Monday, November 10, 2008

Creative Fidelity

It’s a little over a mile from where I grew up to where I now live and in March of next year there will be 55 years of time between the year of my birth and the calendar year of life that I will enter into. It’s only a short distance, a short drive, between these two geographic points on the map. But it’s been a long, long road replete with many difficult learning experiences, quite a few mistakes in judgment, more closet skeletons than I care to admit, circumstances aplenty that I could use as excuses, as obstacles too difficult to overcome.

I review the past and wonder how I have possibly survived it. I try to envision the future and imagined glimpses of it, based on where I am now in my natural and spiritual journeys, contain more unknown elements than familiar ones. There is more that I don’t know about future destinations and points of arrival than I know. I only know that I’m slowly traveling, heading in a certain direction, into a future that refuses to disclose the elements and events pertaining to my life. This is a little frightening. It is, at the same time, tremendously stimulating.

This, I think, is the nature of pilgrimage. We know where we want to go. We act in faith on what we sense to be true. We travel in hope despite the unknown, despite the dangers, despite the fact that our going makes us vulnerable. Yet, in the depths of our being, fidelity and its calm assurance bids us peace and continues to lure and woo us. Our steps are slow as we ascend and descend the steeps and grades.

“The fact is that when I commit myself, I grant in principle that the commitment will not again be put into question. It at once bars a certain number of possibilities; it bids me invent a certain modus vivendi which I would otherwise be precluded from envisaging. Here there appears in a rudimentary form what I call creative fidelity. My behavior will be completely colored by this act embodying the decision that the commitment will not again be questioned. The possibility which has been barred or denied will thus be demoted to the rank of a temptation.”[1]

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood …
And both that morning lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.”[2]

The slowness of our pilgrim journey makes us ever more aware of our surroundings, excites our senses, sharpens our awareness. We remain committed despite. We remain committed because. We remain committed even though it may not seem rational or make sense to anyone else. Though we don’t know what we will encounter on the way, where the path leads as it wanders through unfamiliar terrain, we know we are on the right path. An inner conviction, an inner confidence, continues to whisper one word. Onward.

[1] Gabriel Marcel, French Philosopher, 1889-1973
[2] From “The Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost