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Thursday, August 02, 2007

this far by faith: empty chair.

invitation to poetry icon

empty chairChristine of Abbey of the Arts posted this picture taken at a café in the Aran Isle of Inishmore and suggested people respond with poetry, prose or whatever their pleasure. At first I doubted I'd blog publicly, but then decided to leap onto the page, screen or whatever people consider the puter monitor to be.

More than anything, this empty chair reminds me of the fall Saturday two or three years ago I had to go downtown to Border's to get a copy of Jim Wallis' book, God's Politics, (now out in paperback) because the one I'd bought weeks earlier on eBay hadn't arrived and I was scheduled to facilitate the discussion of the next chapter at our next Faith, Order & Witness – FOW - meeting the next Wednesday. It was a chilly gray raw day, yet friends were happily interacting chatting, eating lunch and drinking chais, lattés and beers at the sidewalk cafés and sidewalk seating sections of indoor cafés. In both my virtual and real lives I've told people relatively little about the past dozen or so years because 1) the entire narrative takes hours; and 2) no matter how I try expressing any of it, every single person trivializes it, explains away all of it with a trite and untrue platitude, and manages at least one majorly offensive remark to which responses I could have made include things like: no, I do not remotely "have no education"; no, everyone in the world does not lose every one of the several dozen friends they'd expected to grow old(er) with; no, God does not laugh at our plans, but expects us to make plans and frequently transforms our preparation into something better and wilder than we could've imagined; no, I do not need "a pill" (try the full range of SSRI's and benzodiazepines); no, I do not need "a caring counselor" even being aware that "to reduce costs, a skilled clergyperson often is the best answer." What I do need is a life related to my many years of school and experience—a life that not just ideally but necessarily will result in new friends and to put it plainly, an adequate professional network. I know, I've been complaining about the way the church has become over-clericized and over-professionalized...

This is the style of chair where you find people sitting together in public; it makes me think of casual yet revealing conversations and making plans for the future, of people who've recently met and of people who've known each other forever. Is there an empty chair at someone's table for me? Even more to the point, if again I risk inviting someone to fill an empty chair at my table, will they agree, or will this time be like most of the others? Will I ever again have a social life beyond the church events I drag myself to?

A couple years ago I returned home on a Saturday afternoon just as a moving sale in one of the condos here was winding down. The only thing that interested me was a Hallmark ceramic tray in earth tones with a quote from Maya Angelou:
It was a time of such splendor—charming people, good food, laughter, and brave ideas—enough to entertain us for years.
The seller accepted my best offer of $5, and I went home with the prize. I'd been displaying it on the kitchen sideboard, but this morning I'm going to wash it and put it away until charming people, good food, laughter and brave ideas again become part of my world.

2 comments:

"PS" said...

Not being heard is painful, awful, and just plain hard. I hope someone sits in that chair, with the specific intent of just listening to you and your story.

RevAnne said...

I've a chair ready for you. If you ever make it to the East Coast, let me know. In the meantime, consider yourself welcome to a metaphorical seat at my table anytime. We'll have metaphorical (and thus calorie-free) coffee treats, and you'll have my full attention.
I like to tell a story (apocryphal, no doubt) about a little girl who wanted mom or dad to stay in her room at night when she was scared. When reminded that she wasn't alone because Jesus was always with her, she replied, "but sometimes I want Jesus to have skin on."
Praying for Jesus with skin on to be revealed in your life, and give you a reason to bring that tray back out.