When I awoke this morning, lightening, thunder, and blowing wind greeted me. I peeked outside and found that this time the weather forecast had been accurate and a generous rainfall was coming our way. I then got to do one of my favorite things—take my laptop and cup of coffee to the open garage and watch “Showers of Blessings” visit me again.“ Showers of Blessings” is an old hymn that I loved in my youth and in the past couple of years as drought as beset my part of the country I have employed the image as I feel and express my gratitude for refreshing rainfall that breaks the drought occasionally. This is part of a new emphasis of my life these past few years, experiencing and voicing gratitude for the many blessings that come my way, so many of them usually taken for granted. And this experience and expression of gratitude is no longer perfunctory but now has an authenticity it used to lack as I truly “feel” grateful.
Another dimension of this experience…of this “awakening”…is that I pay better attention to the whole of the world around me, the social world but also the natural world. The entirety of the world “speaks” to me in a way to which I was once deaf; for I am less guilty of “having ears to hear but hearing not, having eyes to see but seeing not.” This parallels another important discovery of mine—the “Word” of the Judeo-Christian tradition is more than these “squeaks of ours” that we usually think of as the only means of communicating. This “Word” is found in the whole of Creation such as was suggested in the Old Testament when the writer declared, “The heavens and the earth declare the glory of God.”
I used to take this “Word” business literally and how could I do otherwise when at that time I took “words” literally, taking the word to be the thing-in-itself, mistaking the finger pointing to the moon for the moon itself. But now I see words as being inherently ephemeral just as are we humans that use them. But grasping this ephemeral nature of human experience and of the world, I now see and feel how powerful these words are as they can do more than merely denote, but can connote…or better yet, evoke. Words can reach into the heart and evoke a response but only if they come from the heart and only if there is a heart to receive them. If they are merely those “well worn words and ready phrases that build comfortable walls against the wilderness,” they will only denote and will never evoke. It all depends on having a heart and having one that is alive. Shakespeare, in Hamlet, described a heart that was dynamically alive as “full of penetrable stuff,” not “bronzed o’er” with the “dull speech of habit,” those aforementioned “well worn words and ready phrases.” A heart full of “penetrable stuff” can be “penetrated.”
A key issue is merely paying attention, being “mindful” of what is going on around us and in our own heart. We have to have awareness of the capricious “monkey mind” which so often holds us captive, imposing a template on the whole of our experience and keeping us from paying any attention to anything but the template itself, which is to say, to anything but our self. This insight allows me to glory in the trivial things I used to ignore—a summer morning rainfall, a beautiful flower, lovely birds cavorting in my yard, or two lovely dachshunds arguing with each other over who loves me the most!