Sunday, August 27, 2006
A little Odd
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I’m a little odd, and I know it.
My father certainly made that clear enough to me as I grew up.
He couldn’t understand that a guy would want to read, and think about God, and go for hikes by himself.
He used to joke about it with his friends:
“Kid can’t get a f-----in’ date. I think he’s a G-d damn queer.”
I didn’t know why I was different, but I didn’t try to defend myself. And I didn’t tell him that a good friend of mine was a homosexual. (I’m sorry Rick... I simply didn’t have the courage to stand up to him.)
I’m still a little odd.
Thirty years ago I was living in an ashram and had joined a yogic order, the Sons of Ramakrishna.
I was twenty and the echoes of a television show which romanticized eastern beliefs still echoed in my subconscious.
I would sit for hours before a flickering candle, and meditate on Jesus (my selected “avatar”).
I thought I could walk the line between the faith I had always held and the mysterious and exciting world of yogic life and astral studies which made me someone different, someone special (and freaked out my poor grandmother).
It wasn’t too long before I learned that there isn’t a fine line between what I want and what He wants. I learned that placing an image of Jesus behind the candle and stripping my senses of everything but the candle was not drawing me closer to God. Just the reverse.
Now, I find this chapter of my life difficult to talk about, and I am going to gloss over it. Let me just say that there was a price I had to pay for all that foolishness and it nearly cost me my life. I was saved, in every way I could be saved, and in turning my back on that life I find that a backward glance, even thirty years hence, chills me.
The reason I brought it up at all is because it illustrates an uncomfortable truth about myself. I’m a little odd.
I’m a mainstream guy, a teacher, and a taxpayer, and a homeowner, and a voter. But there is something about me that is still part monk.
I do not care for many things most guys do. I’m not into car races. I don’t like to party. I’m completely apathetic to sports. When such things come up, I smile, I nod, I pretend to understand, and then I find a reason to wander elsewhere.
Even many of you, those of you who regularly visit this little online journal, notice that I phrase my words in odd ways. I routinely have an inside joke I am telling myself, so when hints of it slip out into my speech, or my writing, it leaves my audience puzzled.
But all of that is OK. I am as He made me. Sometimes I embarrass myself, but that is OK also.
Today’s little soliloquy comes from a moment of embarassment, a thought I had during church this morning:
“I’m a little odd.”
It was during the middle of worship. I had my eyes shut, and my mind was focussed. When that happens I barely hear those around me. It is just me, thinking the words of the songs, internalizing those words, turning them into a prayer between just me and my creator.
I was on my feet, my hands were raised, I was picturing the creator of all things, my maker, and that intense point of glowing light and love was above me and I was offering up my heart, my adoration.
Suddenly I realized that I had stumbled in the words, that the words coming out of my mouth had drifted into a verse different than those around me, and I was no longer a part of corporate worship.
I allowed my eyes to flicker open so I could see the words on the screen. I found my place and shifted to the correct verse. And as I held my hands up high, six inches apart, as if holding a glowing image of love and light, I realized that in the peripheral view of that quick glance no one else had been standing. No one else had their hands raised. I was standing in the congregation, focussed on my prayer, my singing. I was standing alone.
And I thought...
“I’m so weird.”
I suddenly felt off balance, like I was tipping over, and I sat down quickly.
Now this has happened before. I usually ignore everyone else and let myself simply settle into my worship and permit myself to worship corporately with my voice, and individually with my mind and body. If they don’t wish to raise their hands, that is fine.
But this time I was thrown off.
“Could I be wrong? Should I be embarrassed? What are people thinking about me?”
But then I think: “forget them.”
And my mind races off:
I imagine such things as the period 10,000 years after creation when all the universe was a hot soup of dark plasma. I think about the formation of stars and how their young hot breath blew clear the gases and debris around their births , creating those beautiful nebulae, and how they swirled around each other, seeking a balance in that dance of energy and gravity that began when my creator made something new. I think about the cycles of spinning galaxies, those of the second generation, and how they dance a rhythm that my Lord clearly hears, and one I will one day come to appreciate when my life beats with the pace of eternity.
I think about the creation of angels. How the Lord God, a single entity, a single God, but a being of three facets touching our universe as a trinity, had desired a larger community and had created powerful beings to join in His song of eternity and love.
I think about the creation of the world, and the creation of men, when the Lord God did the amazing act of creating beings who could, who must, choose whether to hear His song of light and love, or to follow the whims of their own hearts.
And I think, how could they not raise their hands in humble adoration of such a being who makes the stars dance in groups of galaxies, to follow trails of patterns that even our most gifted minds barely discern.
I think about the carbon in my cells, the calcium in my bones, the potassium in my nerves, and how they were forged in the hearts of stars, and in the heart of my Lord.
For a moment I succumb to the arrogance of thinking they are wrong in sitting quietly in their chairs.
But then I remember... I’m a little odd.
And that’s OK.