Monday, June 16, 2008

I Want To Talk To You

"The Lord called to Samuel, who answered, "Here I am."

The LORD called me this evening, right as I was about to root some stevia plants. I knew the call, and I was annoyed.

God rarely wastes words on me. Instead, he uses fishhooks, slaps, dull throbbings, and reminder notices to tune me in to whatever frequency he wants me to be listening to at that moment. Like those 'this is a test' emergency broadcast signals that used to bust on to the tv like a poltergeist.

In any case, it was, as the Muslims say, a call to prayer. No bell, just a trickling into my consciousness, like storm water soaking through the earth on its way to the water table below. If I ignore this delicate signal, it usually goes away, like water evaporating out through the soil. If I stay tuned in, but remain inactive, the water begins to soak through. The responsible thing to do is to answer. "If today you hear God's voice, harden not your heart." For whatever reason I was feeling responsible tonight.

This was to be a face-to-face meeting, and bedside remote telecommuting prayer would not do; I was being called in to the Principal's office. It would have been right for me to respond to the Most High God like Samuel, "Here I am!" I think my words were, "What?" Obviously the LORD knew I was in the middle of something--I've had all sorts of projects going on to stay busy since Jeannie and I broke up. Obviously He wasn't very bothered by it. The call was not linguistically audible, but if I had to conceptualize it, it felt like a wet blanket draped over my shoulders that was soaking my shirt; I wanted to throw off.

Duty calls. I've abandoned enthusiasm for prayer some time ago. I swear, maintaining this kind of long-term relationship with God must be what marriage feels like after ten years. "Honey?" Here I am. That's okay; I've come to think marriage is a good thing that's worth the work.

Well, after realizing my horticultural excuses weren't going to stave off the drip-drip-dripping "Come." that was beginning to soak through my plans for the evening, I dug a little deeper in the excuse drawer and realized that I didn't have a ride. I had just sold my bike a few hours before, and my new bike (which had just been built but not tested yet; the epoxied handlebars were even still wet) was not ready to be ridden yet. But the LORD told me to "Come" anyway, even if I had to walk; it was important. I had not eaten yet, I protested, and I felt a headache coming on. "No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of Heaven." Sigh.

So what do you propose, I asked. "Come." Sometimes it really seems like the LORD of the Universe is nothing but a big, loving, mentally challenged simpleton, boiling down our alphabet soup to a syrupy broth with just a few letters floating around to spell with. How else do you explain a name like YHWH? No vowels! Sigh.

Since the LORD was not putting anything on the table, I said, "Okay. If the glue on my handlebars had dried (I knew it probably wouldn't be) I will go. If not, I will wait til tomorrow." And the LORD said, "Done." I went down to the basement and sure enough the glue had dried and set enough to ride.

A deal's a deal. I brought the bike up and out on to the porch. The sky was getting dark; it was going to rain. By this point I knew that even if a cloud of escaped African bees were the ones darkening the sky, I would still have to go. I set off, only to have the handlebars slip in the stem. Down to the basement for an adjustable wrench. And up. And off. And...the nose of the saddle slipping down. Down for a socket wrench. And up. And off. And...the gears need to be adjusted. And...

Finally, an hour later, with everything in working order, I was off to the Adoration chapel at St. Mary's. Actually, it was nice to be out on my new bike; I liked it lots. I know I am getting older now that I want something more "comfortable" and am starting to retire my still jarring racing bikes. This steed is a black-spraypainted 3 speed beauty, complete with oiled leather saddle bags and a rear rack. It felt strange to be riding without my courier bag; all my things--lock, tools, phone, wallet, etc.--were in the saddlebags.

When I arrived at the chapel and stepped inside, I think there was a part of me, sweating and breathing heavy, that said, "You called?" Not in a smart-alec way; just as matter of fact. My relationship with the LORD has reflected this matter-of-factness in the reduction in need for emotive response. To love is not to say or to feel but to do. So I do. Love is just a four letter piece of dried shit anyway.

I usually sit in Adoration, though the more emotional I am at the time the more apt I am to get on my knees. I think I could be hanging upside down by the rafters for all the LORD cares; I know He was happy to see me, as always. There have been times when I've played St. Therese and curled up on the bench or on the floor and slept. The Little Flower herself said about falling asleep during prayer, "Well, I don't worry! I think of how little children are as charming to their parents when they are sleeping as when they are awake." Adoration really is one of my favorite forms of prayer. Because there is nothing to do. I "do" all fucking day; when I see the LORD, I want to be.

I settled in almost immediately upon sitting. I closed my eyes. I was sweating despite the air conditioner blowing cool air over my skin, and the blood was pulsing through my temples like a swollen river. Buddha slipped me a little cheat: my distracting maladies became my tools of centering. In Thailand, during evening anapanasati meditation, the mosquitoes would be out in full force and since we were forbidden by the monks to kill any living thing, I could do nothing but let them land and suck themselves silly until they pulled out, bloated with blood, and dropped to the sand: a glutton's death. Serves them right.

But I killed no mosquitoes during the entire course of the 11-day Vipassanna retreat at Suan Mohkk--the "Garden of Liberation." After the mosquitos had left their mark (which screamed for the ecstasy of being scratched), they became like gravestones which I meditated on. The legions of dead mosquito ghosts buried beneath the welt were like demons begging to be released into the world. If I scratched the bite, they would do just that; the tiny mound of whitish flesh would spread, like an island surfacing in receding waters. And as long as I scratched it, it would never go away. In Thailand, fasting and sleeping on a concrete bed with a wooden pillow, Buddha taught me about sin.

Funny. Not just Buddha teaching me the way of Christ, but the fact that I was sent to Thailand by the Lord in the first place for this training, and what precipitated it--the need to find my center after Jeannie and I broke up the first time. I had also just seen Kill Bill 2, and when Beatrix visits Pai Mei in his forest dwelling, the deal was sealed.

As I sat before the LORD, focusing on the rhythm of the blood pushing through my head and the feeling of salt-laced sweat drops sliding down my forehead, I began to get dialed in. And it reminded me of Beatrix's awe at the feet of Pai Mei who pulsed with energy emanating from his head chakra. It sounded like a beating heart, or a swarm of locusts, and it was pure, focused energy. And I realized that I was sitting at the center of the Universe. Because if you believe that he who said I AM before all things and at the end of all things and I LIVE, and you believe that he who said, This bread is my body was not speaking figuratively, then you see the transcendent reality of that Presence concentrated into the stale, tasteless piece of styrofoam Necco bread sitting right in front of you. It is the incarnation of the absolute poverty which God assumed when He assumed human flesh.

Eucharist is the spiritual core of the Earth, a core that has no center, because it is everywhere...and yet it is right here in front of me! When this hit me, it was like an arrow piercing my skull between the eyes. In fact, my head snapped back and I felt short of breath...I was literally at the center of All Things--right where I needed to be. And I had received a personal invitation to be there.

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