Ear Pressed Against the Wall of Heaven

It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. ― Edgar Allan Poe

One of my friends decided to travel by himself until he got lonely. (He does things like that, like seeing how many times he can go up and down nine flights of stairs.) In the three weeks since I have had to clock in anywhere, I’ve been in Nebraska, Iowa and Colorado, and will soon be cutting across a corner of Wyoming on my way to fulfill a commitment I made. (There are few people more reluctant to make commitments than I have been as of late, but the offer to staff a bookstore/coffee house in a converted barn for two days elicited a resounding yes.) In this time, I’ve been in isolation a mile or more from other breathing humans in Monona County, Iowa and I’ve been enfolded into the heart of family, curled up in the warm white bedding in the guest room of my daughter and son-in-law’s house outside of Denver.

In both situations, activities surface. There are fires to start, walls to paint, heart talks to be had, meals to share, dreams to record, and laundry to wash and hang dry. The string of communication continues, calls and text messages and the photos and quotes of friends. Those I am connected to ask about the experience – Am I having a great time? What’s it like to be free? How are you?

How am I? First, I’m lucky. The lifestyle I am trying to create under my feet each day is one I have longed for since childhood. It might be what is described as “soul purpose,” and it most certainly is an aspect of whatever level of self-actualization I am going to be able to achieve. For whatever reason, I am supposed to explore self-determination in this very particular way, day-by-day, hands open, palms up, asking what now? Where now? I am grateful that I live in a life and time where this is even a conceivable option.

Second, I am baffled by my options. An artist friend once told me I was fortunate to know my own will so clearly. Usually, given a choice between this or that, I know my preference. However, open up the vista to the limitless view, and every choice made seems not quite enough somehow. Yes, I am doing this but I could be doing that. Is this the best possible place for me to be today? Or, as The Clash is forever asking, should I stay or should I go?

Full to the brim with intuition, the Christ within, the Universe, Divine Guidance, God, collective unconscious, Higher Power, the Wellspring. Though I trust it, I have great difficulty hearing it. And even when heard, the news is so foreign that I often just marvel at it rather than employ it. My intention is to create conditions in which I am able to listen more carefully, and to follow the direction more closely.

Noise comes in many forms. The din I am most aware of is the insistent voice of culture. Why do I live this way, do this thing, eat these things, sleep at this time of day or night, feel this particular pressure? I have adopted the values of the prevailing culture, more than I have let myself know. I am no machine of self-determination! In order to hear the quirky direction of my Creator, I have to pull up layers and layers of false responsibilities. What is underneath? How far down am I headed?

How am I? Somewhat lonely, though I have had offers of companionship. (The most interesting one was “give me a few hours to quit my present life.”) Maybe it isn’t loneliness, exactly. I have been in good company. But there is a persistent restlessness about being human, at least in my case. When I resist it, and sit still, and don’t drive somewhere else or take on another project, a sea of discomfort wells up inside of me. There appears to be sadness and worry in it, and a string of questions. The urge to move on is strong. But I am trying to set up a little tent site at the edge of this body of water, and listen.

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