an epistemological epiphany about life and legacy

My mother named me after St. Paul. (Perhaps she knew something!) I’ve always had a kinship with the Apostle; one of his words long being a touchstone for me: Now we see in a mirror dimly…Now I know only in part.[1]

It never ceases to amaze me how much I don’t know. About anything. God. The creation. Others. Myself. In this daily state of conscious ignorance, I also always am amazed when an epiphany, especially about myself (which, of the four aforementioned things, I think I should know most well, but oft do not!) dawns. It usually happens in a moment of sheer serendipity, verily, from that proverbial realm “out of nowhere.”

It happened today. I was in conversation with a friend, Carolyn. Our subjects of interest, covering a wide range – meditation, prayer, God, eternal life, reincarnation – had a common core of spiritual beliefs and practices and, even more, epistemology, and that, still more, in its most basic sense concerning how we know what we know.

I spoke of my life as a writer, mostly sermons, but also poetry, novellas, and my blog. I told Carolyn that usually I never know where the words will take me until I arrive at an “Aha!” moment of deepened self-awareness.

William John Abernathy

As an aside, I referenced my blog post of yesterday – at some point (thinking ahead, thinking back)… – a personal reflection about my father, which Carolyn had read.

And then, it happened. “Aha!”

For years, truly, so long ago that I cannot recall my first awareness, I’ve loved history; the chronicle of human life in time and space is a principle lens through which I perceive reality. And as a philosophical and theological existentialist, I long have been enamored by the questions of identity and destiny; constantly asking myself who am I and who am I becoming as a person, as a creation of God?

PRA 6-19-16

In yesterday’s blog post, I wrote of my father’s largely vain pursuit of his history and identity. And it wasn’t until today as Carolyn and I talked that I realized that I bear in my blood and in my bones my father’s legacy. I now know that I, on my father’s behalf and for myself, live to fulfill his quest.




[1] 1 Corinthians 13.12

keys – a Lenten meditation

IMG_3259Keys. I have a bunch; carrying them every day. Most of the time, I am mindful of their weight and that they wear holes in my pockets.

Keys also symbolically are weighty, representing my responsibilities, the daily load of my cares. The keys to our home remind me of mortgage payments and maintenance costs – and, as our domicile also is a bed and breakfast, keys open the door to guests, who, in exchange for our welcome, pay a fee, thus helping our business thrive (talk about the weight of worry!). The key to my car reminds me of the monthly note. The key to the gate, our need for security.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t have keys, for then I would be free of these responsibilities and cares.

Sometimes, yes, I wish, but only briefly. For having no keys would mean I had no home, no place of my own, and no transportation to take me where and when I wanted to go.

This came to mind whilst driving to church yesterday for the Ash Wednesday service. There was a chill in the air, abetted by a bracing wind; together, a bitter advent to the coldest temperatures in upstate South Carolina in 100 years. I passed a young man walking in the opposite direction. Wearing a pair of overlarge sweat pants, mismatched boots, a soiled hoodie topped by a worn coat with torn sleeves, he bore a large misshapen bag. I surmised that he was homeless.

Not always, but oftentimes, those who have no dwelling to call home have no keys. There is a freedom from responsibility in that, but, surely, no liberty from care or from fear. I wonder whether that young man, my young brother has keys. And if not, would he want them. And if so, what was I doing – in attending an Ash Wednesday service to be anointed with ashes as an outward sign of the luxury of my reflection, however brief, on my fleshly impermanence – to help him obtain them? Nothing.

As quickly as the question came to mind, I also knew that I need not answer. For what personal relationship did I have, do I have with him? None.

Nevertheless, he (I call him Adam, from the Hebrew ādhām, man) stays with me. The image of his slow-trudging, stoop-shouldered, heavy laden frame is an Ash Wednesday living commemoration of the universality of mortality, in the words of the Isaac Watts hymn, “for all that dwell below the skies.” In this, I am responsible for that young man, my young brother, Adam, who, doubtless, will appear again as he is or as another. In that, I will be given a key opportunity to do something.