(photo of a cottage, Lakeside/Chautauqua)
Friday morning. I am packing, preparing to return home after four days of study leave. I’ve spent the past 90+ hours on the idyllic campus of Lakeside, Ohio. My husband came up on Wednesday afternoon and we had dinner on Kelley’s Island. Yesterday I visited a friend’s lake getaway for an hour. Other than those two encounters, I’ve been by myself. I’ve been online, but haven’t turned on the TV. It’s been quiet and restorative. A lot of reading, writing in my journal, catching up on rest. The kind of break an introvert needs.
And then, in the midst of washing dishes this morning, my daughter texts me with the news that Anthony Bourdain has died of an apparent suicide. Just days after the tragic news of Kate Spade. I feel stunned and realize a few minutes later that I’ve dropped the dishtowel into the full sink.
There were several books I’d planned to read this week, most of them for work, and I did. Then I’d randomly grabbed several others from my “on-deck” shelf…yes, I was only going to be away for four days, but we book addicts panic if we run out of things to read, and besides, you never know which ones you’ll actually feel like reading at the time.
As it happened, I had an experience of synchronicity this week. Several of the books I brought with me were connected, though that was not my design. There were similar themes, ideas, the same authors referenced in several books – a meaningful coincidence. Let me summarize with a few brief quotes:
“I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive…the rapture of being alive” – Joseph Campbell
“Sometimes it takes darkness/and the sweet confinement of your aloneness/to learn/anything or anyone/that does not bring you alive/is too small for you.” – David Whyte
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” – Rumi
And then, Parker Palmer, who writes so often about “letting your life speak.”
The common thread is the inward journey, the journey of self-discovery, the journey that lasts a lifetime. The purpose of the journey is not self-centered, though it can seem that way at times. Here’s how Elizabeth Lesser puts it in Broken Open: “…if a desire to serve humanity or to find God comes from a rapturous engagement with life, then our service and our search will bear fruit. But if we try to love or lead, or work or pray, from a dry well, then we will serve a bitter cup to those around us and never really live the life we’re given.”
People who know themselves, who know their purpose, are better able to serve the world.
And so I think of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain:
- I think of the lie, so pervasive in our culture, that says that externals will make us happy: looks, money, possessions, accomplishments. Can the deaths this week of these two people who were so phenomenally outwardly successful help us to begin to bury that horribly harmful misconception?
- What about the lie that tells us that mental illness is shameful, that it shouldn’t be talked about?
- I wonder what would happen if we could unleash into the world the life-saving good news that we are enough, that we are accepted, that we were created in God’s image and loved unconditionally?
This particular sabbath is over for me. I’m grateful for the time away and equally grateful to be heading back to the community I love, newly aware of the needs of our broken world.