Monday, January 14, 2008

hills of beans is old things we love to do. We love our habits: making the tea always in the same way, setting the table always in the same order, walking to the train station always by the same route. We rely on our homely traditions to calm ourselves, as if they had power against whatever damage we imagine the winds of change might do us. We become adamant about them, militant about preserving things that don't amount to a hill of beans... —Barbara Crafton

I had a friend, (now deceased) who used to be like that. He got up at the same time every morning, drove to work by the same route, always made a tuna sandwich for lunch; he liked his habits. He could also be very rigid in his thinking, taking in new information at a snail's pace (if at all). I used to tease him, smugly imagining myself superior in some way. At the time I believed myself open to change, new things.

I'm thinking a little deeper about Barbara's words now. The truth is: it's okay to try new things as long as it's me doing whatever's new. If someone else does a new thing, it's suspect; if I do it, it's innovation. How lopsided is that? So... time to rethink my responses to other people's new ideas. How irritating.

And when God does a new thing... you'd better take cover because it will hit the fan! In the two thousand years since Jesus actually dwelt among us, we've enshrined his legend and our stories about him... to the point he'd probably not recognize himself. We forget he was the revolutionary and his radical ideas were never embraced.

Tradition (for its own sake) abounds in the church at large, but it's even more evident in the monastic life. Each new person coming in has to walk the tightrope, finding that precarious balance between the way we've always done it and the way that makes more sense. In our convent, how we do things is sometimes dictated by the failing capabilities of our elderly sisters. Relaxing the arduous schedule to match their energy levels has been a plus for all of us. We get an extra half hour of sleep in the morning and if we want it, an extra two hours at night. Sisters used to be dead on their feet and still expected to show up for every single Daily Office. It was called asceticism... and highly prized.

Personally, my ability to be generous and forgiving is directly proportional to the amount of rest I've had. Too little rest means too little forgiveness. Not exactly what I imagine Jesus had in mind for those who would be his followers.

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