Mary Beth Writes

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds it’s rest in thee.”

― Augustine of Hippo, Confessions

I read Augustine way back in my college years. I half understood his claim then and I think I still only half understand it. Though it might be a different half.

What is a restless heart? We all know the answer to this, right? Not being content, satisfied, or at peace in the moment we are in. Longing for something to change. For our loved one to heal. For Covid to go away. To find a job where we can contribute and feel valued AND be sufficiently paid. We want our kids to be happier and more secure. We want to sleep through the night. We want to know love. We want a reasonable government instead of this craziness. We want there to be no refugee camps and nobody needing to cross a sea in a rubber boat and no humans beheading or raping each other anywhere.

Our hearts are restless.

Augustine said we’d be restless until we find our rest in Thee. Who Thee is and how Thee manifests Itself to us – there’s your $64,000 question. Much of the misery on earth would go away if we would ask each other, “Who is Thee to you?” Instead of “My Thee told me to make you live the way I say you ought to live.”

Most of us give up on the Big Thee question. We get jobs, partners, kids, places to live that are dirty, food that isn’t cooking itself, laundry, obligations, and weeds. The “Thee questions” don’t seem very related to our modern lives; especially while we are inching through a pandemic.

I’ve written before about working in the Jewelry Boat at a Target. It’s the enclosed cage of glass display cases in the accessories department. I usually worked the Jewelry Boat 4-6PM. (It’s where I learned to change watch batteries; another skill nobody needs anymore.)

Late in the afternoon women still in their work clothes would come into the store to pick up things on their way home. Before they did their needful shopping though, they would wander through my department. They rarely made eye contact with me; they were quiet and “zoned out.” They looked at things, touched things, took jewelry off the wall, looked at it closer and then put it their cart or back on the wall.

Watching them I began to realize this was a modern spiritual exercise. At the end of one responsibility-heavy part of their day and before their evening of supper, kids, laundry, and whatever- they took ten minutes in a quiet place to look at pretty things. They were exercising and honoring their inner sense of themselves.

Maybe modern spirituality is here in our crazy consumerism. It's looking and perusing and being open until something sparks inside you. Maybe something is so hideous it makes you step backwards. Or it appeals to your sense of functionality, or problem solving, or beauty, or eclectic charm.

Before we buy something, we think a little or a lot about the options in front of us. Green polka dots on that sunhat for our grandkid? Factory brie or brie made on an artisanal farm that supports the earth and costs more than a pair of shoes? A tiny silver heart on a delicate silver chain? A string of hand-painted Bangladeshi beads so bright they’d look good on a Christmas tree? The picture book that honors curiosity. The novel where they time travel and have awesome sex and you can just read it and not have to talk about it to anyone else.

Shopping is about purchasing but for many of us it’s more than that. It’s twenty minutes here, a half a day there; perusing. Liking some items. Grimacing at the weirdness of others. Thinking about the value and the cost and how it would fit into our lives and budget.

So many values to have and examine. So many nuances of wanting, thinking about, passing by, going back to pick up one more time. It’s a modern consumer way of using our senses to build our sense of self. Ergo, it is spirituality without the Thee questions.

Our hearts are restless.

Which brings me to now; lving in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some people are insisting via their long guns its time to resume shopping. Most of us are at home shaking our heads. Not willing to risk this terrible disease just to check out Joanna Gaines ‘Magnolia Home’ candles in jars. Right?

So where is our spirituality now? Who are we now when we can’t run our fingers over a fake cashmere shawl, or check out $600 stiletto shoes during an afternoon shopping with our BFF, or we can’t pick up and pick out a tool at Harbor Freight or Ace or Menards?

If we can’t look, touch, think about, consider, admire, and want all the little items – how will we know who we are now and how we are changing?

This is subtle, I will grant you that. But in the past two months I have not picked up or picked out anything. We order groceries online and gratefully take what the shopper brings us. If we need something other than groceries, we check other websites and make the order and wait.

 Most of us have not wandered an aisle since February. 

Sometimes this annoys me but not as much as I would have guessed ahead of time.  We all have our moments, but in general we are doing this pretty well.

