Thursday, April 23, 2015

Terminus

Dear Reader,

     It occurred to me late in my undergraduate studies that I might be a Writer.  I sought ways to discern this, to "tease" out its verity (hence the url and purpose of this blog).  After a lot of internal dialog, and a little external use of my closest friends as sounding boards (earning myself no little amount of ridicule--"Poet with a capital P, huh?"), I finally came to the conclusion that it was, in fact, my vocation to be a Writer.  
     "So," I wondered to myself, "when can I begin writing?"  Having discerned that I was a Poet and that the means to this was through letters, I set myself to patiently waiting for the right words to come (a sort of impatient patience).  Sure, I practiced in my journal, or in letters, or in writing projects I gave myself, but none of it really seemed like the material for sharing.  I read everything, many different authors, and closely studied their styles.  I'd think of ideas for books, and two chapters in I'd lose interest (my favorite was a pseudo-autobiographical novel in the style of "Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man" seeking to demonstrate that the young man of poetic disposition can find fulfillment in religious life. I was gonna call it "A Dry Weary Land Without Water" or just "Thirst").  I waited and waited for inspiration to strike me and nothing came and angst transformed my patience into impatience and I rued the fact that I am a Writer with no words and I dubbed myself the Curséd Poet.  I felt called to assemble the beautiful, but wasn't given the right parts.  
     I have, until now, considered my lack of inspiration to be a cruel joke on the part of the Giver of Inspirations.  I have incredulously clung to the misnomer Curséd Poet, outwardly denying what was whispered in my heart: this is a blessing.  How many Writers die in silence, their gifts wasted on none but the eyes of the Lord!  These Writers are truly held close to His heart, for their craft solely benefits Him who reads the verse in their souls.  They are the reed that hums in the Desert Palace, the wildflowers that grow in the Private Royal Gardens.  "Curséd" is the furthest adjective from describing them.  At first I thought that maybe "Blesséd" would be better, but that seems unfair to those reeds planted in the public city garden.  No, I've finally settled on "Belovéd", because this fittingly captures the unique intimacy of the Silent Writers.  They are Belovéd Poets, for their earthly silence is heavenly polyphony!  I am grateful to be counted in their number, that, like David, I play in the courts of the King.  
     Which brings me to the point.  I am a Belovéd Poet, whose craft (for the time being) has been given no call for earthly expression.  Therefore, this blog (which was created for the purpose of discerning my Poetic telos, and helped immensely in that effort) has now become an occasion of temptation.  See, when given the means for the public expression afforded by this blog (despite its readership of 3 individuals), the angst that sometimes seizes me to publish my thoughts is, in fact, an abuse of my vocation as a Belovéd Poet. 
     This blog could cause me to become prolific when I ought to be silent.  The danger is that I will lack very many unpublished thoughts, raining words on people that are meant for Him alone.  It is a great horror to consider that this blog could be means for abusing my vocation.  The words might, from time to time, be pleasing, but in their perversion this attraction would amount to little more than literary sophistry, and ought not to have ever left the pages of my journal.  I must be silent until bidden to speak, if that bidding ever comes!  
     So this is goodbye, at least for now.  This blog has outlived its purpose, so the time has come to bring it to an end.  Thank you for reading!

Goodbye [forever?],
    J. P. Jeremiah

p.s. So as to take a dump on everything I've just written: a poem!

      The Pillow Prayer of a Saint
For though, the way, I can't be faring,
And find, I can't, a path more wearing,
I find in Thee, Lord, none more caring,
And You in me, Lord, none more daring.
Each step, from me the world is tearing,
And dangers round me, flint strike, flaring,
Still I, to You, in dark am pairing,
Alone I'm left with You, Love sharing.  

