A Musing Table: Clinging to the Ideal as Clinging to the Vine

Part of this "home-as-cloister" draw is about clinging to the ideal, just simply refusing to let go of that. Traditionally that's what those who founded hermit and cloister life did after all... they lived a life set apart from the world's frigtening falling away from the heart of things, and they did so in order to try and reclaim the ideal. This ripples out too, becuase when one tries to recliam the ideal like that it also helps serve as a beacon to others to not forget the ideal either, in their own way. And that ideal, i think, is this: a much deeper sense of the sacredness and magic of life, the true and deep nearness of God.

We all have different ways we get nearer there, for some it is more in solitude, for others in family or community, etc. But a common denominator there is that the ideal is... good. Good enough to cling to.... even when it looks to be fading badly when we look around. Clinging gets such a bad rap nowadays. And yet the branch clings to the Vine, and we are encouraged to do just that arent we? Clinging is a good thing. Maybe its just a matter of being very careful what it is we are clinging to. Clinging to the ideal can be very healing, can be part of clinging to the Vine really.

And yet...a focus on beauty, on peace, on love, on order, on ideals, it can get so misunderstood. Some see such a focus as ignoring what is "real' in the world, or as condeming what is imperfect. I see it quite differently....as simply refusing to forget that life is a fairy tale. Our fairy tales, our real fairy tales, are not icing coated empty cupcakes. They are lives filled with danger or trauma or pain usuaully, lives urgently awaiting rescue in some way. I have long loved Anne V's thoughts on "learning to lament" like the Psalms (see here, here). And i tend to see fairy tales through that lens.

The heart of a fairy tale i think, just like a lament, really admits the pain and brokenness and mess of life... and yet deep down still holds out hope and longing for rescue somehow, still clings to the knowing that we are loved and held by Him.....even when all looks lost. Fairy tales and laments don't say the mess is beautiful and try and justify the chaos of the world (thank goodness!), but rather hold hope that there is a beauty there in the deeper heart of things still that can be brought forth, in little ways or big. And God gives us precious openings there, Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them .

And yet clinging to the ideal doesnt adopt the world's standard of beauty... its an altogether different ideal that seeks a beauty far deeper. I like Ann's thoughts there too, in this post. From it:

I asked Grandpa for this story from time’s files. “Tell us the story again of the most beautiful woman in the world.” As a child, it seemed like a real, fairytale transformation, the ugly being made beautiful.

And I guess, in a way, it was a supernatural transformation. For isn’t love other-worldly? A love that actually changed the features of a woman’s face, that powerfully reshaped the arteries of a heart, that adjusted cornea, retina, pupil to see differently. The nurse’s faithful love for my grandfather’s family, my grandfather’s deepening love for this woman whose hands stirred up batches of oatmeal cookies while ears listened to children’s stories and hearts melded. Love took the ugly, put mud on its eyes, and worked it slowly into blazing beauty.

Clinging to the ideal can uncover true beauty i think, which is far from our commercial and industrialized standards there. And as for "realness", why should we accept typical standards there either? Why not the ideal instead? To me, what is most real is what feels most like God's hand, feels most sacred and magical. It isnt always happy and smiling either...consider for instance the Sacred Hearts. And yet the realness there, even amidst pain and weakness (make that especially there), seeks peace ....For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace ". That's realness i feel.

When it comes down to it, modern industrial thought says that what is most "real" and important is what man-made instead. Supposed "realness" is what has newness, shock value...or edgyness, grittyness...or shinyness, glitzyness...or profit. And though most try not to admit this, it can really put up a wall. From Catherine Doherty's Welcome, Pilgrim:

This divorce between man and nature frightens me. We have lost the image of God so clearly seen in nature because all day long we look at our own image, at the things we have made.

What are machines? What is technology? Merely images of man that other men have made and which men spend their lives watching, using, and taking care of to make more machines.

The more man beholds these images, the farther away he slips from God. He makes himself—and his images—into idols of worship—sterile idols, worshipping them to insanity.

As I think this over, my sadness grows. Not that I advocate the abolishing of all machines. No. That would be regression perhaps. What I desire with a great desire is to restore man’s contact with nature, so that man finds again his proper place as a creature of God and a lord of the earth and all it contains.

And it goes deeper too, from here:

Technology conspires so that we can never be alone, never be quiet, never be without distractions.

Now that's the stuff that cuts me right to the bone really. We are meant to hear God around us, feel Him...his care, his voice, his providence. Instead many of us hear and feel a world of machines and products and noise. The ideal.....slips. And there are different solutions. There is the solution of the reformer for instance, making political and social changes and the like. But there is also the solution of the home as cloister i feel, a rather simple and invisible turning towards a quiet life. Quiet in more ways than one. For me, it has to include a stepping away not just from busyness but also from too much technology as well, i just feel it more and more in my gut. Will have to see what form this takes though. All i know is i just long so much for quiet. A quiet...fairy tale...

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