Mary Beth Writes

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds it’s rest in thee.”

― Augustine of Hippo, Confessions

I read Augustine way back in my college years. I half understood his claim then and I think I still only half understand it. Though it might be a different half.

What is a restless heart? We all know the answer to this, right? Not being content, satisfied, or at peace in the moment we are in. Longing for something to change. For our loved one to heal. For Covid to go away. To find a job where we can contribute and feel valued AND be sufficiently paid. We want our kids to be happier and more secure. We want to sleep through the night. We want to know love. We want a reasonable government instead of this craziness. We want there to be no refugee camps and nobody needing to cross a sea in a rubber boat and no humans beheading or raping each other anywhere.

Our hearts are restless.

Augustine said we’d be restless until we find our rest in Thee. Who Thee is and how Thee manifests Itself to us – there’s your $64,000 question. Much of the misery on earth would go away if we would ask each other, “Who is Thee to you?” Instead of “My Thee told me to make you live the way I say you ought to live.”

Most of us give up on the Big Thee question. We get jobs, partners, kids, places to live that are dirty, food that isn’t cooking itself, laundry, obligations, and weeds. The “Thee questions” don’t seem very related to our modern lives; especially while we are inching through a pandemic.

I’ve written before about working in the Jewelry Boat at a Target. It’s the enclosed cage of glass display cases in the accessories department. I usually worked the Jewelry Boat 4-6PM. (It’s where I learned to change watch batteries; another skill nobody needs anymore.)

Late in the afternoon women still in their work clothes would come into the store to pick up things on their way home. Before they did their needful shopping though, they would wander through my department. They rarely made eye contact with me; they were quiet and “zoned out.” They looked at things, touched things, took jewelry off the wall, looked at it closer and then put it their cart or back on the wall.

Watching them I began to realize this was a modern spiritual exercise. At the end of one responsibility-heavy part of their day and before their evening of supper, kids, laundry, and whatever- they took ten minutes in a quiet place to look at pretty things. They were exercising and honoring their inner sense of themselves.

Maybe modern spirituality is here in our crazy consumerism. It's looking and perusing and being open until something sparks inside you. Maybe something is so hideous it makes you step backwards. Or it appeals to your sense of functionality, or problem solving, or beauty, or eclectic charm.

Before we buy something, we think a little or a lot about the options in front of us. Green polka dots on that sunhat for our grandkid? Factory brie or brie made on an artisanal farm that supports the earth and costs more than a pair of shoes? A tiny silver heart on a delicate silver chain? A string of hand-painted Bangladeshi beads so bright they’d look good on a Christmas tree? The picture book that honors curiosity. The novel where they time travel and have awesome sex and you can just read it and not have to talk about it to anyone else.

Shopping is about purchasing but for many of us it’s more than that. It’s twenty minutes here, a half a day there; perusing. Liking some items. Grimacing at the weirdness of others. Thinking about the value and the cost and how it would fit into our lives and budget.

So many values to have and examine. So many nuances of wanting, thinking about, passing by, going back to pick up one more time. It’s a modern consumer way of using our senses to build our sense of self. Ergo, it is spirituality without the Thee questions.

Our hearts are restless.

Which brings me to now; lving in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some people are insisting via their long guns its time to resume shopping. Most of us are at home shaking our heads. Not willing to risk this terrible disease just to check out Joanna Gaines ‘Magnolia Home’ candles in jars. Right?

So where is our spirituality now? Who are we now when we can’t run our fingers over a fake cashmere shawl, or check out $600 stiletto shoes during an afternoon shopping with our BFF, or we can’t pick up and pick out a tool at Harbor Freight or Ace or Menards?

If we can’t look, touch, think about, consider, admire, and want all the little items – how will we know who we are now and how we are changing?

This is subtle, I will grant you that. But in the past two months I have not picked up or picked out anything. We order groceries online and gratefully take what the shopper brings us. If we need something other than groceries, we check other websites and make the order and wait.

 Most of us have not wandered an aisle since February. 

Sometimes this annoys me but not as much as I would have guessed ahead of time.  We all have our moments, but in general we are doing this pretty well.

So where are we getting our sense of who we are now?  If we are not what we choose and buy, what’s taking the place? 

There are a lot of answers here.  I think I will do you no favors if I plow into answers before you have a chance to think for your individual selves.