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

lol pos h/o brb

Today I found an AIM conversation saved and buried in my email.  excerpt:

Celestial Juliet (9:31:57 PM): You might understand this one quite well.
Celestial Juliet (9:32:07 PM):The shadows around me 
are no longer sleeping
they dance and they speak of
the secret they're keeping
joshthetitan929 (9:33:50 PM): you've basically dug into my heart and and grasped my life and exposed it to all(ok us)
joshthetitan929 (9:35:52 PM): with your permission, i'll add it to my myspace

I am so grateful for the find.  So much learning about myself.  

what did I learn?

i've danced from poet to poet.
    i consumed them, each one.
        "you are what you eat"
             it's a lie.
you taste what you eat,
    you feel what you eat,
        you grow from what you eat,
but you don't become what you eat;
    it becomes you.
i've danced from poet to poet.  
    i count four in all.  
        each broke open the world a little farther
            by breaking me a little more
                without even trying.
                    and i'm grateful.
because what they broke wasn't me.  
    they broke an image,
        a facade.
            and left behind something a little realer.
                freer.
                    better.
i've danced from poet to poet.  
    feeling where they felt and
        reaching where they reached,
and, once broken, 
    i reached a little straighter
        in the direction
            that my hands were made
                to reach, 
                    without inhibition.  

I have danced from poet to poet, and each of them has given me freedom.  

the scary thing is, freedom looks so different from what i want
    for me.

Monday, February 9, 2015

increase the decrease

"He must increase, I must decrease." 
     -The Voice

     I didn't say this.  I would never say this.  At least, unprovoked, I would never say this.  
     No, the guy who said this was insane.  He ate bugs and didn't shower. And he gave himself a nickname: the Voice.  And not one of those soft, sensual, lovely voices that whispers truths into your ears and causes you to shiver with warmth.  This voice was crying out, crying out so obnoxiously that it even did so in the womb.
     But the most remarkable part of his self-proclaimed nickname is not that he called himself the voice, but that he called himself the voice.  He wasn't just a voice crying out in the wilderness, he was it. 
          The big kahuna. 
               The main man. 
     In a Gospel that claims God to be the Word, being the voice is a pretty fricken huge deal.  
     Just think of the intimacy.  The voice is what gives life to the word, that sets it on its way to people.  
     But there's a humility to it.  The voice isn't the word; it is simply the medium by which it travels.  John  was in no way the center of it all.  He was simply a vehicle; a medium.  By him, the Word first floated across the plain and into people's eardrums.  
     But can you think of a more intimate way to be with the Word?  
          The answer is no.  
               Which is why we have to be the voice too.  
                    Duh.

     This is unbelievably easy to screw up.  
     You start off so well, being the voice.  You do it better and better, decreasing and decreasing.  
          But one day you say to yourself, gosh isn't that voice lovely?
               You just...forget...forget that you're not the word but the voice. 
                    And it's all downhill from there.  
     Forgetfulness means exile, the Oldies remind us.  

     The most annoying thing about growing up is discovering all the new ways to forget.  
          And forget.
               And forget. 

Just be the voice--THE voice.
     It's so simple, just don't forget it.  
          Just increase the decrease.  
               Just be free, 
silly novice.
     

Saturday, February 7, 2015

the test of obedience

"The obedient man shall speak of victory." Proverbs 21:28

I don't mind speaking of defeat, if it means I get to go to New York.
     Stupid brain, that is not how it works.  
But Josh, lighten up.  You know that this trip will be good for you.  You know that it's alright.  
     Shut up.  I think I'm going to take a nap.  

Sometimes, naps are good for temperance.

     Priests and nuns and brothers consistently say that obedience is the hardest vow to live.  Which is an absolutely ridiculous claim until you live the vows.  
     No, people of the world, chastity is not the toughest.  In the inward turn from complication to simplicity, you start giving up simple things for complicated ones.  Easy and shallow pleasures are denied; difficult and profound ones embraced.  This takes a lot of work, but is rather doable.  
     Like seriously, totes doable.  
     Here's where it gets interesting.  Poverty and chastity are fairly straightforward.  Once you cross from the pursuit of freedom from to the pursuit of freedom for, you are capable of some rather heroic acts of self-giving sacrifice.  Love starts to overcome desires, and you start becoming saintly for the first time.  
     But a wild PROBLEM appears!  All this growth can start to make you feel rather self-sufficient.  Look at all the things I don't need anymore.  Isn't my life so simple?  Aren't I soooo disciplined?  Oftentimes along the way, you forget that you accomplish all these things in Christ, and you begin to think that you accomplish all these things in Josh.  
     Enter the test of obedience.  After a while, you've started being obedient to yourself.  And it's gotten you places, making you so disciplined, so you start to trust yourself.  You trust yourself to know when to sacrifice and love, and to know the best choice for your life.  
     Then your superior makes a decision that is not the one you made and all of a sudden your righteously accomplished will is leading you into sin.  Because he doesn't know what's best; obviously it's you that does, because you've grown so much in holiness on your own.  
     And that's how growing in poverty and chastity can make obedience way harder if you don't know what you're doing or get lazy for even a moment or you forget the place that God has in all of this.  
     And if I've learned anything from the Bible, it is that forgetfulness leads to exile and awareness leads to the Promised Land.  
     I just keep forgetting that lesson.  #annoying

