presents of mind

Whenever I drive into town via Main Street, there he is sitting always on the same public bench. His wizened body swaddled in baggy trousers and a shirt as large as a tent, and long-sleeved, no matter the heat. By turns, he is calm, perfectly still, his arms folded across his chest, then agitated, flinching, fidgeting, running his hands through his silver mane. Oft I’ve wondered. Who are you? Why are you there? What are you doing?

He always catches my attention and, now, my imagination…

During last night’s waning moments (or was it in the small hours of this morning?), I dreamed about him, which really means, I think, that my unconscious had welcomed him, embraced him as a symbol of something both reflective and restless living (looming? lurking?) within me.

Having spent this day deep in reverie, I believe I know what that something is…

As of late, in the course of my nearly daily contemplation of aging and mortality, across my mind’s screen, I’ve beheld kaleidoscopic images of the faces of people I’ve known or, having lost touch (for a variety of reasons, uncontrollable circumstance and acts of commission and omission, some mutual, some not) people I used to know. Depending on the memory, when our last meeting and parting was pleasant, I am calmed by a spirit of serenity and when not, my soul is o’ershadowed by twin specters of discontent and lament that painfully afresh reveal, expose my flaws, my failings to have been the person I long wish I already was.

Either way, even, perhaps especially the latter, I accept these images as presents, gifts of my mind, which, when opened, compel me to remember, to reflect, and to repent. In this last, perhaps I, one day, before I die, will draw closer, will be closer to the image of God I’d like to see in me.

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5 thoughts on “presents of mind

  1. Thank you for this Paul!! So many people come into and out of our lives, that we are bound to think of them, especially when they leave our lives under difficult or angry circumstances.

    I often wonder where people are and what they are doing and why I no longer see them. Sometimes it bothers me and other times it doesn’t. What struck me about this post though was how you connect the ending of or change in relationships with your flaws or failings. I think though, that we do try to keep relationships going but when they don’t or don’t end well I don’t think it means we fail. Maybe the other person failed and we tried our best. Maybe they were only in our lives for us to see something in ourselves or learn something and that’s all. I dream of these situations too and when I wake up I try to remember that all we can do each day is to try to be our best each and every day, and not hurt anyone intentionally. I think that’s definitely part of what God wants us to do.

    Thanks & love!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Love always and thanks always, Loretta, for your reflections, which, much of the time for me serve as sage counsel.

      To wit:

      “…I think though, that we do try to keep relationships going but when they don’t or don’t end well I don’t think it means we fail. Maybe the other person failed and we tried our best. Maybe they were only in our lives for us to see something in ourselves or learn something and that’s all. I dream of these situations too and when I wake up I try to remember that all we can do each day is to try to be our best each and every day, and not hurt anyone intentionally. I think that’s definitely part of what God wants us to do…”

      Amen to all of this!

      I think the reason I take broken relationships to heart as evidence of my failings is that I believe in all relationships both parties have a great part to play. If things are well, both parties played a part. If things are not well, both parties played a part. Hence, an aspect of my claiming my failings is to search for and to claim my part.

      Now, this said, reflecting again on your words, I also believe that people can change and grow apart from each other and one another with no fault to be assessed to either person or anyone; which brings me back to your closing word about striving to be my best and not to hurt another intentionally. Again, I say amen.

      Love always

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  2. Dear Paul,

    I felt tears coming to my eyes as I read your description of the man who is always on the bench on West Main. From your description, he could so easily have been my brother. And as I write this, I think, “And of course he IS your brother.” And now the tears do come. Whoever he is, he is my brother and your brother.

    I am so glad he is present to you, and I’m so glad he came as a messenger in your dream, for so many people no doubt do not notice his presence or his moods, and he has taken up residence in your heart. I know your heart; I know why you notice him. I know why you contemplate the faces of those you have known and lost in some fashion. I know the discontent, but especially I know the lament you write of. While I am sorry for the pain you experience when thinking back on the partings and your part in them, I give great thanks to God that you feel the pain. You would not be the Paul I have grown to know and love if you did not. You would not be that precious phenomenon: one who cares so much it hurts.

    If you ever have the opportunity to speak to the man on the bench, please tell him for me that his sister in Minnesota loves him.

    With a grateful heart for your post, but most of all for your being who you are, dear Paul.

    Much love, your sister Karen

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    • My beloved sister Karen, always, with love, I thank you.

      You are right. I am a sensitive soul. Quickly, I hurt. Yes, for myself, get, too, equally and, perhaps, given the circumstance, more for others.

      Your reflections grant me a open window into my soul, for I heard myself say audibly “Aha!” when reading your words: “…I give great thanks to God that you feel the pain.” Yes, I am grateful for feeling pain and my “Aha!” recognition is that I never have wished not to feel the pain, which I take to be a sign of some spiritual growth. Praise God for that!

      Something else… As I wrote this reflection or, more truthfully, as the reflection was given to me, I, remembering your gracious anguish regarding your brother, thought of you. Know that I continually pray and bid you peace.

      Again, with love, my thanks,
      Paul

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    • And, yes, Karen, should I ever speak with our brother on the bench (many times I’ve had a mind to do that, yet each time fearing – and not wanting to risk – encroaching upon his sacred space of being), I will tell him that his Minnesota sister loves him.

      Love,
      Paul

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