Saturday, 17 January 2009

Back to the Grind

The Mound was merciless.

As Chad and I cycled up that long, inevitable hill towards our respective places of work on the first day back to our daily routine in Edinburgh, the Mound punished our legs, our lungs, our brows. It seemed spiteful because we had neglected its rigorousness for three weeks for the bliss of American Christmas, for that most magical of places, home.

The price was worth it.

As I suffered, recollected visions of sugarplums and wassail, family and pajamas overpowered the shock pulsing through my lazy legs. I stood up on my pedals and kept going. Those visions pushed me further than the mound—they motivated me through the first few days of being back in my foreign, temporary home, where mixed feelings ever envelop me. Where I am tossed between thoughts such as “four days ago I was at mom and dad’s” and “God, I want to do more here than count down the time left.”

I want to bloom where I’ve been planted.

We’re settling back in. And I am reminded how routine is both comforting and dangerous. It is a potentially powerful component of productivity. It is also the lullaby of mediocrity.

But we cannot afford normal.

In "Art as Technique" Viktor Shklovsky described how when things and people become too familiar to us, they tend to recede into invisibility. It is as if, he described, they are demoted in our minds to mathematic variables, a negative condition he termed the “algebrization” of things.

For him, art was the answer.

I agree that art can be a powerful tool in “defamiliarizing” the overly familiar. However, I also believe there is a larger issue looming: Why should I become aware? Aware of what? Nevertheless, this point about habit making even very important things and people become invisible to us is what I am getting at.

Prayer, rub my eyes—get the sleep out.

Last night my friend Rebecca told me about the mother of her son’s best friend, a single mom of two young boys, both of whom have muscular dystrophy. The doctors say that neither will see past his twentieth birthday. Last summer the eldest became wheelchair bound. Nightly, the mother must wake up to turn him over in his bed. Since this story was passed on to me, throughout the morning it has acted like a melancholy, and sobering, refrain in my thoughts. It compelled me to plead with God, that this woman and her boys would come to know the hope of Christ and His eternal salvation. That they would know, too, his comfort here on earth: “Remember your promise, Lord. You are close to the broken-hearted.” I prayed for us, too, for Christ’s Church—

That, wide-eyed, we would spread everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.