And I reeeealy wanted to go to New York.  
     Oh well, I guess I'll be hanging out in NePa.  

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

sunsets

Sunset in the city.  You can't really see it, but you know it's beautiful.  
     Steel and glass afire 10 stories high.  Every tower an inferno.  
     Cars dancing in and out of shadows, tossing beams of blinding light your way for split seconds at a time.  
     Slivers of sky sneaking glances of the ruby and amethyst cloud necklaces that hang between buildings.  
     You see it without seeing it.  You see its effects: its breathtaking hues and scenes that prick you in a million places to just stop a moment and be.  

     Yesterday, I sat in the chapel in the early evening.  It's a small chapel on the top floor of a building atop a hill overlooking the Wyoming Valley of NorthEastern Pennsylvania.  Two of the walls are mostly window, including the one facing west.  I stand at the window, alone in this holy place.  In the distance are the modest peaks of mountains, many of them hollow from a century of coal mining.  As the sun sank down behind them, they are suddenly bathed in fire.  I think about how one of them burns inside and out, and chuckle to myself at this loose image for a homily some day.  
     With a smile I sat down in my seat for a little contemplation before vespers.  I hadn't turned the lights on, but the room was aglow nonetheless.  A soft penetrating light, and you could almost sense in it the fatigue of another day almost gone.  Long grotesque shadows stretched across the walls, but in the brilliant burnt orange glow of the room their edges were gentle and their bodies not very dark.  The shadow on the wall from the crucifix was unrecognizable and faint, like an oil stain in a tablecloth from years ago.  
     I let Him in, and rested there in those Arms.  I felt the warmth deep within and realized that in the evening glow I and the burning mountain are one and the same.  And I knew that like that mountain, the sun will fade and the gentle snow will cover me with its heavy and encompassing poverty of purity, weighing down the branches of the trees that cover me. But like that mountain, I will still burn inside as I once did without.
     This is a special time, it occurred to me.  Then thoughts danced in and out of my head until the chapel was filled; thoughts of the nature of mercy, the difficulty of discipline, and how virginity is the flower of the Church.  Then I stood and invoked God's assistance, and found whispered words of gratitude escape my lips, thanking Him for helping me start to learn how to be.  

     Why are sunsets the best time of day?  There is no end to their beauty.  There is no end to their application to life's most tender moments. 
     I wonder if the other Times of Day complain about the Sunset's monopoly on beauty and imagery.  I know I would, selfish brat that I am.  
     Silly sunrise, learn to be.  Silly midday, learn to be.  Silly midnight, learn to be.  
     Silly novice...

Monday, January 19, 2015

I came, I saw, I venti'd

(this reflection is from a couple weeks ago, at the novitiate)

