I have been back from the trip to Italy for almost two weeks and it has been.... it is difficult to say in English. There is a Venutian word, roughly transposed as TGDRFC@C, which implies the degree of ambivalence, combined with the forward thrust of anti-sloth, and some overtones of the late sixties, but let's just say it has been quite a week.
I went to the Dr. last week for a recurrent chest infection that I had first in April and he put me on a regimen of steroids. I realize I just cannot take them. It is a bit like cocaine, too much energy, a feeling of deep righteousness, racing thoughts, a tendency towards rushing to conclusions and premature anger. In some ways I like it a lot, but it doesn't feel like the sort of thing I should like - leads me towards a kind of true-beleiver mindset, like a family-first conservative or fundamentalist, but I think I will avoid steroids in the future.
Anyway, they say flying eastward is rougher.
This morning I did wake up early and do my series of stretches with prayers. It's been over a month since I was that systematic about being a body at prayer.
Here's some journal stuff from the end of the month is Assisi.
I know that my mind has relaxed quite a bit. The beauty of the place, even the grandeur that was Rome, and the beauty of Travestere, the day at La Verne, even everybody singing "Hey Jude" so loudly on the bus to Orviette, those things will stay for awhile, and it may be that something has shifted somewhere in me, something has relaxed or moved away or towards the center. That is just a hunch; but the future and how I live it will be the proof of that.
So what do I want to say? Make notes maybe on how Trajan’s market and the ruins under the commune affected me. All that order and elegance under the dirt for centuries, All the precision of language, trade, engineering fallen silent and excavated after almost 2000 years to be considered and photographed by tourists from Tokyo, London, Melbourne and Fairfield California. It is impossible to see that place - both Rome and Assisi - and now see city malls in the future - whether San Francisco Centre or Melbourne Central, as anything but passing phenomena – sad somehow in their pretensions and gaudiness.
More memories: the sounds of the bells, the amazing paintings in the Basilica, the friendliness of the people, walking into the plaza by the fountain by the church of Maria sopre Minerva, as well as the one in front of Clare’s church, the roasted vegetables, the lovely gelati in the evening, and those amazing porchetta sandwiches that were sliced and sold from the mobile cart by the Saturday market.
And the surprise that has come a few times here, of walking into a church and hearing some soft resonance in the air, almost inaudible but undoubtedly there, that comes in an atmosphere where there has been prayer over time. There was a small church in Rome that was crowded with that kind of pregnant waiting glory – that is the reality of prayer and presence: the resurgence of hope and patience that happens in a few moments of silence and grace where I remember again that the tradition that I stand in does have a heart – with all the extraneous stuff in the church, there is something newborn and true in the middle of it.
Maybe that is what I will take with me. A place I might learn more often to proceed from. Is is simply found in silence and surrender. For so many years I used to feel that I needed a running start to get anywhere. That’s why I made endless plans and outline, tried to organize and structure everything, and consequently smoked so much dope in the sixties, as a kind of balancing activity; why I choked on term papers and final exams, feared being found out as insufficient, took years to complete tasks, assignments, classes, projects, degrees, life in general: because I needed some great momentum that came from resolve or intent or other peoples praise, or an official accreditation from someone or somewhere in order to get where I should get, be who I should be, do what I felt I had to do or be. I was so noisy and so needlessly busy!
And part of what I see here and remember once again is that the ultimate place one stands in is found is a silent surrender to the reality of what is.It is not often this clear, the awareness of depth and riches in everyday life, the real meaning of the sacrament of the present moment, To go back to Eden Phillpot’s quote: at this precise moment, being 4:59PM on a Sunday afternoon in the shaded garden of a convent on a hill above he church of Santa Chiara in the village of Assisi with my trusty iBook named Chip, I do see right now that the world IS full of magical things and in this fragile, passing, evanescent moment, my wits can see a bit more of the reality of how much does shine in every fragile passing moment with love and somehow ever newborn life. And I am a happy and a grateful man.