Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My New Blog

I should have posted this here months ago, but for the duration of my time at Yale I have moved to a new blog:  http://yalechapter.blogspot.com.

Follow me there!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Childhood Scenes

“Childhood scenes rushed back at me out of the night, strangely close and urgent. Today I know that such memories are the key not to the past, but to the future.  I know that the experiences of our lives, when we let God use them, become the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work He will give us to do.” – Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place

It’s Wednesday night, and I am leaving home on Saturday morning.  I planned a big farewell party for myself so this week would lead up to a celebration instead of a loss.  It is working. 

I am sitting alone in the dining room of my sleeping house.  All of the belongings coming with me to Connecticut are piled high all around me.  Although I have ruthlessly pared down to the bare necessities, the amount of material I must haul across the country is daunting.  How will it furnish an entire new life on an opposite shore?

This week I believe I gave away a solid third of my clothes.  As I started packing, there were relics from a past life that didn’t seem to have a place in the new chapter.  I found the white linen shirt I wore on my first real date.  I was fifteen, and my beau took me downtown LA to the California Club for dinner.  The shirt had bows on the shoulders; I had purchased it because of the photos I’d seen of my mother on her honeymoon wearing a white shirt with bows on the shoulders.  I tried it on.  I remembered the intensity of that evening, so in love with my date I could barely breathe as we sat on a terrace shadowed by the beautiful Los Angeles Public Library.  There were potted palms around our table and a classical guitarist played in the corner.  The memory filled me with remembered love, and I gave the linen shirt away. 

Likewise with a white cotton skirt I purchased at age sixteen in an open-air market in the south of France.  I was with my dear friend Margaux.  The trip came at the end of a painful and miserable academic year I spent in northwestern France, and the purchase marked the return of sunshine and laughter to my life.  It also commemorated the advent of my independence – I could travel across foreign countries alone, speak the local language, transact with currency I had earned myself, and make decisions about my wardrobe without consulting anyone.  I wore the skirt on walks through Provencal towns and while I read Somerset Maugham on the Mediterranean shore at L’Hôtel Belles Rives on the Cap D’Antibes.  F. Scott Fitzgerald lived in that hotel while he wrote Tender is the Night.  I remember sitting at the end of the dock alone with a glass of sherry I’d charged to my room while an enormous moon filled the black bay with scintillating light.  The water was luminous with pale, cool wonder, and I gazed upon it as if it was all a giant platter being offered to me so I could pick my adventure.  The whole world flashed and danced before me on that Mediterranean bay and every inch of it seemed utterly available to me.

Next went a thick wooly grey skirt I’d purchased in a little shop in Vienna at age nineteen.  I badly wanted to see Vienna at Christmastime, so during my year abroad in Italy I stopped there for a few days before flying home to spend the holidays with my family in California.  The weather was absolutely terrible and freezing – but oh what a pleasure to keep warm in a city designed to let one do so in such gilded luxury.  With my friend Lauren I raced over a mile through a slushy blizzard to see Sigmund Freud’s apartment before it closed, wet snow driven sideways into my inadequate clothing as we got lost and more lost.  We made it at last, and after the odd tour through the odd doctor’s dwelling decided to spend our evening at the Sacher Hotel sipping muddy coffee and indulging in the famous chocolate torte.  I decided the days of a student’s standard for travel attire were over.  I saw the skirt in a window, bought it, and contemplated the importance of my life’s aesthetic while I ate my torte.  If I desired beauty, then for beauty I would labor. 

I also discarded a red and blue skirt I wore on a tour of Morocco with my brother at age twenty-one, my first real rough-and-tumble jaunt through a really foreign land.  I wore it while the locals gawked and snickered at us when we were served sheep’s brains and when a monkey climbed up my body while I was buying spices for my mother.  I discarded some kakhis I pulled out of the end-of-the-term Goodwill box in my boarding school dormitory, an old boyfriend’s lacrosse shorts, the first designer dress I bought in Paris.

I have continued to dig and pack and give away.  In the course of this personal archaeology, this move seems to be as much about the past as it is about the future.  These items are monuments to the instances of great change in my life, and they have had their time.  As I sort my things, I am breathless to find over and over again the same thing: I have gotten what I wanted.  I sought adventure and romance and I have gotten it.  I have ached for understanding and scraped away at hard fact to find real Truth.  I have left and I have returned, I have gotten together and broken up. 

