Thursday, March 30, 2006

Give me the grace to be contented, the strength to avoid complacency, and the wisdom to know the difference

Lovely Wife was in Philadelphia for a conference last week, and while visiting the meetinghouse at 4th & Arch Streets ran into an old (i.e., of long-standing, not ancient) Friend who was there for a meeting. It so happend that she was coming to Minneapolis on a business trip a few days later, and it worked out that she came for dinner Wednesday evening.

It was one of those wonderful evenings that I value all the more because they're so infrequent. We have the kind of friendship that is a lot deeper than it perhaps ought to be given the relatively few hours we've ever spent together and we are always delighted to see each other. Lots of laughter, a little wine, good food, candle light, excellent conversation, a little gossip, a little music. I was particularly tickled that she has signed up for our Sacred Harp workshop at the Gathering, something we've both been wanting her to do for years, and now it's going to happen. Just a joy.

Then early this morning L.W. and I went to a fund-raising breakfast at and for In the Heart of the Beast Puppet & Mask Theater, one of two local theater organizations we love and support as we can. We got there an hour early (my fault) but it turned out well because we ran into several friends and neighbors we hadn't seen in a while and got reconnected a little. The whole morning was fun, especially a new video about the HOBT and its unique way of making participatory art and theater real and relevant. I could easly go on about HOBT and May Day and the rest, but I'll leave that for another time.

(I will share something I learned, one of those small things that makes the world seem just a bit more sensible. It turns out that the Proto-Indo-European root of the word "art" is [pronounced like] arr-. This is also the root of the English word "arm." It means to join or fit together. The theater's artistic director spoke a bit on the connection between those two words, and it beautifully stated what HOBT does.)

I was still glowing from last night's dinner and this morning's breakfast when I went into a noon time meeting at work. Someone asked me before it began how my life was going -- like he really meant it -- and I said, "Great. My life is going great. My biggest problem is to figure out whether I'm contented or complacent."

It got a laugh, but I meant it. I feel a lot like the old Mose Allison song "I live the life I love (and I love the life I live)." Mostly. Today, anyway. But I also feel like another Mose Allison song title, "Livin' in a Fool's Paradise."

I've got it pretty good, and I know it. Loving family; safe and beautiful neighborhood; good friends; enough money; plenty to read; meaningful work. But also in the deeper, invisible ways; room to grow for sure, but basically peaceful, balanced, at ease; hopeful (if not optimistic); growing. I do feel deeply grateful for it all.

At the same time, I fully realize that much of my inner peace is closely related to my outer comfort. Would I feel the same way if I became Job II? (Or if Only Son tells me one more time that I "owe" him another $60 or $100 in baseball fees in that snotty, entitled, ungrateful attitude-full way he has been perfecting lately?)

I will make no claims. All I can say is, Let it pass and spare me the cup if you can. Please. But thy will, not mine, be done.

Contentedness is a virtue; complacency is a sin. But which is which? And when? And for how long? And what do you call it when your biggest problem (at the moment) is telling the two apart?

Can I be content only if my conscience is dull and insensitive? Who can be "happy" in a world like this?

But who couldn't be?

Is this similar to the old saw about the church's (or a newspaper's) role to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable?

I guess I'll just try to pay attention, enjoy (I wonder what "enjoy" really means?) it while I can, and see what walls I can knock down, or look over next, and be grateful spring is coming.

1 comment:

Liz Opp said...

I went through a time of wondering what the difference was between peace and boredom, because I couldn't tell which one I was experiencing. This post reminded me of that curious time.

And I'm glad to hear the HOBT breakfast went well. I had a chance to go but thought better of it, having been to a similar event last year and having other plans for this morning.

And maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to get to May Day this year... It's been a bit too long since I was there.

Liz, The Good Raised Up