cycles and rhythms

I took this hike with my youngest today. He and I reconnected with this chunk of land we both deeply love. And as we savored the late Winter/Early Spring environment, I had this realization about the nature of things… That in life there are great, big cycles, like the annual cycle of the Earth revolving around the sun. And then there are little cycles, like morning, day, evening, night, then back to morning again: the Earth spinning on it’s axis.
I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me begin at the beginning.
Weather and business and laziness had conspired to keep us away from this Wildlife Sanctuary I love to take the kids hiking at. As we meandered down the path, my six year old began observing changes: a new trail cut off from the main one, a fallen tree that hadn’t been fallen before, a high river line that washed over the rocks we’d normally use to get to the opposite bank.
We enjoyed some marks of the season. Though the trees are still naked some of the animals are awakening. A squirrel took these great, flying leaps across the path in front of us. A blue jay trotted up a tree. A branch was covered in this strange, furry moss. It looked like it was transforming itself into Chaka, from land of the lost.
As he made all these observations, I felt this welling of pride, blessedness, and pleasure. It’s so awesome that my kids can have a relationship with a place, that they can know land so intimately that they can see its changes and transformations.
I began to wonder about those who lived thousands of years ago. People who didn’t have the luxury of isolating themselves from nature: they’d observe cycles…
Cycles of the day, and cycles of the seasons. To some extent the seasons would impact the daily cycle, in that Winter time days would be shorter and Summer time days would be longer. But they would be much more impacted by the dawn every day, much like the dawn and sun set are so impactful for those who go camping. And they would be so impacted by the seasons.

There are ways that this would be a bad thing. Farmers might approach the scarcity of Fall and Winter with something like terror. And I love having access to easy lights, at the touch of my fingertips, quite literally.
But there’s also a problem in all this. One is that God’s rhythms are so much greater than ours. We’ve isolated ourselves from them, and that’s not good or natural.
And I began to wonder: would watching these cycles day in and day out, year in, and year out, what would this do to our spirituality? Could the ancients comprehend the fullness of “This too shall pass” in a deeper way than we can, because they lived the Spring following the Winter every year? Because they lived the dawn following the dark every day? Yes, we know these things. They might even effect us a bit… But the ancient peoples, they lived in these reality in a much deeper way than we do.
Some people believe that all things go in cycles; other people believe that things progress in a straight line. I don’t know if I can actually express the next realization I had. It’s sort of that we have little cycles (days) and big cycles (years) in our lives.
I’ve got this job in a Suburban School. I’ve had it for less than a year: in other words, I’m pretty new at it. My current job, it’s the big cycle, it’s the year. It’s a progression, a journey. There are some things which tie a year together. There are some things that will tie my entire tenure together at this particular school. Obviously, as long as I work at this specific school I will go to the same place, work with mostly the same people, teach many of the same kids. From my first day until my last day at this school, there are ways these days are similar.
On the other hand, if I compare my experience of being sort-of new at my current place, there are ways that it strongly compares with being sort-of new at other places. Being in the sort-of new stage, regardless of where I am, this cuts across the places I’ve been. Whether I’m at an inner city school or a suburban one, whether I am teaching in a public setting or at a residential point, the sort-of new stage is the time when some of the shine and novelty has worn off; when I start to know names of even casual aquiantances; when I start to think about next school year.
There are things that happened in a given year, and my brain sometimes files them together… 1996 was the year that such-and-such happened.
But there are also ways I identified months. June, whether I was 12, 22, or 32, meant no school, hot days, lemonade…
I don’t know what this all means. It’s funny how thoughts progress.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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