Where are you finding satisfaction? What are you doing now that takes the place of looking at new and interesting items? What are you sniffing and holding and choosing? What are you doing when you are tired from responsibilities and you just need 10 minutes zoned out, looking at costume jewelry hanging on a wall? But you can’t?

What is your restless heart doing?

Comments

Leonard's picture

I am skeptical that the fellows with the long guns are much interested in their restless hearts, and Harbor Freight is, in fact, open during the pandemic. But I agree absolutely that people who are looking for that moment of inner reflection and finding that things are different, now. Quick observation: have you noticed how mind-scattering it is to be on a Zoom call? They are far more exhausting than an actual meeting.

My restless heart used to love shopping and thrifting looking for that special something... I've replaced that with watching the Sun dance on the lake and the bulbs and wildflowers as they reach for the Sun and open their flowers to the fat bumblebees flying all about... I can't date that special new person in my life but we can text, email and talk on the phone about everything from the mundane to the highly intelligent and everything in between. We can talk about the present and the future and imagine what it is the future holds...

Great question “who is Thee to you?”. My siblings and I have radically changed in our beliefs since we were young. We know something about each other’s changes, but don’t really talk about it. I think I will ask them who Thee is to them. I hope it will be a conversation that will bring us closer.

You sure have a way with words! I wish I had more free time to comment but the weeds and paperwork are calling loudly. I can think about this while I do my mundane chores. Smile.

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Advent Light Post 12-4-2020

Like likes like.

I received this (above) lovely photo from Susan W of an old-fashioned city lamp seen through trees at night.

It made me recall the pix Karen P sent of her son and daughter-in-law at their wedding a few years ago. They lit and sailed paper lanterns propelled by small candles which (hopefully) flickered out when they flew high enough.

Which of course, reminded me of the paper lanterns at my kids’ wedding.

I don’t walk around noticing spheres and globes, but the image is just unusual enough to bring similar images to mind.

Advent Light Post 12/3/2020

The photo is Karen P's mom, Joan, who has been in quarantine in an assisted living residence since March. Her birthday party was a few months before all this began. Light for hope. Hope for light.

...

Yesterday I wrote “I liked figuring out the best way to position my stance in order to frame whatever it was I wanted to focus on.”

Point of View. 

Advent Light Post 12/2/2020

Len has been taking photos since he was a college newspaper reporter/photographer; (University of Chicago and University of Calgary). He has photos that he took from Willis (it was Sears then) Tower while it was under construction. Len had a journalist pass so he called to see if he could “do a story” and they didn’t ask if he was 20 yet, so he got the gig. When (if) he finds those photos, I will put some here.

As long as I have known him, Len has owned a camera. I think we are now on #3. He brought to our marriage the tripod that he still uses.

Advent Light Post 12/1/2020

(The photo is of headlights making a dotted line on the cemetery fence.) 

...

Oh that morning! Len drove us like crazy across Chicago to the hospital where we would birth our first child.  It was a very clear, very cold December morning, kind of like what’s outside my window right now. 

That same evening I was wheelchaired back out of that hospital. When the lobby doors slid open, the world had become night and the driveway vapor lights lit a blizzard of whirling snow.

It was a completely different world. Yes it was.

Advent Light Post 11/30/2020

Today is Len’s birthday and to celebrate being born on the last day of November in the upper Midwest, he is out on his bike right now. It’s spitting snow, there are 20-30mph winds, and the real-feel temp is 20. He has on both pairs of his bicycling pants. He also has a slice of pumpkin raisin Bundt cake (hmmm, I wonder who baked that) in his bike’s little trunk. 

Happy Birthday to the kind of guy who, when a girl invites him to attend the Sunday school class she teaches - comes to that Sunday school class. A rare man, indeed. 

Advent Light 11/28/2020

Tomorrow, Sunday, is the first Sunday of Advent. 

So first of all, like I said before, I’m preaching. I think you can listen to the whole service starting at 9:30AM, if you go to https://www.uniteduuc.org/ .  There is usually a link there that you have to click, when you click it, it says something about YouTube, so click that link, too. Otherwise, by Monday (maybe earlier, I don’t know who does this or when) it will show up on YouTube at United Unitarian Universalist, Waukesha, and my name.

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