August 5, 2018
Someone sent me an ad for a new book based on the idea that the attitudes we bring to liturgy are those which make us able to see the sacred dimension of our day-by-day lives. Thus, we can go through life without ever feeling the absence of God. This intrigues me (even though I have not read the book and probably won’t) enough to give it a go myself.
The first attitude we have in liturgy is ‘showing up’. It was some famous Hollywood figure who ventured that almost all of success lies in showing up and doing the work. Make no mistake, without this nothing else happens.
Now think of showing up in life and all the things that keep us from it.
Probably the most recent to appear, and the most pernicious, is the phone. Nothing signals a person’s lack of interest in the here and now like the presence of a phone on the corner of a (dining!) table or the arm of a chair or his or her hand. Well, not nothing … checking messages and videos and whatever as soon as the notice that they’ve arrived is actually worse. I would like to suggest that a phone is such a ‘private part’ that no one should ever see it in public!
Showing up is also impeded by an inability or unwillingness to shake off other concerns in order to focus on the present person. These concerns can be related to work, politics, health, family or whatever else goes on in life. In liturgy, we are invited to give specific focus to God and his work in Christ. That is hard enough sometimes. But to pay attention to a store clerk or a constant interrupter or a nag or a non-cooperator, that is even harder. Lack of focus lies at the heart of impatience and anger and chronic tardiness. It arises out of the assumption that whatever is going on in me is more important than what is going on in the other person, that allows me to dismiss the other with whatever force is necessary.
In that light, not showing up is also abetted by lack of honesty. If I don’t tell someone I’m preoccupied, they have every right to assume that they have my undivided attention.
Lack of intimacy and trust promote this kind of behavior. We may reasonably not want to share every preoccupation with every Tom, Dick or Harry. It may even be that lack of these qualities promotes behavior that is purposely solitary and un-shareable: pornography, substance abuse, silence … addiction to one’s phone.
One final impediment to ‘showing up’ is showing off or self-importance. Not everyone is one’s own ‘bestie’ or captive audience. If the need for privacy to deal with private matters gets in the way of showing up, the need for attention from everyone destroys the worth of attention from anyone.
Maybe I ought to buy the book. But it seems much more ‘profitable’ to let my own imagination do the heavy lifting.
Really and truly and presently yours,