Friday morning after a few of the usual suspects departed our moon and sun practice at Essencia, we spoke about the art of listening; specifically, how humbling it is to listen and receive someone else’s story, and to resist the urge to “one-up” the speaker with our own story.
As an array of points of view were exchanged, I listened and reflected on recent experiences with this group-sharing dynamic, and how over-giving by others can deplete me. I recognize that I once viewed “not receiving” as being stingy and selfish, but it is anything but. As humans, we naturally gravitate to those who bear the light. We want it for ourselves, and some of us are unabashed in our intentions to absorb it, even if it diffuses its owner. There are million and one metaphors that I can use to convey this point. I like what we were taught at St. Thomas More about the sacraments and how they produced sanctifying grace. I always envisioned a measuring cup in my soul/ belly.
- Baptism – check
- Confession – check
- Communion – check
- Confirmation – check
- Good deeds – check
- Attend mass on a Holy Day – check
- Properly fast before communion – check
- No meat on Fridays during Lent – check
All of these actions filled the cup, while these actions most certainly depleted its contents.
- Not telling the truth
- Not attending mass
- Not fasting before Communion
- Coveting my neighbor’s goods
- Not confessing my sins
- Not being truly sorrowful
- Using the Lord’s name in vain
Of course, the other big sacraments, like marriage and anointing of the sick carried with them a lot of grace, too. Fortunately, receiving the last rites has yet to happen, while marriage is another story. My first marriage was at St. Thomas More, so that sacrament surely brought a bounty of grace, but its accompanying divorce, less an annulment, likely left me with a negative balance. And my second marriage, with no annulment and where I eloped, well, yikes, in the eyes of the church I’m a heathen. I probably lost a life’s worth of grace points on that one.
Back to the conversation Friday morning. This giving and receiving, and adding and subtracting of the grace that fills my cup, and motivates me to be a better person, propelled me to share my blog with my usual suspects Friday morning. It wasn’t a one-up deal. I really wanted to share something that I enjoyed writing, and because the byproduct surprised me. I first asked for permission from the group and then prefaced the reading with how it occurred. Blogger Marc from Sorryless and I had an exchange over stragglers. You know the words that represent the thoughts that stand alone at the end of a blog; never deleted they wait in vain to be articulated. We decided to bring life to the stragglers through our own blogs. As I read Straggled thought, saddled dream, and broken door I liked hearing my voice bring life to once abandoned words. Those words that when assembled together, I produced an original story inspired by experiences tucked away deep within my mind.
There were oohs and aahs, and apparently some pretty intense looks, none that I saw, however, because I was too busy reading the story. They received it so well. Their looks and reactions bore ample applause. My friend Kerry asked, “Do you think that Improv helped you write that?” a question that never crossed my mind. I unconvincingly agreed, but it took a series of events that included attending my friend’s graduation performance at Westside Improv last night followed by a sound night’s sleep for me to fully appreciate Kerry’s question and to answer it.
Just like in grammar school, Improv is the art of giving and receiving. When we say yes, magically synchronicity occurs. Our minds and hearts pursue an unknown path fearlessly. Our willingness to accept the gifts bestowed on us by our fellow players, and to abandon ego and follow their leads, is the epitome of grace. And so yes, what Marc, my fellow blogger gave me last week, not unlike my fellow Improv players, was permission. And I accepted that gift from him, an act that allowed me to give the world something back. The resulting blog post containing words making up a story that I didn’t know I had within me, which I know now is a lie. Because I knew it was there, I just never had permission to articulate it. Those words, and that story, based on the applause that lined the faces of the usual suspects Friday morning, proved that the world is ready and willing to receive my gift.
There is nothing selfish by withholding our own light from leeches. You can’t enjoy life when others suck the life right of you! Joy can be found in the circle of giving and receiving; that when practiced with generosity, temperance, and diplomacy its bounty of grace will both fill and overflow our cup if and when we permit it.