So where are we getting our sense of who we are now?  If we are not what we choose and buy, what’s taking the place? 

There are a lot of answers here.  I think I will do you no favors if I plow into answers before you have a chance to think for your individual selves.

Where are you finding satisfaction? What are you doing now that takes the place of looking at new and interesting items? What are you sniffing and holding and choosing? What are you doing when you are tired from responsibilities and you just need 10 minutes zoned out, looking at costume jewelry hanging on a wall? But you can’t?

What is your restless heart doing?

Comments

Leonard's picture

I am skeptical that the fellows with the long guns are much interested in their restless hearts, and Harbor Freight is, in fact, open during the pandemic. But I agree absolutely that people who are looking for that moment of inner reflection and finding that things are different, now. Quick observation: have you noticed how mind-scattering it is to be on a Zoom call? They are far more exhausting than an actual meeting.

My restless heart used to love shopping and thrifting looking for that special something... I've replaced that with watching the Sun dance on the lake and the bulbs and wildflowers as they reach for the Sun and open their flowers to the fat bumblebees flying all about... I can't date that special new person in my life but we can text, email and talk on the phone about everything from the mundane to the highly intelligent and everything in between. We can talk about the present and the future and imagine what it is the future holds...

Great question “who is Thee to you?”. My siblings and I have radically changed in our beliefs since we were young. We know something about each other’s changes, but don’t really talk about it. I think I will ask them who Thee is to them. I hope it will be a conversation that will bring us closer.

You sure have a way with words! I wish I had more free time to comment but the weeds and paperwork are calling loudly. I can think about this while I do my mundane chores. Smile.

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Quarantine Diary #312

“You know me, I think there ought to be a big old tree right there. And let's give him a friend. Everybody needs a friend.” ― Bob Ross

This tree lives in Waukesha and stopped me in my tracks when I was out for a walk.

...

 When will this Quarantine Diary end? When Len and I drive out not wearing masks to go to a place where we will stay overnight. Just letting you know. FYI we started last year on Friday the 13th of March.

 …

Quarantine Diary #308 1/15/2021

My life is pretty fine, and I bet yours is, too. Warm place to live. Food to eat. Friends to share and laugh with - even if we have to do it via Zoom.

At the same time, who isn’t feeling anxiety and dread? Will the white supremacist insurrectionist knobs attack the inaugural? Will they screw up state capitols and infrastructure? One lone guy blew up Nashville a mere three weeks ago. What the hell is going on?

Quarantine Diary #307 Brain Names

Remember when there was no autism? Sure, there were kids in our schools who were weirdly able to remember stuff, or were hard to control, or whose emotions triggered at the oddest time. We generally ignored those kids. Those of us who were kind did, anyways. Others bullied. 

Remember the mopey kids in high school who knew too much about depressing art and angsty music and sometimes killed themselves?

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I am going to write some Quarantine Diary entries again. There’s a lot going on and sometimes it helps to hear a small voice as well as the big voices of journalists, pundits, networks, the other public media we follow.

I have had a small headache off and on for days. I worried that I might have contracted Covid, except dang it, I haven’t gone anywhere! And then, thinking about it, I realized I am hunched over my phone much more than usual. These mild on-again, off-again headaches are from eyestrain and weird posture.

Rime and Treason

These photos were taken by Len on Monday in that other time and world that existed before the Trump gorgons mobbed the Capitol. (Gorgons existed in Greek literature. Gorgons are the poisonous siblings with hair of living snakes. Those who beheld them face-to-face turned to stone. Or were killed by being beaten by a fire extinguisher.)

I have been trying to write about that but it is too hard. There is so much that is clear and is informative. You are reading it as much as I am. Blessed be the journalists, right? 

Quarantine Diary #292 New Year's Eve

Many of us feel as if we are in limbo until Biden takes office. I don’t think you need me to say a lot about how long and hard this year has been; we’ve been in this dentist’s chair together.

But...

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So far.

This week I read a remarkable essay. On Natural Landscapes, Metaphorical Living, and Warlpiri Identity, by Barry Lopez. https://lithub.com/. Life is weird. The day after I read it, Mr. Lopez died.

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