i finished the tolstoy book, then moved on to nabatov’s ‘lolita’. in the queue
(on my borrowed from the library shelf) are ‘madame bovary’ and ‘brother’s

my initial interest in the russian authors was my sense of deep connection to etty hillesum, a wanting to know her,
(and so myself? )more deeply. i recalled that she had loved the russian
authors, had been somehow formed and informed by them. i also had recalled once
discovering a quote from ‘the brother’s karamozov’ by dostoyesky,

‘Love all of creation, the whole and every grain of sand.Love every leaf and
every ray of light. Love the plants, love the animals, love everything. If you
love everything, you will perceive Divine Mystery in all things. Once you
perceive it you will comprehend it better every day.And you will come, at last,
to love the whole world with an all embracing Love’

dostoyesky was out of the library so i started with the tolstoy… of course
then i found a list by contemporary authors of the top 10 novels of all time
(pretentious and ridiculous but a place to start).

in some way perhaps i have wanted to discover what it is that makes a good book,
a meaningful read. i sometimes feel that the seed, which may sprout one such read from
within me, lies rooting itself beneath this seemingly dormant soil that i am
here and now.

in other ways though, i suspect that it is part of this love affair with
humanity that i have recently stumbled madly into, and like the dostoyesky
quote above i have wanted to love it all, to hear its stories, to be spellbound
by its struggles, its fears, its pain, to be entranced by its suffering and its
joys. to learn what it means to be human from another’s story.

my noticings in the tolstoy book were many, but most apparent was the theme of
what it is that makes life, human life, more than material existence, more than
matter that merely changes form at the end of its usefulness, more than some
evolutionary process of the fittest, more than some rational exercise in being.
i was reminded of the loren eisely (sp?) story about the star thrower, who
foolishly throws washed up starfish back into the surf simply because. there is
no benefit to self for the thrower, simply compassion that drives him. similarly
there was this same theme of the ‘fool for love’ in the story of anna
karenina….’irrational’ choices made simply for the sake of another.

one of the main
characters comes to understand this ‘madness’ as living for ‘god’, for goodness, for the
soul. yet, despite his mystical understanding, he is somewhat disillusioned
that this ‘inner knowing’ doesn’t seem to translate automatically into ‘outer
being’. he still snaps in frustration, reacts in fear, (yes) though he discovers it
is easier to return to his place of knowing. others in the book don’t fare even as
well as that. literally trapped in a dismal world of shame (she is not allowed
out in ‘polite’ society), oppressed by an unforgiving and ungracious culture,
anna finally finds some small meaning in a relationship she develops with a
young foreign girl, whom she is teaching. this is ridiculed as ‘unnatural’
(irrational) for the girl is not even a relative…and so the going out of self
for another that might have ‘saved her soul’ is instead stripped from her. she
dies in despair. her husband who finds deep compassion, understanding, and
forgiveness for her (which is not to his own ‘benefit’) when she is near death,
experiences the ‘mind of christ’, tastes of the goodness of his own soul (which is
something he has sought in his ‘head’ his whole life through theological
study) but finds he cannot ‘live out’ his experience in the culture in which he
lives. he is considered a fool, he is shamed by the rational world.  and he reverts to his old self.

then there is the question of ‘freedom’. what is it really to be ‘free’ and at
whose expense is our freedom bought. as related to the first theme of living
irrationally for another’s sake, of compassionate being, is the truest of
freedoms seemingly to be free to love? even at our own expense? is it not at
all what the culture teaches us of freedom…that of being unbounded to or by
another person place or thing. is freedom paradoxically a detachment from
needing a glutonny of experiences? and is freedom somehow inversely related to
ones sense of responsibility to another? was christ truly the most free in his
choice to love, though it cost him his ‘freedom’? hmm and hmm. brings me very
close to my spiritual direction session which i wish to explore with you both.

shame—is it a primary emotion? or the result of the lack of compassion in
another, the fear of another heaped upon the soul of the shamed. in which soul
then is the defecit? which soul is in the direst need of healing? the one who
is experiencing shame in oneself or the one unable to see the other as the

in whom is the deficit? in the one who fumbles the ball? or in those, who,
watching from the sidelines, ridicule and blame him. in the parent who feels
both his agony and the judgment of the crowd? in this i am reminded of dame
julian’s parable of the master and the servant… the pain of the one who falls
in the ditch while doing the master’s work (working in the garden…hmmm, food
for love?) is because he can no longer see from his place in the ditch, nor can
he turn due to his broken leg, the loving, grateful gaze of the master.

and are we not all children here, playing this game of life, sometimes fumbling
the ball. in our desire to perform flawlessly, our desire to be somehow ‘more
than’ human in our flawless feats, we make ourselves ‘less than human’ in our
capacity to love, to have compassion, to forgive, to live with the grace of
being human, humble, of the earth. we are only human….WE ARE HUMAN! both/and.
bearing love into life… and forgetting why we have been sent.

twice this month i have been reminded of this necessity to not take life soooo
seriously. to be easy. to laugh. to live in the abundane that is grace, and
that is life. last night i went to see ‘mamma mia’ with kelly. it was ‘fun’. i
sometimes think i have forgotten how to have fun…even as i ‘know’ that i am
experiencing deep joy, beauty, peace…i can get caught up (down?) in the
enormity of the ocean and miss this moment of the wave’s crescendo and so my
joy is not often embodied well. i sometimes wish that i could simply dance!
watching mamma mia i was reminded of my own experience on stage, taking on a
character, i let loose and had great fun in ‘her’ shoes. that one lives and
dances inside of me…perhaps i should let her out more. what is it that
oppresses her, limits her freedom to be….is it that same old shame?

of course, all of this has been the ‘undercurrent’ of (the roots of, the source
and substance beneath?) a month of ‘real’ life, which included a week camping
(ahh, woods) with 2 of my sons and my sister, reminding myself and placing
myself into the light of god’s loving gaze over and again throughout that week
of family relating; my daughter returning home again from chicago, wildly
adjusting to the transition, fearful and greiving all at once, filled with self
scorn and doubt….experiencing the judgment and the shame of which i ponder. my
own sense of aimlessness mirrored by her wandering. chaos, pain, shame at my own
loving!, and yes, some/many days experiencing the bottom of that wave, that same
one which i seldom ride to the top….


all is well,

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