Job 2.0

Saturday morning misty grey, foggy cold dewdrops hang from branches of trees recently colored and now deep brown and black and sad. I cannot say that I am unaffected by the scene outside my window. Somehow, the picture outside mirrors me inside, working through another chapter in the diary of my journey home, too reflective of the fog and damp, too conscious of the new life lessons dis ease continues to thrust upon me–this educational guest I did not invite to visit with me or anyone else–inside. If I can just part the curtain of noise and haze, clear the fog of the path, down to the quiet center, a small ember, a tiny light burning, telling me to be still and know, this is nothing.

God asks, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?”[1]

What could be so obfuscated, so misty? I must learn to sing this new song with its unfamiliar tempo, these strange rhythms, this atonal identity where engagement and work and institution no longer exist in tonal harmony. It is a place where demons tread, mocking questions in the night, purposeless rolling around the condo by day – what good are you now if you do not work? No response can adequately answer, and it never could. Consider it honest documentation of the path, for the question arises no matter what—I was inculcated, powerfully reinforced to tie work and self together in an intimacy reserved for lovers. And while I saw it coming–the day when I left, when I gave up the responsibilities, the day when I achieved the ultimate enlightenment of loss–the post apocalypse still remains. And I rattle around the tempting Bob Dylan question, “what good am I?”

God asks, “Who is this darkening counsel with words lacking knowledge?”

It isn’t that I won’t get through this. It isn’t that I don’t see the necessity and the rightness of what I have done. It isn’t that my worth suddenly plunged off a cliff once I stopped working. But my heart’s love is still catching up with my head’s logic. Feelings and emotions are the hare in the race—fast out of the gate yet falling behind the tortoise of well-worked thinking. And both of these sides of me, the feeling and sensing, the thinking and analyzing, intertwine back and forth, a roadway of rollers where speed and momentum only get you through the first climb of quasi-despair. Logic and sadness dictate the realization that even had I not left, I would be questioning the same as I am questioning now. These are my gray fog mists, my dewdrops waiting to fall from melancholy trees to be sucked up into the dry air, evaporated before they reach bottom.

God demands, “Prepare yourself like a man; I will interrogate you, and you will respond to me. Would you question my justice, deem me guilty so you can be innocent?”

This week, I spoke with my dear sister five time zones away, and we shared the intimacy of losses both experienced and expected. She anticipates, a parent in her ninth decade, ancient and susceptible and vulnerable and old. There is nothing to say except to love the fact that such hurt is present, even though the fear is in the future moment. I have experienced such anticipation, and even for the most centered and mindful soul, such reality overwhelms the stillness. It is like biting one’s tongue, only to return to the point of swelling as susceptible to another and another bite. And as we center on the anticipation and the memory and the rebirth that is still taking place, the clarifying realization emerges that it is not an easy center, and your own consciousness does not spare you from grieving and loss and hurt.

God asks, “Have death’s gates been revealed to you; can you see the gates of deep darkness? Have you surveyed earth’s expanses? Tell me if you know everything about it.”

This week, I bribed my kids to take me to the Led Zeppelin “Celebration Day” movie event. It was a full house, and it was fun and most of all, it was time away from the sorrow. We bathed in waterwalls of sound, washing over us, piquing us not through the profound and new, but through the shared experience of rock and roll and rhythm and blues and love of my kids. I did not anticipate the lightness, for I expected to be tired and a little out of sorts given the hour’s lateness. But now, in the mist and grayness of a Saturday cadence to a rhythmically struggling search for the new path, this brief time together is a memory of strength and light and smiles and joy. Oh, and Jimmy Page can still put out in a way that leaves you breathless.

God asks, “Where’s the road to the place where light dwells; darkness, where’s it located?”

And then, there was Friday’s visit by my colleague and friend and secret school principal ally who came to see me, ostensibly to talk through a couple of program opportunities back in the trenches. He showed me some of the testimonial that he has collected to interpret the meaning of the work we used to do together, that he still carries on. By the end of his visit, my heart was lighter as the wellspring of 25 years of accrued experience was tapped and opened, relieving the pressure that self-worth’s questions can build. Did he really come for a consultation, or did he just sense that for a friend, such a conversation would offer the briefest of needed respite from the journey? I don’t know, and I doubt if he would say, but I know that the discussion was good for my soul, and it allowed me to plunge back into the necessary darkness of working this out.

Job answers, “Look, I’m of little worth. What can I answer you? I’ll put my hand over my mouth. I have spoken once, I won’t answer; twice, I won’t do it again.”

I’d like to pretend that there was some large message, some portent of a greater awareness, a higher consciousness, a communion with God that I could point to over the past week. But I have experienced nothing so large or significant. It has been mist and gray and damp and cold and dewdrops waiting to fall. It has been the “Dangling Conversation… voices out of rhythm, couplets out of rhyme…” It has been enforced presence, well beyond the center that I hang onto for now. And yes, for the first time in a long time, it was tears beyond the catch in the throat and the leak out the side. It was sobbing, hiccuping, snotty nosed cannot catch your breath sorrow.

Job continues, “You said,‘Who is this darkening counsel without knowledge?’ I have indeed spoken about things I didn’t understand, wonders beyond my comprehension.”

The day after yesterday gives the best reason that we live in Minnesota. Cool and crisp and blue and sun, it lifts the spirits beyond the sorrow. I don’t know how much longer I will live. I know that I am dying. But this is not new knowledge, and it is not ALS. It has always been so. Dis ease only changes the circumstance and the speed, but the knowledge remains as it was. The autumn sky removes the blinders, so that even despair has a hidden joy.

Job ends, You said,‘Listen and I will speak; I will question you and you will inform me.’ My ears had heard about you, but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore, I relent and find comfort on dust and ashes.”

And a still voice within continues to sing a new song.


[1] All quotes, unless otherwise noted, from the Book of Job, Chapters 38 & 40, Common English Bible

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5 thoughts on “Job 2.0

  1. Bruce, this has such deep meaning for me that I will not attempt to share my response. In a few days, or weeks, or months, after I have had time to breathe this for a while, I will get back to you. Thank you, again. Jayne

  2. Want to hear something freaky? I read your post this morning just before driving to work. It was a particularly bleak wet morning here in Portland, and as I pulled the car out of the garage guess what was playing on the radio. Led Zeppelin’s “What is and What Shall Never Be”. That on a station that rarely plays any metal. We’re talking Sarah McLachlan and Neil Young type genre. Then a car I was following for a while had a license plate frame that read “Life is Short, Pray Hard”. If only they knew.

    A really beautiful post Bruce. Thanks again.

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