Writing From the Middle of a Conversation You Didn’t Know We Were Having
I recently returned from a family trip to Italy. We visited Assisi, home of Saint Francis and his sidekick, Chiara, otherwise known as Clare, founder of the order of Poor Clares. She was the first woman to to write a monastic rule for women. Clare, as is so often the case with these renunciants, was from a wealthy family and, of course, beautiful. It is said that after hearing the teaching of Saint Francis, she was so moved to follow his preaching of radical poverty, she ran away to follow him, and when she found him he cut her hair and gave her something humble to wear. She then went to live in monastery, devoted to a zero footprint life of charity. Soon, other women followed, including her sister Agnes, all from the town of Assisi, which is, still, a land of milk and honey, so truly beautiful And the women who joined were all from ‘good” families such as hers, and lovely. An interesting image: these girls, marrying themselves off to Jesus, sleeping on straw, eating little, total silence, waking in the middle of the night, cloistering themselves away from the world.
Oh, Clare. I feel you!
I can’t say I want to marry Jesus, or Buddha, or anyone other than my very own adorable (and incorrigible!) mate. But I do understand that deep, terrifying, sexy longing to belong to this earth. To belong on this earth. To merge with a magical person who is so powerfully important his suffering transcended his very own flesh and blood pain and reached its heartache all the way to me, offering solace and relief to my little humble body and its silly little life. I get it. I, too, harbor a lusty devotion to some kind of resolution of this sad and grating separation I feel, sitting over here in my chair—everyone else, all the way over there, in theirs.
So much disappointment, divine and otherwise. So much fantasy passing for real life.
I have tried at least a million things to resolve the, as we say it in Zen, “so-called” problem (which is not, according to the Buddha a “real” problem at all, but only a manifestation of my delusion).
There is something about this…..
….that just feels good.
Lord knows I don’t want to practice being poor, or enclosed, or celibate, or submissive. But I feel comforted knowing that Clare, and her Poor Ladies felt a firestorm so raging it required crazy measures to meet it.
I am not sure what my crazy measures are. But at least I am wondering, which I haven’t done in a while, busy as I’ve been, dodging bullets. And I am reading about the Buddha, too, and life in India, and who knows? Maybe I will wake up from this dream and find that I am in the right place.