|Buds on a tree this morning|
Today I was reading G.K. Chesterton and Kathleen Norris. Both of them have developed a gift for seeing the playful and holy presence of Christ in moments that many of us dismiss as mundane and ordinary. Chesterton writes about the sun rising every morning in response to the call of the Spirit of God to "Do it again!" He calls this repetition in nature a theatrical, heavenly encore.
Similarly, Norris speaks about the mindless tasks of laundry and washing dishes as invitations to enter the temple of "holy leisure." She says there is sacred potential in the necessity of repetition when we see these actions as occasions for renewal and playful abandon. As children, we were excited by repetition, not bored by it. We wanted to do things like play peek-a-boo, skip down the street, jump on the bed, or run into our dad's arms over and over again in order to keep on drinking from the deep well of joyful abandon we found in these particular activities.
Chesterton mourns the loss of this appetite for joy: "For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, 'Do it again' to the sun; and every evening, 'Do it again' to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we."
Similarly, Norris praises the simple rituals built into human existence: "Each day brings with it not only the necessity of eating but the renewal of our love of and in God. This may sound like a simple thing, but it is not easy to maintain faith, hope or love in the everyday. ... As a human being, Jesus Christ was as subject to the daily as any of us. And I see both the miracle of manna and incarnation of Jesus Christ as scandals. They suggest that God is intimately concerned with our very bodies and their needs, and I doubt that this is really what we want to hear. Our bodies fail us, they grow old, flabby and feeble, and eventually they lead us to the cross. We want life to have meaning, we want fulfillment, healing and even ecstasy, but the human paradox is that we find these things by starting where we are, not where we wish we were. We must look for blessings to come from unlikely, everyday places - out of Galilee, as it were - and not in spectacular events."
Our lives are filled with ordinary tasks we do over and over again. Often they become so much a part of our ritual that we forget that we do them. Dean is always asking, "Did I close the garage door?" He did, but he doesn't remember; it has become a mindless habit. I try not to engage in mindless activities, but it is difficult. The nature of human life is that we need to eat, sleep, wash, work, drive, and do a multitude of things like climbing the stairs and putting on our clothes thousands of times. It is not easy to be excited about every dish I wash or every shirt I iron. Chesterton writes about "wilful miracles." By this he means that those characteristics of nature which we suppose are automatic are perhaps the wilful (and joyful) enactments of someone's desire. The fact that a bird lays an egg every time and not a fish is a "wilful miracle," a sign that someone is watchfully and wondrously enacting a beautiful and creative work over and over again. Because he delights in it.
Yes, I would like my life to be day after day of "wilful miracles," of wondrous works done over and over again with great joy and beauty. Let me exult in the daily rituals which invite me to participate in renewal, love, and this grand thing called life. Let me rejoice over every bud as much as the first one I see.
Quotes from G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy and Kathleen Norris, The Quotidian Mysteries.