On slowing down—way down

Every now and then I find myself falling into the same old trap of urgency. The I shoulds and I needs become confused and pressing. I find myself despairing at the piles of books and scholarly articles downloaded, the endless notes piling up, the outlines that never make it past a few scant intentions.

This is the work of a thousand years that I’m trying to press into a single lifetime. This weekend feels particularly meaningful for a reflection such as this one. A full moon; three massively important holidays overlapping, within and across societies all over the planet. Holidays which in some cases have histories older than most of our oldest cities. Holidays whose traditions, though warped by history’s endless game of “telephone”, can be traced back centuries.

“Dear pine cone, let me hold you as you open.”

Mary Oliver, It Was Early

So every time I worry about not having a devotional calendar, or prayers, or hymns, or sacred stories, I must stop and remind myself that:

  1. Rest is sacred.
  2. What I’m hoping to build for myself will be, at the very least, the work of a lifetime.

I don’t need to get this right immediately. There will be iteration. There will be backtracking. There will be, also, experiments that go wrong. And, out of respect for the Spirit of Inquiry, for all the Muses and daughters of Memory, and all the spirits around me and within me: all of this will be and is precious. So I take notes. So I write down thoughts, and intentions, however fleeting.

It is more than all right if those scribbles are never looked at again: they are still inherent to the creative process. To the investigation. To the creation of tradition — tradition which can not be forged without time, and reiteration, repetition. Precious practice.

Precious: as is every moment of rest, of play, of hanging out with friends and kin and not worrying about the bigger picture. Of just having a small conversation, some laughter. Never forget. Rest is sacred. Play is sacred.

And whenever I find myself feeling pressed, feeling exhausted, feeling unworthy, remember this:

It is likely, even, that the work of a lifetime will not — can never — be enough to capture and codify and celebrate your experience with the numinous. That’s why it’s called faith: a leap, even.

So I will slow down.

I will watch the pinecone open into a tree.

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