At age twenty-five, I feel I am just reaching a critical mass of memories to begin proving that God’s promises are, in fact, true.  As memories continue to race through my mind, I understand that they are not being sent to me by mere Nostalgia, but by Hope itself – that I might be buoyed up into a more stately mansion by the goodness they prove.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"How poor they are that have not patience?  What wound did ever heal but by degrees?" - Shakespeare

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Maid and Mother

I am amused tonight to look back over my old posts on this blog.  I established this little space to use as a storyboard, I suppose.  If I could throw my hopes and ideas and worries upon this black square maybe I’d be able to stand back, observe them, understand them, and in a flurry move all the index cards this way and that until the story included the three acts, the joys and sorrows, the character development, the action, the intensity, the romance that I wanted. 

Many of my last posts were about the “blank slate” I was facing after I left my job at the Pepperdine law school to live at home and “take my time about things” for the duration of one year.  I entered the time with very few actual goals.  I wanted to apply for and be admitted to a graduate program, both of which, praise the Lord, have come to pass.  But other than that, I think my aim was to make peace with two of my “selves” who seemed to constantly push against one another – the one that aches to sit, observe, pray, and listen, and the one that never stops striving to win, achieve, see, do, and dominate. 

Shortly before his conversion to Christianity, C. S. Lewis wrote a poem called “Reason.”  I’ve copied the first fourteen lines here:

Set on the soul’s acropolis the reason stands
A virgin arm’d, commercing with celestial light,
And he who sins against her has defiled his own
Virginity; no cleansing makes his garment white;
So clear is reason.  But how dark, imagining,
Warm, dark, obscure and infinite, daughter of Night:
Dark is her brow, the beauty of her eyes with sleep
Is loaded, and her pains are long, and her delight.
Tempt not Athene.  Wound not in her fertile pains
Demeter, not rebel against her mother-right. 
Oh who will reconcile in me both maid and mother,
Who will make in me a concord of the depth and height?
Who make imagination’s dim exploring touch
Ever report the same as intellectual sight?

(Before I continue, I must give credit to Malcolm Guite for first drawing my attention to this poem and explaining the meaning of the “maid and mother” paradox I will discuss below.  His excellent essay about which is in the Cambridge Companion to C.S. Lewis.)

Lewis begins by discussing the stark world of “reason” – the Athens of the soul.  The part that looks logically upon all things.  The part that looks upon the defiled and determines that “no cleansing can make his garment white.”  The “maid.”

Lewis then uses a delicious succession of adjectives to describe the alternative: “warm, dark, obscure and infinite…/her pains are long, and her delight.”  The “mother.”  The part that imagines and hopes for the unreasonable.  The foggy part that seems to constantly be in a state of vague yet formidable longing. 

However shall these warring components of our souls make peace?  This particular wording is essential – the Virgin Mary, of course, was both maid and mother when Christ was born.  In Him, through her, cold logic and warm imagination not only coexist but are dependent on one another.  Let us here feel the weight of the word “reconciliation.”  In the name of Love, our faults are reconciled against the debt we owe.  In the name of love, our contradictory desires in life no longer battle but pull one another ever higher and higher.  In the name of Love, two truths that disagree meet in Truth. 

During my “year off,” I did not take a road trip across the United States.  I did not backpack Southeast Asia.  I did not write a novel.  What did I do?  I fasted. 

Technically my fasting lasted from Ash Wednesday until Easter (I did the Daniel Fast for the duration of Lent), but truly this entire year has been a fast from the lifestyle I have lead for as long as I can remember.  Except for my grad school applications, I competed for absolutely nothing and had no practical responsibilities whatsoever. 

Donald S. Whitney says fasting "hoists the sails of the soul in hopes of catching the gracious winds of God's spirit."  And oh, have I.  This year my sails have learned to undulate with billowing gusts of grace upon grace as they slice through the wild and untamed winds of God’s spirit.  My spirit is unburdened and trusting, and I have never felt more humble or more empowered at the same time.  I have never felt more free yet more controlled.  See?  Paradox. 

