What great thing can I do?


Sometimes I wish I could be proud of something.

I have seen pictures and videos of places where parakeets run wild; there are flocks of hundreds and thousands of them. I would love to live in such a place. It lifts my spirits every time I see their brilliant colors.

Parakeets accept their beauty.

Also, pansies.

I recently told about the singing of a young woman at my church:

Music: This one young woman normally sits on the other side of the congregation, and I don’t hear her. One Sunday, she sat behind me, and the very sound of her singing transported me to a transcendent place. The activities of singing or playing an instrument likewise may bring moments of transcendence for the performer. That’s why we do these things.

Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven.” I glorify God for the birds’ beauty and for that young woman’s voice. And they deserve to be proud of their light. But I apprehend that if my light were to shine like that, people would glorify me, not God.

As a child, I was all about my own glory. I suppose I had gifts (talents) that made strong positive impressions on others. Maybe they glorified God. I glorified me. I thought myself better than others, more than others; I was proud of accomplishments I’d never worked for. I have since left that place, and don’t want to go back.

I wrestle with the boundary between pride and vainglory.

Can I perhaps be proud of my ministry among the homeless?

My ministry among the homeless

The judgment is available that I’ve been wallowing in poverty, and “should” instead have done all I can to advance my material circumstances. An alternative view is that I’ve essentially been living like a monk — unless monasticism is itself a dereliction of one’s duties.

There are practical obstacles to my upward mobility, some of them emotional. Every man around me has, likewise, his own unique set of practical obstacles, sometimes including emotional ones. I can’t get to know each one well enough to know — what he faces — let alone remove those obstacles; I can’t remove my own. But I can help him face what he faces, the best possible way. It’s all a matter of attitude.

Brightening the sparks

At the core of each person’s soul is a nitzotz (Hebrew), a “spark of the divine,” a shining flame. This is more or less buried in a klippah (also Hebrew), a “husk,” composed of all those things about oneself that aren’t spiritual and aren’t light. These will include bad habits and prior bad acts. The amount and thickness of the “husk” may keep the spark’s light from shining through.

One person’s spark may be so bright, however, as to resonate to the sparks in others, brightening their own sparks and possibly even beginning to incinerate the husks. Then those persons’ light shines. In Hebrew, this process is called birur nitzotzot.

In short, it pertains to being so happy oneself, as to make others happy also. As simple a thing as giving someone a smile, may induce that person to smile also. Whatever lifts the spirits will brighten the spark.

Somewhere, sometime, I’ve told at length about the practical advantages of happiness. The happy person will, first of all, be happy. She or he will get along better with others. The person will respond better to difficulties — will be more resilient.

The happy person will use better judgment. This person will envision happy outcomes for the choices he or she faces, plan accordingly, and act in accord with those plans.

So this, brightening the sparks, is what I’ve sought to do.

I’ve had some successes.

  • Willie Moore’s speech is full of obscenities except when he talks with me.
  • Many people call me by name, whose names I do not know. I’m an introvert, and generally don’t pay other people much mind; I rarely engage in conversation, unless someone else starts it.

I also have notable failures.

A lot of it has to do with …

The way I am.

I don’t say these things meaning to flatter myself; they’re just the way it is. That I’m aware of these things reflects: (1) In some cases, they’re markedly different from the ways of most of the men around me. And sometimes others remark them favorably — reflecting my light back to me. (2) Where they’re habitual, I’ve worked for years to establish these habits. (3) Still, many times, they require intentionality. This is my work. These are the choices I make.

  • Most of the time, at least in recent weeks, I’m actually smiling. This can’t be explained except for years of training myself according to the principles of The Way of Peace.
  • I say “Please” and “Thank you.”
  • If I pass close to someone, I’m likely to say “Good morning” rather than “Excuse me.”
  • Two verbal tags or tics became running jokes at the former shelter. Whenever someone greets me, I invariably answer, “Hello,” half singing it with the same tones as a doorbell. If someone asks how I’m doing, again the answer is invariably, “OK,” half sung to the same music.
  • At Dunkin’ Donuts (DD) I had a de facto fan club. About a dozen regular customers came in every day expecting to see me and greet me. I was always working on my tablet, or engaged in prayer or meditation, always smiled back, and never asked anyone for anything.
  • At times, I find myself emanating light for all the men in this place. This is rarely intentional. It reflects an intense brightening of my aura. It’s an occult dynamic; we’re all continuously involved in such dynamics, whether we know it or not.

And sometimes I’m aware because I surprise myself. From my diary for Monday 05/11; I was staying at the hotel:

Another example of an episode that can be easy to forget, but is actually pretty darn important. From 10:00 until I left for DD, roughly an hour, confusion reigned. The tablet crashed a total of five times — any time I’d open any app — and I was afraid that everything I’ve written this month, which is all currently in Google Docs, might be lost. I went to DD the last time without even trying to open anything, counting on the weird cosmic vibes that, as usual, the tablet would work normally there even though it doesn’t here. And in the event, it did.

But that was not before the confusion when I went to buy coffee at 7-Eleven; I’d forgotten my (COVID) mask and was ordered to leave. And the confusion that happened immediately after, when I tried to get coffee at the front desk.

And even telling this story, I’m starting to stress out.

So, instead of finishing this now, I’m a-run to 7-Eleven for more coffee and supper. Still need to shower and shave and check tomorrow’s bus schedule.

[16:57.] I wound up being grateful to be me, as someone else would have found all this very hard to deal with.

And that, in turn, gave occasion for me to sit down and spend a spell in self-examination. Who and what am I, and what am I about? What sort of humility is at work, when I can take all this in stride? What am I modeling for others?

So maybe I need not be a public figure, to have an impact. Being great may not be all that great, and being small may not be all that small.

 

Related: I really have nothing better to do.

To be continued.

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