Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Contented with my Discontentment

I have lived a blessed life. Two loving parents. Three brothers. An intact family. Cousins living across the street. Kind and caring neighbors all around us. Went to great schools in elementary, middle, and high school. A fantastic college where I met a fantastic guy. I have traveled extensively. On the road and right here at home, I have discovered art and music and beauty and joy and friendship and love, so much love.

I am married and have two amazing kids. A great house. Neighbors that truly like each other and look out for each other.

I am Blessed. Indeed.
Here are a few photos of some of the richest blessings of my life.
I take none of them for granted.

Food. The floral and fruity centerpieces on the counter of a dear friend's beautiful kitchen island on the occasion of the 30th birthday of another dear and wonder-filled friend. We ate and drank and laughed that night. Went out on a boat ride, then ate and drank and laughed some more.

Spain. The place where my heart finds rest. These are the three gorgeous children of the friend of dear Spanish friends. In their matching coats, bright smiles, and obvious curiosity about the American who shows up once every year or so, they charmed me yet again.

Italy. I discovered this marvelous country just three weeks after the tragedy of September 11th, 2001. Walking the streets of Rome, Florence, Siena, Orvieto, and other fabulous towns during four sojourns there, I have marveled at the history and the presence/presents that this country so effortlessly maintains and so generously shares.

Nicaragua. Unmoored me. Cut the bowlines that kept me firmly anchored in my blessed and simple life. And it brought back to the surface of my soul the once-sunken hull of The Great Ship of Discontentment.

What on earth do I have to complain about? Right????
I have been wrestling with this question for years now.
But for some reason, this month, this week, yesterday, round 314 of the ongoing spiritual, emotional, mental wrestling match started. Once again, I hear and feel the thumping of heavy feet, the bumping of fierce foes, and the flinging of fine lamps, weighty leather wingback chairs, and even the volumes of once sacred-texts being tossed around in the living room of my soul.

"Oh, no. Here we go again. I thought I had gotten over this discontentment stuff once and for all," is what I think. Even as I think those thoughts, I know that I always knew it would be back. Whatever it is. It simply will not let me go, let me be.

After months of collecting dust on a shelf in my study, a tiny volume of Anthony DeMello's writings caught my eye and attention this morning. I bought this book early in March of 2007, but I haven't finished it yet. I opened it and began to read.

The deceased DeMello spoke to directly to me this morning through a essay he wrote entitled, "Fire on the Earth." Here is the part that hit me hardest. Pinned me.

Now is the time to see that absolutely nothing outside
of you can bring you lasting joy. But the moment you do that
you will notice that a fear arises in your heart.
That fear that if you allow the discontent to be,
it will turn into a raging passion that will grip you
and cause you to revolt against everything that
your culture and your religion hold dear;
against a whole way of thinking and feeling and
perceiving the world that they have brainwashed
you into accepting.

This devouring flame will cause
you not just to rock the boat but to burn the boat
to ashes. Suddenly you will find yourself living in an
altogether different world, infinitely removed from
the world of the people around you, for everything that
others hold dear, everything they are crying their hearts
out for, honor, power, acceptance, approval, security,
wealth, is seen for the stinking garbage that it is.
It disgusts and nauseates.

And everything others are forever running away from
holds no terrors for you anymore.

You have become serene and fearless and free,
for you have stepped out of your illusory world
and into the kingdom.

Most people when they feel the stirring of this discontent
within their hearts either run away from it and
drug themselves with the fevered pursuit of work and
social life and friendship;
or they channelize the discontent into social work,
literature, music, the so-called creative pursuits
that make them settle for reform,
when what is needed is revolt.
These people even though they are full of activity
are not really alive at all: They are dead,
content to live in the land of the dead.

The test that your discontent is divine is the fact
that it has no trace of sadness or bitterness to it
at all. On the contrary, even though it often arouses
fear within your heart, it is always accompanied
by joy, the joy of the kingdom.

Here's to joy in the face of fear,
to learning contentment with discontentment,
and to the raging fire that burns away
all the remnants of years of brainwashing
that threatens to dampen our passion, our hope,
and our pursuit of the true light of the world.


jmgb said...

"they channelize the discontent into social work,
literature, music, the so-called creative pursuits
that make them settle for reform,
when what is needed is revolt.
These people even though they are full of activity
are not really alive at all: They are dead,
content to live in the land of the dead."

...WOW. i am going to need to spend some time reflecting on how i have been reforming rather than revolting...
thanks for sharing gail.

Amy said...

This hit me right where it hurts. It speaks so much to where I am and the direction in which I keep moving.
Thank you, Gail!

Ella said...

Always though provoking post Gail.

I think if you ever feel too content in life you're missing something. All my life there has been a sense of restlessness in my heart I can't explain.

But we do arrive at places in life were we have to just accept discontentment as part of life, as contentment is. The "yin and yang" of life-- no perfect answers no perfect solutions to anything I think.

It seems you get one thing going in the right direction and some how the other pops up creating an unequal balance. Maybe that's one answer... there is no balance in life. Now you've got me going with that thought.

If your diving deeper to look at the world differently that requires strength. I don't mind going it alone. Some of us do it willingly while other times life forces it us to change things. I don't like comfort zones, but my illness has forced that upon me, but I still keep plugging away. To me the latter is the most difficult to accept when you want to jump out in the world and can't.

So perhaps we should just be happy with what we have and remember that there are those that fall through cracks of life with no choice of either of those point you bring up. Good points to ponder.