Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Shattered Plate

A certain image keeps returning to my consciousness. I take a ceramic plate the size of a large dinner plate, one I have pieced together from various bits of material . This has taken many years to do. To preserve the pieces and make sure they stay firmly in place, I have lacquered on a transparent coating. Still, this artifact could be easily broken.

At a certain point, I become tired of worrying about this plate, taking care of it, making sure nothing happens to it.

I take it to a place where there are many bits of rubble from, let's say, a building demolition. I take a deep breath, and, as I exhale --- hurl the plate upwards into the sky. It plummets to earth and breaks into myriad pieces,

Now, I try to form the plate again. Some of the original pieces are lost; some still there are broken into different shapes; some pieces I seize upon were not in the original plate at all.

Now the resulting plate or dish comes about --to a certain extent--
from the circumstances and from the person I am at that moment.

The original plate represents the collection of beliefs, ideals, concepts, purposes, goals that I have accumulated over the years and carefully but probably unconsciously, arranged within the center of myself. I to cling this aggregate of notions. It is I.

Is the new plate -- realliy I? Maybe, but it is certainly the current I.

However, we regard the new configuration of some old and new pieces it is closer to the "I" of the present moment. We have allowed for change, growth. We have reconsidered. Even a bit of Beginner's Mind was there.

Moral: Every so often we need to toss the plate upwards again, let it smash into pieces and eventually put it back together.

We identify our beliefs, concepts, tastes, preferences, habits with ourselves. We cling to them. Why? Because we believe that this collection is really "who we are".

Oh, I forgot --- what we do for a living also defines us. I tried out Peace Lutheran Church last Sunday. A elderly but very spritely woman sat next to me in church, made sure I signed the little book in the pew and that I scooted it down to more elderly ladies at the far end. As we walked out of church together, she began introducing me to people. First, though, she asked for my name. Second, "what do you do -- or what you did you do" . I admitted that I had been a teacher. What I did not tell her was that I never defined myself as Bob Hochwalt= Teacher. I just happened to be doing that kind of work; teaching was not who I was.

When I was around fourteen or so, I remember turning on my radio early one Sunday morning and very quietly listening to a Protestant minister's sermon. This was fairly exciting because coming from a Catholic household, I avoided Protestanism-- fearing that I might be contaminated by its misguided teachings. This even extended to not entering a YMCA for fear "they" would attempt to brainwash me.

Anyway---the minister's main point never left me: the faith we were born with must be reconsidered some time in our life--if it is to be real. We must step back; look around; look inwardly, and then if we think---after some consideration and even experimentation -- that the church we were raised in was right for us---we should consciously embrace it. This faith, this second faith, is the one that's really --real. If we feel our birth church was not the right one---leave it for one that speaks to us. It's the second faith that counts.