There’s a great line that’s been rattling around in my head lately: “You know, I believe we have two lives. The life we learn with and the life we live with after that.” It’s from a scene in The Natural, a movie which — on the surface — is about baseball.
Richard Rohr acknowledges those two parts of our lives: the first part is learning all the rules, figuring out how to pay attention, learn to earn a living, climbing the ladder of success. Of necessity, it’s oriented to self, getting those tasks of our young lives checked off the lists. I could make this into a quilt analogy, but not today.
But Rohr argues that it’s necessary to learn the rules — not in order to break them — but to move on from them and into the better part of life: opening your heart, taking care of others, trying to meet the needs of those around you, finding out what’s truly important. I’ve been thinking about this not only because of the pandemic for the last 22 months, and how all the rules were suddenly up-ended, but also because of the joy and peace I feel during the Christmas season.
These past months we have had more new rules to learn: social distancing, masks, carrying hand sanitizer wherever we go. We wear our masks to care for each other; we keep our distance to care for ourselves. We work hard to keep sympathies for those too frightened or too confident to get vaccinated. We weary ourselves with the juggling.
The second part of life then is about seeing bigger, from an expanded viewpoint, moving away from self and not seeing things are we are, but as the world is, and navigating that. He reminds us that “life is characterized much more by exception and disorder than by total or perfect order. Life is both loss and renewal, death and resurrection, chaos and healing at the same time; life seems to be a collision of opposites.” The challenge, then, is to make peace with all our opposites and our chaos, and focus in on renewal and healing. (And, of course, quilting.)
At Christmas time, it feels a bit easier, with carols playing and with children and the Christ child at the center. In this pocket of time, we can step all the way back from the rigid and chaotic and disordered life, light our candles and carol our way to peace.
Merry Christmas to you all!