- Special Sections
- Public Notices
School days have begun. Teams have been practicing for the season’s sports. Volunteers are already in place to assist teachers and students with their tasks.
Parents sigh with the mixed feelings of relief that routine has returned and sadness that their offspring will again be absent from their gaze.
There is both a sense of eagerness in the air and one of dismay that vacation has ended. The ease of summer’s less scheduled, perhaps unscheduled, life has morphed into a continuing challenge of marked time, an ongoing impulsion to learn and grow.
Those are my memories, as well as my observations. Maybe my view is skewed. Maybe I am reveling in my own past, recalling the late summer months of my children’s youth, replete with the gatherings of moms who relaxed in childless ambience, welcoming the first few hours of the new school year as a reprieve from the constant vigilance summer demanded.
Somehow, we viewed life in stages, passages that were to be endured or enjoyed depending on the circumstances. Awash in the daily labors of housewifery and submerged in the standards of 1950s family life, we missed the call of life in its depth and viewed only an impression of life.
Older and, hopefully, wiser, I now see life differently. I contemplate the words of scholars like Joan Chittister, take them to heart, and offer them to others for their pondering.
Chittister presents a picture of dancers painted by the artist Degas and writes: “Degas rejects the label ‘impressionist’ and calls himself always a ‘realist,’ an artist who shows us life as it is...internally rather than as it is externally in all its details.”
How life affects us counts. How we prepare ourselves to live life counts. The concentration, discipline, commitment, skill and sense of human community we bring to life really count. They constitute reality at its rawest and most meaningful. Anything else, Degas makes us see, is not life lived to the hilt.
“A life well lived, deeply drunk, totally tasted demands our total attention, complete commitment, willingness to stay at something until we become the very best that we can be at it. It is life as a spiritual discipline rather than simply an exercise in breathing.” (This is a paraphrase of a selection from Joan Chittister’s “Introduction to The Monastic Way,” August 2012.)
Meditating on her words, I begin to taste the strength of a realist, a person who sees and shows life as it is. For me, this is the work of prophets, those in our lives who dare to touch life internally and empower us to do the same. They are the ones who dare to look beyond the externals with all their distracting details that obstruct our ability to touch the simplicity of internal wholeness, the only place that matters.
Today’s prophets ask us to rise up from the mire of mediocrity. They urge us to consider the paucity of existing and envision the potency hidden in complete commitment to living deeply and well. Today’s prophets come in all sizes, shapes, ages and denominations. They are men and women who are totally attentive to all creation. They are permanent residents of the divine realm.
I saw them in the variety of Olympic contenders. I heard Hubby Dear’s continual comment, “How do they do it?” He was not asking for details of external displays of ability.
He was musing about the years of commitment, dedication and drive for perfection in their craft. He was thinking about the fact these athletes would not let anything or anyone deter them from their goal to partake of the Olympic games, proudly representing their individual countries.
In the midst of all the judgments regarding degrees of difficulty, imperfections or perfections of stance, posture, ability and more, there was an underlying admiration of the heart with which they played each sport, swam each match or ran each race. There was reverence for each athlete’s total dedication, win or lose. Honor reigned supreme. Certainly they were people for whom life was a spiritual discipline, not simply an exercise in breathing.
The games would end, to begin again in four years. The athletes would concentrate on the ever-present beginning. The torch of life would not be extinguished. They’d set their sights on its renewed light four years hence. They will stay on task until they reach their perfection, the best they can be. They choose to live at depth, as they perceive it, and the radiance of their smiles attest to the joy experienced in the process of living life to the hilt.
We can all be Olympians, star players in the game of life, if we choose. We can opt to be spiritually disciplined, praying always and in all ways. We can be persons of faith, expressing fidelity to God’s word and God’s will. We can become ever more aware of godliness, discovered everywhere and in everyone.
We can do it, as inspirited people graced by God to be preparers of God’s way in the world. We can because we are already gifted. What is needed is for us to immerse ourselves in that divine giftedness. What is needed is for us to become aware, to beware of limitations, to be alert to possibilities and opportunities. Constant training is required.
The marvel of it all is that the training does not require blood, sweat and tears. It does challenge our complacency. It does ask that we awaken to divine surprises. It does ask that we become decisive and intentional about our faithfulness. It does question our motivation and order responsibility. It exercises our spirituality more than it exorcises our sinfulness.
We hear the God’s cry coming to us by way of the Deuteronomist’s words, “I place before you life and death. Choose life!” Hearing, we must now respond. This is reality at its rawest and most meaningful. Anything else is not life lived to the hilt. Anything else is death-dealing.
Fran Salone-Pelletier has a master’s degree in theology and is the author of Awakening to God: The Sunday Readings in Our Lives [a trilogy of Scriptural meditations], lead chaplain at Brunswick Novant Medical Center, religious educator, retreat leader, lecturer and grandmother of four. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.