Tomorrow is the day.
The day of my flying to the sky.
Is anybody coming?
Shall we go for a walk?
No, because tomorrow is the day.
Tomorrow I am flying away.
Tomorrow it is.
A day of sky.
Shall we go for a walk?
Tomorrow, I see me in me.
If I had to make a model of our “lives as pilgrimages” I would have chosen to work with wood, water and air. A wooden earth, full of traces handmade with chisel. Traces of different size, direction and depth. An earth full of amateur, non-ordered traces of human action. And then a wooden box of the “above” made into a speaker to allow otherworldly sounds and mystical stories to be hidden in it. A box of mystery to be trusted by the hands inscribing traces on the wooden earth. Earth and “above” are interconnected through air/sounds and dripping water. Water to fill the depth of the inscriptions and air to dry them. A healing atmosphere of a silent communication between the here and the there. The model is just an icon of our lives’ landscapes through pain. Δοκιμασίες, as we say in Greek, that leave their traces on our earthly selves. Traces or wounds that are never fully healed, revisiting us whenever is needed for the healing qualities of the above to be felt by us, as such: healing. The chisel hearts the wood, the water and the air heals it, not by erasing it, but by incorporating it in our truth. The life is full of pain, a pain followed by healing silence. Pain and happiness are joint to be lived by us in each making of these inscriptions. Hell and Paradise meet for the latter to be fully felt by our selves. Recently I have read in a book about the meaning of “virtue” as our psycho-somatic turning towards God through prayer that intensely involves pain, the pain of our own chisels on the wooden surfaces of ourselves. The small canals that are filled with the grace of the Above, the grace of a paradoxical happiness coming through the water of our tears and their calming drying of the mystical and almost unknown stories hidden in the silent speaker of the wooden box. Stories to be heard only by traces of traumas in silence.
The appointment is set for 06:30 in the morning, 08:30 in Greece. You haven’t seen their faces for six months. You do not skype often, something that nowadays sounds odd but it is your reality. Your room is tidy and prepared for the meeting. You have a cup of coffee next to the laptop and have worn clean clothes – combed your hair and set the scene that you want them to see.
Είσαι έτοιμος? Εμείς είμαστε εδώ και περιμένουμε!
You call them and the skype begins. Both of them are there, ‘in front of you’. The face of your mother looks older and greyer. Her hair hollow her face in sanctity of memories and her gaze is similarly deep, though disorientated as looking at the small screen showing you on the laptop. She wears the familiar floral romp and next to her your sister is chatting happily to fill the gap of silence created by the surprising visual interaction. And suddenly you find yourself not having anything to say, besides looking at them. Looking at the corner of your home framed by the screen. Part of the balcony [with the green tent, the round table and the bamboo armchairs] and a corner of your dining room: the same ocher colour and white plaster finishing, a small side chest of drawers, the painting with the woman embroidering, the brass lamp with the renaissance angels. It is not the tastiest home and definitely not the most recently [and finely] renovated. Though, it is part of you and your personal story. You do not fancy skyping as a family. You do not like its felt falseness. It is a combination of the 1970s background of the parents and a kind of phenomenological ideology that you have developed by appreciating physical presences. And it is during this moment of its rare happening [because of a need for communication] that your decision of not getting used to it is confirmed. When skyping with a corner of your parents’ home becomes a retrieval of memories and not a constant faking of the reality of the physical distance between you and it.
Most of the skyping goes almost in silence, or rarely exchanging thoughts, news, words. You take the laptop out to show them your garden and plants. To show them your effort of actually recreating a small corner of Mount Athos as you remember it from past times there. But your mind is still in the ocher corner of your dining room back in Greece. Your hands almost touch the wall and you can even smell the warmth of the colour. The skype ends soon after 07:15, as you all have to start your days. You do not know what they have seen through their screens, but you are still there, touching and smelling two ocher walls of a flat in Athens set as the background of an icon of sacred/loving faces of life.
