Lessons in the Cell

Given the way things often come in threes, it makes perfect sense that today's reading in  Alan Jones' book, Soul Making, would tie together the previous two days' work.  He's quoting that really famous saying from the Desert Fathers: "Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything."

So this, I take to mean, is the cell: that unique set of hereditary and family-of-origin challenges I described as a cage two days ago; the difficulties with which each of us struggles; all the behaviors and patterns that appear to keep us from realizing the goals we set for ourselves, from seeing our own worth, from understanding ourselves, and from grasping our life's calling.

And yet everything we need to learn and know can be learned from sitting in silence within that cell; from watching the moods and thoughts flow through like clouds and storms upon a clear blue sky; from listening to the hopes and fears, the whining and the negativity, the bitterness and the worry, the bursts of pure joy and the schadenfreude.  The cell becomes a sonnet, a structure within which everything is possible.

And yet -- if there's anything I've learned these last two weeks (aside from what Alan Jones is teaching me) it is that (as he is quick to point out) we also need our time outside the cell, our interactions with the world beyond our own private rooms, to stir up the thinking, to expose the patterns, and to trigger the responses that have so much to teach us. 

For Jones that means balancing alone time with church, for all that liturgy and community have to offer in the way of education.  For those of us who find it hard to sit in church, readings and social interactions must suffice to fill that function.  And I have to say, that does work pretty well.

But I do find I miss communion.  I understand that for many it's just a ritual.  But for me it's an important one, a very physical reminder that we are loved, connected, and forgiven for all the ways we fail to measure up to the standards we set for ourselves. 

Hmm.  I have to say: I hadn't realized that's where this post would take me.  But maybe that's the significance of the juice box in the corner of the window in this image.  The image is part of a series I did several years ago, entitled Containment.  Perhaps it's time to examine those images again, to see what else they have to teach me...


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