From the ikon event “Adventure” held on 6th December, 2009. By Chris Fry.
At the end of William Butler Yeats’ Poem “the second coming” he writes – And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches toward Bethlehem to be born”. Something is on its way in you and me over the next few weeks. What will it be? We might wonder if most of the time we want to work as hard as we can not to feel anything at all but just to let it be shaped by everything around us. There are plenty of words waiting to catch it for us – words that will bind our longings into shape; words that will force our visions into the concrete; presents that will steal our presence; presences that will extinguish our absences and force us up into the light. At this time of the year so much waits for us all.
And yet what if it is more true that there is something else….
What would it be like to wait on ourselves? To listen to that something; that part of ourselves that is most alive? A part of ourselves which lives outside all of these traditions and is waiting only to find conditions which sustain this wanting, this longing, this desiring, this adventuring. And what if there is something in this state of mind that is central to this time of advent. What if the gift is in the longing, the desiring, the yearning itself? What if all the gift giving is a way of stopping something because all of us find this state of mind just too much? That we cannot sustain our yearning. That in fact we get seduced by gifts rather than our being gifted. Because it might be possible to say that we are gifted in being alive and constantly being able to be surprised at the fullness of desire that resides within each of us. Why are we always in a rush to get to Christmas? To get something, to hold it in our hands, try in on, read it, listen to it or eat it. Why? Because the gift we are constantly discovering, our desire, is disturbing to us. It asks for nothing except itself.
It is perhaps no accident that Advent traditions are a mixture of remembering the divine taking on human flesh and the idea of the second coming which would see a radical commixture of spirit and body – every single piece of matter coming alive with the truth of its own being. The first surprise opens up the idea of another surprise. Or it says to us – when you are living with the idea of everything being surprising you are really living. Advent is waiting for surprises and what it could teach us is how to live openly. It does not want to explain crazy, wild, adventurous ideas like virgin births and resurrections. It wants us to laugh aloud, fall over, bite our lip with anticipation, let tears of incomprehension rest on our faces. It asks us to feast on the wonder of being alive, of being a body among other bodies and people who find most hope in the surprising and the conditional. It reminds us to fast ourselves away from the prepared and packaged pleasures of corporate and theological authorities. It asks us to give our desire a chance.
The funny and surprising thing about all of this is that the more we can find a way to live like this, the more open we are to the strange and surprising parts of ourselves the more we fast away from our fascist, wonder-killing , other denying selves and can find true openness to other people. Those other strange, rough beasts stalking the edge of our lives with new gifts; new adventures waiting to happen…..