Newcastle, Ouseburn Valley, June 2017
You find yourself wounded and wandering around. You find yourself disorientated and thinking of where to go. You hear a voice “Let’s head up to the hill”. But you do not see a hill. You decide to stop “hearing voices” and you keep trying to find a way-through. The ground is wet from the recent rain and trees are hiding the paths. Some bridges, remnants of unfulfilled and utopian “developments” of the 1950s, are hanging over your head. You cannot find your way to the bridges, but neither through the forest. You are stuck at the same spot trying to find your way-through. Your way back or fore? You do not know. Paths are opened to suggest a direction. Streets and bridges are constructed to suggest a direction, a future projection. They are all veins of a complex system of relationships. They are all interwoven into a fabric of ways and stops. Perhaps this is where you find yourself: at a stop created while the veins were interwoven. At a clearing, just to remember Heidegger. A clearing in the forest and not a deadlock as you want to believe; these in-between spaces that allow the fabric to breath and yourself to get lost and feel weak and seek for help. It does not feel nice when found in such a situation. Definitely not and nobody could suggest you to feel like that. The topography itself has difficult moments that do not feel nice and beautiful. They just feel as unresolved. In these moments (of life?) one could perhaps remind himself/herself of the beauty (κάλλος) of the Cross. The difficulty that each of us has already inherited as an undeniable part of his/her life. The unresolved moments of life that create a chain of eternity. A chain of moments that while not the same they keep beating the sound of a drone, the drone of the Cross. But you still cannot find a way-through and you are still hearing the voice “Let’s head up to the hill”. It is rather insane to keep trying to find a hill but it is the only option for you. To start walking through the forest in order to find a hill. The plantation is thick and you cut through it to create a route, your route. Your body pushes through the gap between two boles while your eyes seek for the next gap and the hill. The hill is the aim. From its peak you will be able to see the whole topography and orientate yourself again in it. Looking from above becomes the aim of your walking through the forest while a route is already being inscribed by your body. Your body that some time before was stuck in the deadlock wondering where to go. The route is inscribed by your faith that a hill is “somewhere there” and your certainty that your way through is gradually becoming a way up. A way up to a hill that it is there, perhaps inside you; but definitely there.
Just stop wandering/wondering and walk-through-and-up. There is a always a hill to look from above.
Coming closer to the end of Lent, the Holy Week and the intensifying anticipation of the celebration of the Resurrection that keeps happening in God’s eternity, I keep thinking of (and living) brokenness. I go back to the Sign of the Theotokos, the church in Montreal where I realized the significance of brokenness, weakness, asymmetry and Cross in life. I keep recollecting Fr. Gregory’s words: “You need to be broken in order the Light to enter your Soul” and keep thinking of the traces of wounds as gifts.
Tracing Athonite Silences
Have you ever thought of the importance of brokenness and imperfection in our lives? The significance of the space of a crack and the dynamics of its potential healing and filling? Every time a crack is made the possibility of its filling opens inviting you to a creative process of a deeper knowing of yourself and the others. It has been two years since the Easter at the Sign (2015) and my soul is still there through brokenness and the possibility of its transformation into pauses of liturgical and prayerful stillness. A month after the period I spent in Canada I had a discussion with a monk from Gregoriou monastery on the same burning theme:
-Father Neophyte how are we going to live our brokenness? Through prayer?
-Through silent prayer and the serving of the others.
Keep silent and serve the others. Father Neophytos is one of the living examples of this way of life. Keeping silent and serving the others he is practicing the healing of brokenness. Can we keep trying to find our way through brokenness, asymmetry and weakness? Can a “mistake” or a “disaster” become opportunities to find ourselves shocked and falling into a void that feels uncanny? Resisting to fill the void with the reception of Care we keep falling hoping to find ourselves bridging the gap via the stillness of hesychia, the space and time of which can perhaps give us the taste of Paradise. Silence the gap and pace your serving to the other to transform the crack into a meaningful pause. Pausing as a verb and the realization of our brokenness and unknown as the only undeniable possibilities of life.
