there, and waiting and listening for the next word goes beyond the precision of craft. It transcends education and skill and craft. Each word is precise. Each word is waiting for me to discover it in stillness and silence. When things are going the way they should, each word that I write comes from somewhere else. While some writers might give credit to their subconscious, I maintain that the origins of my book are not of me. This story has never been mine. I was chosen to write it, but that’s about where the relationship ends.
In my other writings, I wait for each word. Wait to hear it in the silence, wait for it to feel right, wait for it to fit. I think there’s more craft involved in non-Symilia projects, but I do maintain that not everything that is good or of God is necessarily about God. This perspective has gotten me into trouble on more than one occasion.
So, yesterday, I found myself comparing the mystery of craft and what I do, the messy, imperfect process to iconography, in which every stroke is a prayer. It’s a leap that not many people can make, but my audience over sushi made the leap. Maybe I won’t get hit from now on…
And maybe tomorrow, I’ll have good news to write about.