Thursday, December 1, 2011

Musings, Dreaming and 'Communio'

All that follows, the geeking out and philosophizing, will act as an apology for attempting the impossible. I am going to try, in the next few lines, to describe the experience of what may best be called a symposium. I've written before about the difficulties of capturing reality within the confines of the written word. And the more I see of reality, the more readily I believe the challenge to be an almost overpowering one. And though no writer is exempt from wrestling with the muses, it was Chesterton (surprise surprise) who put it most eloquently and complained about it most often. He believed there to be a whole library full of the best stories never written, a bibliography of dreams that eluded the pens of their writers. Recently, I was highly amused to discover that the cult-classic Sandman comic book series turned this idea into a running gag; the house of Dream contains miles of shelves full of such imaginary books (Chesterton's contribution is an intriguing tome by the name "The Man Who Was October.")
So the symposium. Unlike Plato, I have not the memory or patience to write it out as a dialogue. I can, however, provide you with the dramatis personae. The participants included a group of friends each representing different sides of my life: a seminarian, a theology major, a friend from Slidell and a Dominican grad (For the past 5 years, Providence has delightfully deigned that I be acquainted with a new Dominican grad once every two months.) The content of our conversation ranged from chapel veils to jockstraps, from voodoo to theological anthropology. There is admittedly nothing unique about such plurality of topics. Wider spectrums are common among college discussion in these United States. What was impressive from my perspective was the spiritual dimension that was just bordering on the edge of my sensation. Understand: I know these people. Not only do I know their ideas, their feelings and their beliefs. I know them, they themselves, their hypostases, their personhood. And, as I looked on, I watched as they tried to give of themselves, form and matter, body and soul, to everyone in the room. Admittedly, the arguments, though unique, weren’t the quintessence of profundity. Yet, the sincerity of their souls registered to my senses. I could feel the impact of their attempts at self gift, and that is something that left me speechless. At a break in the conversation, I turned to my friend from Slidell (she was only one besides me who had known all the people in the room before that evening) and said "I would not interrupt this for the world!"
That evening was not the first time friends from my different spheres had come together. Nor, praise God, will it be the last. What was unique, though, was that I could perceive the journey our conversation took as we tried so hard to give ourselves to each other. And the best part; we succeeded! Our words had an impact. Our striving reached a goal. There was the titillation of travel and the relief of destination. The experience of it was something more than closure: it was a consummation of sorts. We did not solely dream: we awoke from our intellectual musings to find a dream come true. And that is the difference between a library of stories never written and even just one book that was able to make it out of the authors head and onto paper. The journey is shiny and pretty and perplexing, and that is all wonderful, but I would say (and Chesterton, being a Thomist, would agree) that all the thrill of the potential must be realized by a movement to the actual. Or, in laymen's terms, words in my head must be put down on paper before we can truly experience their impact. My book cannot remain in the realm of dream: it must take on pen and paper the way God took on flesh. A conversation with friends, an evening of self gift, must give way to a newer reality. Then, the lines between dreaming and waking cease to exist. In the comic book I spoke of above, the character Dream laments that all dreams will die when humanity breaths its last. But this is preposterous! The dreaming will not fail because the darkness has not overcome the light of the human race. A day will come when self gift and communio personarum will be fulfilled and on that day all the stories never written will become lived realities. All the dialogues ever had in goodness and in truth will no longer be acted out like plays but will be sung as hymns. And what is now nothing more than delicate visions in the night will become for us one with the world everlasting. For have you not heard: God too dreamt human dreams when he took on the flesh of a babe, swaddled in Mary's arms. He argued and mused, debated and dreamed, and though He did all this with human words, they are words that shall not pass away.

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