-Father, I do not know where I am going, but I know that I want to walk along the path leading to this unknown.
-Good. This is the right way my son.
[A discussion between a friend and Father Antonios on Mount Athos]
What is the purpose of living in the in-betweenness of a broken self? What is the purpose of deciding to live in the gap of a seemingly “lost” moment? To decide to pace your way to an unknown end? To feel the broken and unknown as an opportunity of pausing in stillness?
Scoring Athonite Pauses
I know that it has been quite a long period of time since I last wrote something here, but to tell you the truth I was frantically writing stories in real life, something that is magical but sometimes intense and exhausting. I stop here to remember the truth of the moving home and the opening door. The home that fits into boxes and suitcases and travels from city to city, to find its place. What is a home? Someone keeps asking while traveling around. Pretending to have a home another one unpacks and unfolds. Unpacking and unfolding usually become the first movements after Opening a (the?) Door. After the opening of a door an unpacking and unfolding of a story happens. A story clearly written for a person that will start reading it by inhabiting the space. Reading it and re-writing it constantly, almost like a ritual of habitual (re)readings. The Opening Door plays a key role in the life of a home. There is something about the effort that you put to push it and the times that this need to be repeated that makes it an event of homing a place. By pushing the door a home story might open for you to read, either by yourself or with another person. Its handle and its frame become the bearers of this pushing-in-a-home. The hinges become the compasses of its ratio. Its materiality differs depending period, style and context (geographical and cultural). From a curtain to a heavy piece, the door is about an opening and a closing-behind. Its presence is about the future and the past at the same time. What you leave behind and what you will find ahead. Never hesitate to turn a door. The door is all about moving, moving is always better than standing. Never be afraid of making this little step along the threshold, as there is always a challenge waiting just after the opening, a challenge of intimacy. Of getting to know people and places in a better way. And even when you leave people and things behind, just remember that they are always with you in the moving landscapes of thoughts and imagination. Never hesitate my friend. Just open the door and close it behind you. Or perhaps leave it open for another person to move with you.
A very good friend from Puerto Rico has a number of rituals of familiarising with new places. She keeps moving from city to city, visiting new cities and revisiting same places. She always unpacks and unfolds her rituals when she arrives at a destination in order to feel that she keeps walking on the same, open, path of discovering the world that becomes her own world through rituals of inhabitation.
Keep moving! No matter what happens you will never regret of hesitating.
Lighthouse (From the Greek Movie ‘Το Φως που Σβήνει’, 2000)
Late in the evening. Dark and rainy. Walking in the city again. Walking as a Lighthouse Keeper. Have you ever shared with me this attraction to Lighthouse keepers? These ascetics of littoral zones that work with the light to guide seamen? The musicians of light and the collaborators of Poseidon in the conquering of the sea? The Lighthouse keeper is another role model that gives an inspiration for creative interaction with the silence of the lonely nature. The nocturnal experience of the wet city always reminds the walker the darkness of the sea. Sailing in a city with fading lights behind the rainy curtains you feel the need of becoming a Lighthouse Keeper; move to the periphery, go up to your Lighthouse and start playing a light-concert with your mirrors. Discuss with a storm and arrange a meeting with unknown boats. I am sure that a Lighthouse keeper can even listen to the voice of the light he sheds on the sea. I am sure that light has a voice – there is an unheard sound in the reflection of light on the sea that can be only heard by the Lighthouse keeper. Walking in the rainy city as a lighthouse keeper you keep thinking of guiding through light. The recollection of the “O Joyful Light…” of the Vespers you shared previously with four or five co-parishioners makes the idea of working on a Lighthouse project even more attractive. Drawing from literature and movies you keep thinking of a Lighthouse that guides the paces of the walkers in a stormy night. An urban lighthouse that becomes visible only in dark and rainy days to guide the people to common unknown routes. A Lighthouse that guides people to unknown meeting places. Becoming the keeper of this ‘house is just for a moment the dream of your life. What you really want is to make sure that your imagination will be able to grasp this moment of the silence in the conversation of the sea with the light.