I once read about a Sufi master who taught, "One has achieved wisdom when he experiences immediate joy when sudden disappointment hits."  I'm still working on the "immediate" part, but I learned this year that sorrow is, in the long run, an occasion for greater joy.  Anxiety is an opportunity for reconciliation, and conviction of wrongs only the arrival of hope that all paths will be made straight.  This year my restless heart has found its true rest.  As I jump back into busy life, I pray this peace will endure.  But if not, I will speak praise for the more stately chambers my God will urge my soul to one day inhabit.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Advent Color

I heard a wonderful sermon this morning. Title: "On Hiding." At the moment of the First Tragedy, when man first disobeyed God, man hid.

In his temptation speech, the serpent promises that eating the forbidden fruit will make man like God. God knew all about good and evil; if we, too, knew about it, we would be just like Him. But evil always, always lies.

Adam and Eve immediately felt shame. Pastor Thompson said this morning that shame is what we feel when we're made painfully aware of the vast disparity between our
idealized self and our actual self. The chasm between the two is so wide. Adam and Eve had been promised they would be like God Himself; I cannot imagine their horror when they realized how little like God they were. They had never been aware of their own smallness, their own weakness, the vast difference between mighty God and puny man. The shame must have been unbearable. They must have hidden out of desperation and agony. Having suddenly and all at once seen the full difference between myself and God, I would have tried to bury myself underground.

We need to talk about this story before we begin the preparations of the Advent season. As Pope Benedict XVI said in his homily on the first Sunday of Advent in 2008, "Advent is the spiritual season of hope par excellence, and in this season the whole Church is called to be hope, for itself and for the world. The whole spiritual organism of the mystical body assumes, as it were, the 'color' of hope." What is the story behind this hope? Hope for what?

It is the fire that has burned within man since the fall of the first couple - the ache to close the gap between ourselves as we wish we were and ourselves as we are, the ache to regain the closeness between man and God we know we should enjoy, and the longing to forsake the burden of the incessant game of hide and seek our shame makes us play.

The Church has created the four weeks of Advent for the mystical body of Christ to
assume the color of hope. The shame of the past year is meant to be felt in this time, but only so we can understand what occurred on the first Christmas morning. At this time it is essential that we meditate on what comes to us in the Christ Child. Our shame is lifted. We are coaxed out of hiding. And although we walk in the knowledge of our massive inferiority to the God we could never hope to resemble, Jesus bestows upon us the fullness of his own righteousness. We are not brought out from the hiding place to stand guiltily before God with our heads bowed like a disobedient child whose parent has decided his child's shame is punishment enough - we are brought out before God to look Him directly in the eye and embrace, to be celebrated, adored, cherished and loved. There is no more shame. There is no more chasm.

Has anyone ever felt this gift in fullness? Has anyone truly spent a day in full belief that his every sin and weakness is nullified? I do not know. Maybe this gift is one we will not be able to fully understand until death. But as I enter this Advent season, the joy of the hope of Christ wells up within me and overflows. What is the color of hope? It looks like celebration, rejoicing, feasting, behaving generously, carrying a song in one's heart - and even making our homes shine and sparkle, having parties, staying up late, filling the neighborhood with light and music.

Sometimes the best we can do is to behave as if this promise was true. Even in the bleakest of my Advent seasons, the mystery of this hopeful time has caught me off guard with a rush of tears in the middle of a church service, or when I'm sitting alone late at night in the still glow of Christmas lights. Perhaps we cannot make our feeble selves aware of the weight of this miracle. That is okay. God is only too happy to step in and lead us through it. And so we celebrate, and we wait. We make our best music, dress our children and our selves in our finest clothes, feast on the richest food, open our homes to our dearest friends and family. It is in man's custom to respond to joy in this way. This is how we assume the color of hope. This is how we celebrate Christmas.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Love Calls Us to the Things of This World

by Richard Wilbur

The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul
Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple
As false dawn.

Outside the open window
The morning air is all awash with angels.

Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,
Some are in smocks: but truly there they are.

Now they are rising together in calm swells
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;

Now they are flying in place, conveying
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving
And staying like white water; and now of a sudden
They swoon down into so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.

The soul shrinks
From all that it is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every blessed day,
And cries,

"Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven."

