by Charles LaFond
These are our Cafe au Lait bowls, a candle, some notes and conversation-diagrams- the result of hours of early morning conversation about friendship, life, love, work, God. We each ask the other “Shall we talk about …?” and then we proceed, changing topics only with permission. It was conversation as rich as warm caramel on a cold night. It’s how we do friendship; me and this friend I am visiting these days. We talk, for hours, hands wrapped around clay cafe au lait bowls – steam on faces, wonder in eyes, friendship in hearts. Might God’s self-offering be mostly about “being with”? About friendship with humanity?
Elizabeth Gilbert, in her stunning book on creativity and writing called “Big Magic,” invites the reader to fail. Not just to fail but to fail huge. Risk it! Just do something new and risk massive failure – or seeming failure – like a divine entity ending on a cross, and then, not. But what if we were simply to do something?! Get out there and make something new and risky. She says there are two kinds of creators. One is the passionate pious and the other the mischievous trickster and she says the second will win every time.
The passionate are the ones who take themselves so seriously that their ego drives what creativity they can muster and their need for perfection. These may be creative, but they will not make new things possible with the same gusto and success as the mischievous “tricksters” will, since they are willing to be silly and foolish and even playful in their pursuit of something new. And they are willing to fail robustly. I love this book and I love this notion.
I am with a friend for a few days. We spend the days together repeating the same schedule patterns.
6:00 rise and talk over something hot (this time, big steaming bowls of coffee with hot milk)
10:00 meditate together
10:30 discuss what we saw in our meditations and our previous night’s dreams
Then walk, think, nap, work, talk and spend the evening hanging out. Sleep. Repeat.
After some days of this I have noticed a pattern. My favorite conversations are after he says, after a long pause, something like “Would it be crazy if …?”
And usually whatever followed that question intro, we do. It’s a fun friendship – one of the most dear in my garden of friends. We like to push envelopes. We like to dream big. We like to charge at windmills and then laugh uproariously when we land in a pile of tumbled mess. We get up, brush off and try again.
It is possible to be quiet, exact, careful, calculated and offer the world the impression of centered silence when in fact the quiet is little more than a lack of willingness to act, lest the results be imperfect. But I would rather imagine what’s possible even if it is unlikely, what’s new even if it fails, what’s imaginative even if it is rejected.
Thomas Merton the great monastic ecclesial activist once said:
“I stand among you as one who offers a small message of hope…there are always people who dare to seek on the margins of society, who are not dependent on social acceptance, not dependent on social routine, and prefer a kind of free-floating existence under a state of risk.”
What God did that night in Bethlehem was different and creative and risky. “Would it be crazy if we joined them as a human…?” What Jesus did was on the margins, was rejected by society, flouted routine and floated into cross-hairs even to a cross.
What if our discipline of Advent was not so much to get ready for Christmas? What if our Advent work was not beauty or solemnity or even longing? What if our Advent work were to… in our own way… in our own lives… in our own place… ask that great question: “Would it be crazy if……..?” and then, instead of doing something holy, we did something mischievous, tricky, creative, marginal, fun and new? Like a God becoming a man.