24 May 2009

Eliot Was Right

Sunlight splashing on the bright spring green of grass and tree leaves next to where I once again sit on the steps of the LDS chapel in Los Altos, where Stuart left us. Last time here for a little while; my extended travel assignment is ending for now, so soon I'm heading home to stay for more than a couple of days. Why do I come back here? Is this morbid? I don't think so. I think of it as paying respects to one who, as he fell, tossed the baton to me and so many others to continue the race. Someone I feel a connection to and look forward to meeting someday. Besides, it's a beautiful spot to sit and think and write.

I've been pretty much away from home for a long time now, nearly four months. And it's made me think about how we are all wanderers in a way. Yesterday I took a long hike through the mountains here that border the coast. Beautiful country I'd never seen before. Today I visited four different churches : LDS, Episcopal, Greek Orthodox, and Roman Catholic. I stood for a long time before Bloch's paintings of the Savior on the cross and being laid in the tomb, and pondered the depth of His sacrifice for me and of my gratitude for it. And was wiping my eyes as I walked away, of course. My faith in Him has always been there, it comes as naturally as breathing. I don't know why. It's the anchor to which I cling.

I drove a lot today, just to get out and explore, to see places I hadn't seen, learn new paths. After services at Grace, I walked down the hill to Chinatown for dim sum and to buy some treats for the kids. As I walked down the hill through those charming old San Francisco neighborhoods I looked at those old houses and thought "What am I doing here? How did I end up here, now?" I thought how different life is from just a year ago. The places I've been, the people I've met, the things I've learned and perspectives I've gained, unimaginable just last summer. And what will next year bring, and the year beyond that? Where will I go? What will I learn and do? Will I ever be able to fully reconcile my faith with what I've learned about myself? Will we finally see the divine instruction the Church desperately needs? Will I ever meet the one I'm looking for? Lesson for my friends who are younger: these questions never stop, so don't think that when you "grow up" you'll figure it all out. Nope.

So here I sit, on Stuart's steps, wondering where it's all going to go. Thinking back amazed at the adventures I've had so far, the luck good and bad, the incredible blessings that are mine. Wondering what's yet to come. Mind boggling at the omniscience of a deity who designed it all and somehow keeps track of everything. His perspective must be staggering, His love for us beyond imagining. How can I not try to emulate that in my own weak and fallible way?

Herewith one of the good fruits of coming out. I am no longer the judgmental person I used to be. Having found myself on an unchosen path so different from that of most around me, I am grateful for the lesson of true charity I have now learned a bit better, as opposed to the lip service I used to pay to it. Today I had the privilege of meeting the Right Reverend Sebastian Bakare, retired Anglican archbishop of Harare, Zimbabwe. His sermon on being perplexed but not cast down, bruised but not defeated, because of faith in the sustenance of the Savior, was as inspiring as anything I've heard in a long time. Clearly he is a man of deep faith and Christian conviction and I was fed abundantly by his words, and honored to meet and talk with him afterward. A year ago I wouldn't even have been in the place to hear him. Today I count myself blessed because coming out made it possible for me to be inspired in a new way, one I never would have dreamed of when closeted and conflicted. Another facet sparkling on the brilliant mosaic of faith and creation, whose beautiful variety I am appreciating more and more.

So what's the point of this post? I guess it's just to say that while I like having a home to go back to and am glad I will be going home soon, I like wandering too. I'm sure it won't be long before I get restless again; heck, 24 hours after arriving back home, I'm going to hit the road again with the kids, but that time purely for fun, racing northward to rejoin and embrace my other family in Salt Lake. You all know who you are.

The travel, the following of my nose, the ability to indulge insatiable curiosity to learn and experience new things, that's one of the things I love most about life and about the gospel. It's why, though I have difficulties and disagreements with The Corporate Church and no hesitation worshiping and seeking inspiration elsewhere too, I couldn't trade LDS theology for any other, because no one else has centralized that principle as much as we have: the desire, even the responsibility and obligation to be curious, to seek, to explore, to learn, to grow eternally. We are all wanderers and feel alone sometimes, but that's how it's supposed to be, I think. I love the journey, the learning, the struggle. I love having others alongside sometimes so we can boost each other when necessary. Imagine how bored we'd get if we just sat around the Garden of Eden for eternity. Ugh. More paradox. I love it.

T. S. Eliot had it right: "We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time." That day is VERY far off for me. Meanwhile I love the journey and I love sharing it with so many of you.


Ezra said...

I love that T.S. Eliot quote. If I may, I'd also like to ad a modern version that I also like--spoken by David Byrne in the movie "True Stories":

"I really enjoy forgetting. When I first come to a place, I notice all the little details. I notice the way the sky looks. The color of white paper. The way people walk. Doorknobs. Everything. Then I get used to the place and I don't notice those things anymore. So only by forgetting can I see the place again as it really is."

Ned said...

Like tens of thousands of others, I have stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where these words are engraved:

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
AUGUST 28 1963"

Perhaps in our lifetime, Alan, we will live to see words to this effect on the steps where you sat today:

Greater love hath no man than this
Feburary 25 2000

Alan said...

Ned what a GREAT idea! I am tempted to go have a plaque made and have it installed in the middle of the night with ultrabond epoxy and six inch concrete screws so they'd have to take up the whole slab to get rid of it.

Which they'd probably do, unfortunately. Sigh.

Beck said...

I am envious of your wanderings. I crave to be able to journey as you do. Keep going, my friend, and keep blazing the trail...

Bravone said...

"I couldn't trade LDS theology for any other, because no one else has centralized that principle as much as we have: the desire, even the responsibility and obligation to be curious, to seek, to explore, to learn, to grow eternally." Interesting. Sometime I'd like to hear you expound on this a bit.