     A free spot on a couch outside Starbucks in the surprisingly warm early-evening sun of a balmy January day in Colorado Springs.  I saw it and pursued it.  Vini, vidi, vici, with a venti in my hand.  To kick back in such a way, my flannel shirt mocking the unnecessary coats around me, is a luxury that not even South Carolina often provides in the first week of January.  
     Stolen moments like these are gifts.
     Who would have thought in the intensity of silent recollection I would ever have the opportunity to pour over a good history of Germany in front of a Starbucks on a Thursday afternoon?  I sure wouldn't have.  Moments like these are stolen.  They aren't an escape, but a brief detour to collect the good in the day-to-day that would have been otherwise left scattered.  
     Little bits of grace dust, blowing in the winds or unrecollection until they end up in dark corners.  
     But these unusual moments, offered and seized, allow me to collect that grace dust.  I scoop it up in my hands on that couch and savor it, like a spoonful of Nutella snuck on the way back from a midnight bathroom trip.  
     Moments of detour from the regularity and discipline of a well-lived life, it is in these where gratitude seizes me most profoundly, reopening my eyes to the electric flow of grace that would otherwise be taken for granted.  
     These moments are the scenic overlooks in the mountain passes of life's journey.  Traversing mountains is a grueling task that requires constant attention to the road ahead.  You can't do more than sneak a glance or two in your periphery through the openings in the trees, especially if your eyes have to stay on the constant twist and turn and incline and decline of the road.  These glances are brief and incomplete, and frankly they rob the majesty of the mountains their due.  
     Because mountains are made to be gaped at.  
     They were designed to steal your breath and make you feel that perhaps you could waste away staring at them, and in doing so you would have somehow accomplished everything that was possible for you on this earth.  The half-second partial glances from the road fall short of the very purpose of the mountains.
     Enter: the scenic overlook.  This is a simple place, a turnoff and a parkinglot next to a break in the trees.  But it is in this simple place that you accomplish that impossible task of appreciating the fullness of the mountains.  It is here that the magnificence of the journey is appreciated.  It is here where gratitude is won.  And it is here that you are able to reorient yourself, discovering again why you set out and rediscovering the need to continue the journey.  
     Even Christ stopped at the scenic overlooks.  Think of the most important journey he made, from praetorium to Golgotha.  A moment for His mother, a moment for Veronica, a moment for the women, none of these the purpose of the trip, but still necessary stops along the way.  The job was to haul the wood up the hill in order to win His life's victory over sin, but He stole a few moments along the way to see those He loved, to accept and give a few gifts, and to put the whole journey in perspective for someone else.  In these stolen moments, I like to think that He was able to stop and admire the magnificence of the whole journey, reminding Himself why He was there and maybe even having a little gratitude for it.  Yes, in these moments He made the periphery the focus.  
     And by doing so, He proved that it's ok to do the same.  
     To imitate Christ is to stop at the scenic overlook.  To imitate Christ is to steal a half hour at Starbucks on the way home from voice lessons, that momentary gift of reprieve that can only cause growth in gratitude and resolve.  
     To imitate Christ is to be in each moment, not to just travel through it.  

Saturday, January 17, 2015

We will now pause for a brief intermission...

     Intermission.
     Necessary, of course.  But why?

     The curtain drops and the lights go up.  You stand and stretch your arms like you just woke up.  The dream is still vivid on your eyelids when they close against the brightness.  You squeeze down the row, sorry, excuse me, pardon.  Circulation finally starts returning to your legs.  Pressure, pinpricks, then that rush of coolness.  Hobble to the bathroom.  
     You've enjoyed the first half.  At the sink, you wash your hands and look at the smile in your eyes.  It's the show that caused that smile.  You wink at yourself, just for fun.
     A couple people in the bathroom heatedly discuss the third scene.  Well, that's new, you think, as you begin to see the characters in the new light of your Comrades of the Loo.  In the hallway, the fancy carpet is new. It has to be. Somehow, the show has started to change you.  New eyes look at the world around you.  Eyes with more perspective.  You like it.
     Settle back down snugly into your seat.  It's still warm.  A smile.  Open the program, and your mind begins to dance around Act 1.  A few more connections are made.  Another smile.  A prediction about this or that character springs up in your head. Yet another smile.  You fondly remember that one musical number, and hope you hear her voice again in Act 2.  Why so many smiles?  
     Lights dim.  You move your shoulders back and forth to set yourself firmly to launch once more into a different world.  You are ready now.  

     Intermission is not a break from show, but rather a necessary component of it.  Through it the audience can decompress, loosen the tension in the legs and bladder, walk around and get a little oxygen to the brain.  But this time is not a vacation from the show, since the scenes and characters and songs swirl around in your head, all of it connecting in new places and becoming ever more brilliant.  Themes are discovered that were missed in real time.  Real appreciation for the first act begins to settle in, and excitement sprouts in this garden bed of gratitude.  
     Yes, intermission is an essential part of the show, making the whole experience more profound and complete.

     Now, for my next trick:

Intermission is to a stage show, as Winter Placement is to a Novitiate.