Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Diving in

A friend asked if I am going to post my sermon. It's just in note form and so I don't know if I'll get it written up in any coherent form to post. But I did want to share what I heard after the service from a parishioner where I was preaching. He told me that his son, a water polo player, told him that the closest experience he gets to that still, small voice -- the sound of sheer silence, as the NRSV has it -- is the moment when he first dives in the pool. Going from the noise and the jangle to the silence that absolutely presses around you. "And then he tells me how he kicked someone in the head," said the parishioner.

I love that image of diving in. I hate diving, myself, even though I've done my share of swimming. The diving more often than not is an awkward flop. But I know that feeling of being in a different element and how things seem completely different there. It's a wonderful image of being in the presence of God.

Also wonderful because that moment is often so fleeting. Watching these Olympic swimming events, the initial dive takes them a lot further than it does me -- almost a third of the way down the pool. But they still come up and keep going.

Then there are the platform dives that involve jumping from a great height -- yikes! I wonder what the experience is like when once you've hit the water, you are done. Very different from the swimming where the dive is only the preliminary to the effort yet to come. And both have their place, it seems to me, in religious life, though I'm not yet coming up with specific examples of the diving dive in religious life. Personally, I'm much more familiar with the diving in that is just a preliminary to coming up again and continuing to move along. A moment of stillness and quiet in the midst of it all.

There's more I could say, but I don't want to stretch this image more than it can bear. Mostly I hope to find that moment of silence and find myself in the presence of God from time to time.

1 comment:

qoe said...

I always have to work so hard to acknowledge that the Divine is everything, from the deafening noise to the profound silence and beyond those to what I cannot begin to sense. My existence is somewhere jumbled up in all of that, and my average level of stress/comfort is very much middle of it all. For me it is all measured on a scale, where at one end, dealing with the noise is engaging with the exteriority of being, the collective multiplicity of existence; at the other end, dealing with the silence is engaging with the interiority of being, the singularity of existence. There are times when one wants to live in either end of the spectrum, but perhaps the best a lot of us can do is stick fairly close to the middle. I think that it takes an extraordinary individual to frame being where both ends of the spectrum occur simultaneously as (perhaps) a non-spectrum, where one can find the quiet of repose within the racket or the loud message within the silence. I have met a few people who seem to have that presence of consciousness where it is All Right There, in a great junk-pile-jumble, and you find what you need, go to where you need to be, completely connected and in the moment. (And I am glad to have met them, so that I could observe this and learn!) I think Jesus and Buddha were people with such ability. I think that sort of presence must be what it is to embody prajna. I guess what I am saying is that I love finding God in the silence of my interiority, but I know that the Presence is also always there in the collective racket where I do not feel I can function very well.

Great athletes must have this extraordinary ability to find the concentrated silence within the collective racket where they can both visualize and also act out the visualization.