Yet, as the sun acknowledges
With a warm look the world's hunks and colors,
The soul descends once more in bitter love
To accept the waking body, saying now
In a changed voice as the man yawns and rises,

"Bring them down from their ruddy gallows;
Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;
Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone,
And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating
Of dark habits,
keeping their difficult balance."

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Nocturnal Art

From "The Giant" by G.K. Chesterton

"I sometimes fancy that every great city must have been built by night. At least, it is only at night that every part of a great city is great. All architecture is great architecture after sunset; perhaps architecture is really a nocturnal art, like the art of fireworks. At least, I think many people of those nobler trades that work by night (journalists, policemen, burglars, coffee-stall keepers, and such mistaken enthusiasts as refuse to go home till morning) must often have stood admiring some black bulk of building with a crown of battlements or a crest of spires and then burst into tears at daybreak to discover that it was only a haberdasher's shop with huge gold letters across the face of it."

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Lady and the Unicorn

“I suppose that making a sandwich out of a baguette will come in good time.”

I wrote this in my journal on the first day I spent in Paris when I began my year abroad on September 6, 2002. I had been told by Great Aunt Sandy to make myself a sandwich in the kitchen and disastrously failed to construct a sandwich out of the baguette I’d just purchased. I ate all of the sandwich elements separately and quickly – it’s really not readily apparent how this delicate spongey bread can be used to support a sandwich. The entry begins, “How strange it is to be here. Air Canada flight 790, destination Paris. I’m all alone, way up here, so, so far from everything I have ever known or loved. And to think – nine long months until I see it again… I expected to feel so big and grown up and independent, but if the truth were told I have never felt littler. And so it begins.”

I had nothing to do today. I got locked out of the house last night and had to camp in the yard, so I’ve been dreamy and exhausted. Lucky, perhaps; otherwise I imagine I would have tried to do something productive and instead I just loafed around and read. Turning to my altar-bookcase that surrounds the fireplace in the family room, I selected A Year in the World by Frances Mayes. I did so in anticipation of the June first end date of my job and the completely – completely – blank slate that sits (sometimes invitingly, sometimes menacingly) on the other side. Actually, I’ll choose blank canvas instead. Blank canvas that waits on the other side of June first.

That’s just what I hope to do. Turn my slate-and-chalk Executive Assistant self back into a canvas and palette of limitless oils ready to be altered in hue, tone, consistency, combination, employ.

My September 9, 2002 entry in my year-in-France journal tells the story of my first walk down the damp aisle of the marché on the Avenue de Versailles, located a few hundred yards from my cousin Susan’s apartment on the Rue Claude Lorrain in the siesieme. I wrote about the first croissant I purchased on my own, pulled with a wooden paddle from a polished oven onto a square of thick floral paper that was placed directly in my palm. There were smells of seafood in the market; flowers coyly nestled in newspaper cones in the arms of pedestrians; the antics of my colorful European cousins; my first taxi ride spinning through the tree-lined streets and, breathtakingly, along the Seine (so nonchalantly, as if this was a route really used by jaded Parisians to commute from one place to another). With the help of Frances Mayes and the unblinking stare of the impeding block of free time, I’m reflective tonight about passion. How it grows, how it fades, why it matters, what it’s for. And just how, in fact, its pursuit can be justified in place of so many other things one feels bound to do.

That week Great Aunt Sandy took me to La Musée National du Moyen Age. “After a long walk through the labyrinthine paths in the garden carpeted in sporadically descending damp autumn leaves,” I wrote, “we ourselves flitted down seemingly endless granite steps in to the belly of a beautiful, intricate, medieval fortress – complete with gargoyles.” In her bitingly crisp South Kensington English, she commented before a display of ornate reliquaries, “meant for, you know, a bone, a lock of hair, the odd eyeball, that sort of thing. Rather morbid in my personal evaluation.”

We wandered through corridor after corridor of illuminated manuscripts, suits of armor, crowns and scepters, weaponry, needlework that presented themselves to me as portals for the imagination to travel through time to places every bit as close as those dream-worlds I’d been visiting since childhood. The rooms were dimly lit and musty, the stones enclosing them cold and ancient. I lost my breath when I caught out of the corner of my eye a circular room showcasing the famous Lady and the Unicorn tapestries – six of them, one for each of the senses, and one entitled, “A Mon Seul Desire.” My own senses – those organs I relied on to tell me truth from fantasy – had betrayed me and shown me a reality that much more closely resembled the product of my silly childish imagination than anything heretofore considered real. I was undeniably certain that this territory was familiar, oddly. No, I had never felt more alone, more uncertain of my surroundings, or more out of place, and yet something in my heart was experiencing a homecoming. Swift flashes of memory – mostly music, books, dreams – convinced me that I had been here before. Not here, but – in essence – in this state or place. Could it be – it was certainly so that afternoon - that memory, reality, and imagination are not as distinct from one another as we might believe?

I was very far from Southern California with no tie to my personal history. That moist and cool early-autumn afternoon, I felt a chamber open up inside my soul; my careful and exceptionally well-attended upbringing formed a granite foundation, but the shutters about the windows of my selfhood we unlatched and flung wide to greet things that I had known always even as I discovered them.

That night at dinner cousins Susan and Johnny (both in their 50s) and Great Aunt Sandy (elegantly mid 80s) and I sat around a tiny table in the tiny kitchen and feasted royally on beef and wine and vegetables. The rain started and stopped outside, pattering like wings on the tall chestnut trees in the courtyard outside, their highest branches just at our feet when we stood on the sixth-floor balcony. A hush fell over the table when Susan stopped to look at me, picked up her glass, and, in lucid Italian, called into the cool autumn night to my grandfather, her Zione Umberto (Uncle Robert), “Zione, come look at your beautiful granddaughter Catherine. Aren’t you proud? Come in and laugh with us again.” She toasted in the direction of the little stone Polish church (where, six years later, Aunt Sandy’s memorial service would be held – a more somber visit for an older me) and motioned for him to come in.

Unknowingly, Susan’s invitation to the spirit of my grandfather had struck the one note whose waxing resonance in my heart’s most secret chambers had driven me to make this journey. He died suddenly of a heart attack a few months before my older brother was born, and yet his presence in our home, my heart, my dreams had – has – a power over me I cannot explain. His degrees from Cambridge and Columbia had always hung in my bedroom, along with his certificate from the Foreign Service and the United States Army. His portrait was in our living room, and I used to stare deeply into the soft black eyes so full of movement and depth and relationship.

My love for Robert was an ache that filled me simultaneously with sorrow and drive. I never knew this man, and yet I could imagine him and his world into being effortlessly – an act that directed my steps and dreams more than any other “real” thing or influence. That night in Susan and Sandy’s tiny Parisian kitchen over glasses of sherry I had discovered people who had participated in the flesh in that in which I had participated in spirit for my entire life. And yet I was certain that my acquaintance with Robert was no less real than theirs. I was breathless, and I wept that night knowing that the grandfather I laughed with in my dreams was no phantom.

Isn’t it arresting when we meet people or see things that validate our imagination? Our deep longings are the source of our dreams, and they do not come from nothing.

I am learning that this is the nature of faith. Memory, longing, imagination, and reality – these are the tools we are to combine as we search for Truth. When canvases are blank and desire and anxiety fill us with fear, we might benefit more from looking backward and inward than from the impossible task of looking ahead. Faith is forged in so many meaningful ways – prescience is not one of them.

Imagine how Jesus’ friends and followers must have felt when they saw him after his resurrection. They had longed for his promise to be true; his death, though consistent with his word, convinced them that reality – the things they saw and heard and touched – was stronger that everything they had hoped for, believed, dreamed about while Christ was alive. Then in that one instant, their senses confirmed what their hearts had hoped and believed. Ah. This phenomenon has not ceased.

To turn back to the blank canvas - it is my task not to create and accomplish as much as it is to remember and believe. To keep flinging wide the shutters and seeing what old familiar dreams can shatter my meandering, fickle reality with their weight.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Burning Ladder by Dana Gioia

never climbed the ladder
burning in his dream. Sleep
pressed him like a stone
in the dust,
and when
he should have risen
like a flame to join
that choir, he was sick
of travelling,
and closed
his eyes to the Seraphim
ascending, unconscious
of the impossible distances
between their steps,
them mount the brilliant
ladder, slowly disappearing
into the scattered light
between the stars,
through it all, a stone
upon a stone pillow,
shivering. Gravity
always greater than desire.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Terrible Self

“I think what weakens people most is fear of wasting their strength." - Etty Hillesum

I doubt that I have ever been so uncertain about what I want to “do with my life.”  By this, of course, I mean choosing a career path.  I oscillate between yearning to do everything and being sickeningly uninterested in anything; the pace of my current situation is bewildering, and I often reflect that I don’t even have the time or self-possession to want.  The relationship between my directionless ambling and the waning opportunity for reflection and prayer is obvious. 

