Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Learning to Pay Attention

I am in mourning for the beautiful maple tree in my back yard which was cut down today. In the fall, it had those wonderful leaves that would turn red and gold and litter our yard with exquisite "crunchiness." Unfortunately, it had the audacity to grow into the high line wires and a few years ago the hyroelectric company came and gouged its heart out (cutting a deep bevil into the mid-section of its branches).

As a result, it became prone to entertain a host of insects and tree rot. Though its furthermost parts, the exterior branches, maintained a semblance of life, inside it was rotting from within. So it was that it had to be cut into sections, revealing the back half of our yard to the heat of the sun and relegating the role of guardian to the giant oak which straddles ours, and the neighbor's, yard.

That tree seems to symbolize, in some small way, the lives of some of the students with whom I work--not to mention myself, or the colleagues around me. The threats to our existence seem to eat away at our innermost selves, cutting the heart out of who we are. Our exteriors may remain healthy (at least to all outward appearances), but inside we are crumbling. As Eugene Peterson says regarding a life lived at second-hand: "relationships atrophy, enjoyment diminishes, life thins out," (Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, 336).

We must learn to begin to pay attention to the rhythms of our lives--what Frederick Buechner calls, "listening to our lives." Perhaps I am a mystic at heart; I do know that I believe that God speaks to us through the crevices of life. This new semester I want to commit to learning to listen to what is going on around me--to take time to slow down and look for signs of interior rot and destruction (whether in my life or in the lives of those around me).

So, here are my intentions for a new school year in this vein:
1. Slow down.
2. Learn to do more with less.
3. Pay attention to the rhythms of life around me.