I have had a busy week at Sarum College catching up with students, moderating assignments, a meeting of my body of Trustees as well as the usual range of unpredictable listening, mediating and resolving. Not all questions or difficulties move too quickly into the resolving zone !
I read for a small part of the day – it is a life line and sometimes sheer escape ! Anne Lamott has been my companion this week. And goodness what a gift. At a gathering of Archdeacons this week I was glad to ask this question : How do we read the moment? Is it true that in these times we have struggled to respond in intelligible, sensitive language to this moment of pandemic?
This is Lamotts question too – How do we move through dark moments towards the light of hope that still burns bright ? I like small books – they are manageable. Small books that are skilfully written enlarge of the heart and deepen perception, humanity and wisdom.
This is Anne Lamott’s 19th book. She is a consummate story teller with each tale inviting her reader into different places of spiritual wisdom. Honest about her life she weaves the narrative with colour and texture. We get to know a grandmother and recovering drug addict, a Jesus-loving Sunday school teacher and Guggenheim fellow. We are invited into holding paradox and ambiguity by a 12-stepping TED talker and small-town writer whose book sales top 4 million. In this most fractured time, Lamott remains a paragon of seemingly irreconcilable attributes and beliefs. These pages are no game – the reader is enabled to name the questions and consider how to live well – with courage that revives and helps us to flourish.
So consider this nugget ” “I have forgiven most people who have hurt me or behaved atrociously to those I love, although there is one family member who (I’m positive) makes Jesus sick to His stomach. Yet from time to time I forgive myself for being a bad forgiver. . . . At some point you realize that we all have dual citizenship here, perfect and neurotic.”
There is a creative interplay between personal anxieties and larger social concerns in these quiet. As she reflects on the effects of climate change and mass extinctions, Lamott wonders how to have faith and take joy in a world on the brink of disaster. “Salvation,” she writes, “will be local, grassroots,” and manifested through loving acts between individuals. Concentrating on being more intentional and focusing on small changes in one’s personal life, she writes, allows hope to grow and to serve as the first step to larger societal changes.
Lamott asks her reader to look into the mirror and see how people block themselves from love through perfectionism, self-loathing, cowardice, and the fear of being vulnerable with others. Consider this question – “What holds when you and your family are walking toward extinction?” The answer: kindness, humility, words of love, and stories of when the worst seemed possible, but it turned out okay.
This book is sheer gift and I share some of the narrative that as they question, illuminate and offer transformation
“Forgiveness, I know now, is maturity. Mercy is maturity. It’s slow release, like certain medicines. It’s incremental, like traveling along the spiral chambers of a nautilus.”
“When people know you too well, they eventually see your damage, your weirdness, carelessness, and mean streak. They see how ordinary you are after all, that whatever it was that distinguished you in the beginning is the least of who you actually are. This will turn out to be the greatest gift we can offer another person: letting them see, every so often, beneath all the trappings and pretense to the truth of us.”
and Love must have the last word
“Here is what I know of love: Love is the gas station and the fuel, the air and the water. You might as well give up on keeping the gas cap screwed on tight, keeping love at bay, staying armored or buttressed, because love will get in. It will wear you down. Love is ruthless, whether you notice this or not….It will win. It always does, at least in the long term…”
Thank you Anne for a glorious, adventurous and loving book. You are a genius !