Firstly, I’d like to address the rhetorical structure that has us expressing the means by which we cover expenses as what we “do with our lives.”  Part of me hopes my job will never be so defining.  There is so much to a human beyond the work he does.  I resent the work that runs my life, and yet I feel in some way it glorifies me.  There are essential elements that run deep; I wonder how to finesse this paradox.

The other night I heard a man talk about the divine nature of inherited work.  In the creation story in Genesis, our first picture of God pictures a being moving from resting to working.  The Spirit was, and then the Spirit began making.  And boy, did He make.  I won’t rehash the awe inspired in me by the Planet Earth series, but will note that these images (and think how much more revelatory they will become as technology advances) show me much about the character of God.  The intricacies of growth and death, reproduction, relationships, predators and prey, and the seemingly pointless displays of beauty that exceed the comprehensive capacity of the eye and must be taken in by the heart.  There is power and terror, and fragility and delicacy.  The physical world ranges the full spectrum; just as God is simultaneously everything created and was once a microscopic speck of cellular material in Mary’s womb; just as He is a pillar of fire and the still small voice quieter than a whisper.  This work of God’s is a reflection of a character, a personality, a self. 

The first thing Adam was asked to do?  Work.  Name the animals.  Exercise dominion.  Build stuff.  Make stuff.  And Eve?  Not a companion – a helper.  Work gives us the opportunity to participate in the proliferation of the self of God, and it invites us to model our own (comparatively menial, yes) creations after our self.  Oh – I do not want to miss out on this. 

There are a few outliers in my midst whose occupations do indeed contain something essential about their being.  I think of filmmakers I know, stay at home moms, those who serve the underserved, one or two of the doctors I know, maybe a horse trainer I knew once came close, a teacher.  There are some whose careers are characterized by the selfhood of the worker – ah, how I long to be one of these. 

This longing is paralyzing.  I hate the thought of taking a step toward one option that will leave part of my selfhood behind.  One path allows me to analyze but stifles the artist, another indulges creativity but abandons order, one feeds my curiosity but cuts me off from people, another overwhelms my spirit by overcrowding it with personnel and bottom lines.  I refer to Etty Hillesum as listed above: “I think what weakens people most is fear of wasting their strength.”  Weakens?  Destroys. 

This might be rooted in the mystifying human condition I’ve talked about before – a divine, eternal soul stuck inside a deteriorating flesh with only a few fatty brain cells and trembling synaptic cords to try to bring the two together.  I am intimidated by my selfhood.  It has a grandness so far beyond anything I can imagine, and I make myself crazy trying to invent some catchall scenario that will allow this divine selfhood that seems so distant to do a work that will reflect the worker. 

I think I include this quotation in every other post: “For you have created us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”  Thank you, St. Augustine.  Tonight I use this to gain perspective on myself not just as a worker but as a work as well.  I was created.  Thus, the image I bear reflects that of my Creator.  And this – THIS is the seal I ache to press into the soft and feeble wax statues I spend my life fussing and worrying about. 

Ayn Rand chimes in, "Why do they always teach us that it's easy and evil to do what we want and that we need discipline to restrain ourselves? It's the hardest thing in the world--to do what we want. And it takes the greatest kind of courage. I mean, what we really want."  We really want to create with significance.  To contribute.  What we really want, in essence, is to be a part of the great work – to build something that bears the mark of the Creator whose face we wear in a way that does not submit our individuality to erasure but rather shines as a testimony to its magnificence. 

I suppose we’re left with that old instruction: seek ye first the kingdom of God.  Therein the selfhood lies.  There is the work we can do that is actually “what we do with our lives.” 

Etty also offers, “Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.”  Sometimes I suppose that’s true.