Riding the Wave

Part of the Berlin Wall, now in Battery Park City, Manhattan
I was one of those college and graduate school students who felt the need to read all of the assignments plus the extra recommended reading. I worried that I would miss something.  This work ethic did not drop off as I went along--in fact, I went in the opposite direction from that of many students.  I became more dedicated instead of starting off with a bang and gradually tapering off.

I wouldn't say I was ever obsessive about it, though.  I looked around and saw others who felt they could only take one or two classes at a time because they had to master everything as they went along and they simply didn't have the capacity to do that in four or five classes simultaneously.  That was never me.

I tended to think that if I just did all the reading and went to the classes and participated in the discussions, things would fall into place. I didn't have to totally understand anything as soon as I encountered it. Things would fall into place.  I called it riding the wave. Just getting in the groove of the subject and going with the flow, to throw around a few cliches. Much, if not all, would be revealed in due time and understanding would dawn upon me at the right moment.  And, for the most part, except, say, in the case of statistics, that was true.

Today, I am trying to remember that "work ethic."  Because I'm struggling with so many "topics" being presented to me right now.  Penn State. The Colorado shooting. Syria. Drone warfare. Spain's economy. Not to mention my own denomination's recent General Convention with its pages of resolutions, the various happenings and issues in my parish (including my to-do list), and stuff going on in my family.

I simply cannot master all of these "subjects" as I go along. I will become overwhelmed and paralyzed.  So I need to ride the wave again. Just keep going, staying on top instead of going under, believing that at least some of these will come together, still keeping up with the conversations but not obsessing about each detail.  Not all of these things are negative or bad--I don't want to suggest that my church's General Convention was at all negative, because it wasn't. It's simply that there is a lot to digest now that it's over.  Nonetheless, I know that time must pass before it becomes possible to engage in meaningful reflection. I know that just as David had to lament Saul and Jonathan before he could go on, so too we need to do some grieving and letting go, collectively and individually, before we rush to sum things up or cover them over.

I know, too, that I need to look for God, to see what God is doing in these places and with these people, so that I can join with God in God's work as best I can.

Of course many of these happenings in the world near and far will never make sense. They cannot be understood, much less "mastered." Understanding may never dawn upon me. But I simply cannot ignore them or pretend they do not exist or affect me.  They will become incorporated, integrated into my life and into the fabric of the various communities of which I am a part.

And so I will do what I can. Read, listen, reflect, grieve, engage in conversation, look for God, and pray.

Especially pray. Lord, have mercy.



Perpetua said…
Oh Penny, I know how that feels. Hoping you can go on riding the wave until you get into calmer waters.
I was reading just this morning from Ray Bradbury's book, Zen and the Art of Writing, and found two quotes from the introduction that ring true to me as a writer, and I think apply to whatever art we engage in:

“So while our art cannot, as we wish it could, save us from wars, privation, envy, old age, or death, it can revitalize us amidst it all.”

“Which means writng as cure. Not completely, of course. You never get over your parents in the hospital or your best love in the grave.”
Thanks, Perpetua. Just putting it out there is helpful, as you well know.
That's wonderful, Charles! Thanks so much for sharing it. I have to admit I never have read Bradbury and I really don't know why. Thanks for the nudge to rectify that omission.