Do you remember the days when you read maps to get to where you were going? Everyone in London had an ‘AtoZ of London’ with every small alleyway named although of course the place you were going always rested illegibly on the border of the page. Now we rest in the great passivity of GPS, guided by a voice of your choice from two satellites circling the planet and correcting you with the implacable patience of the Holy Spirit whenever you disobey its icommands.
Maps and instructions help to navigate many of life’s twists and turns. Without the bearings they give we can feel adrift. The young person who told me ‘I have what I wanted. I have made it. But I feel completely lost’ was a wanderer who feels without a way or sense of direction. He had hoped home was his destination. But he had disconnected from knowing home as the direction in which we are travelling from one moment to the next.
We easily over-value maps, systems, explanations and even wise words of direction. What really matters is to be at home within the transitions of life. For example, in spiritual jargon we speak of ‘levels of consciousness’ and draw diagrams which give us a sense of bringing order to the confusion created by everything all sliding and bouncing into each other.
Looking at maps or diagrams or listening to brilliant theories can seem like looking a series of big leaps from one level to another. Leaps we may not have the courage or energy to make. But think of life as a series of interconnecting rooms in a museum full of fascinating and delightful discoveries of the past and teasing glimpses of possible futures. The doorway from one room to another is always open. We are not locked into our present room. There is no reason to fear the expansion of our sense of self in moving from one to another.
You might see a map of the museum on the wall but the experience that really matters is not memorising it but of the quest and discovery. Slowly a sense forms of the shape of the structure we are exploring and it becomes our own shape.
This takes time – forty years of Exodus or forty days in the wilderness. We fear being wanderers and want to go back but the fear evolves into wonder and the past is transformed by what we discover in the present. O happy Lent. O brave Ukraine, hang in there.
Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2022