Saturday, March 28, 2020

March 26, 27, 28: Abundance of the Heart, My Puppy, Saint Juno

Merton writing about how he learned about religion as a child . . .

There was also a Catholic chapel in the Lycee, but it was falling into ruins and the glass was out of most of the windows.  Nobody ever saw the inside of it, because it was locked up tight.  I suppose back in the days when the Lycee was built the Catholics had managed, at the cost of several years of patient effort, to get this concession out of the government people who were erecting the school:  but in the long run it did not do them much good.

The only really valuable religious and moral training I ever got as a child came to me from my father, not systematically, but here and there and more or less spontaneously, in the course of ordinary conversations.  Father never applied himself, of set purpose, to teach me religion.  But if something spiritual was on his mind, it came out more or less naturally.  And this is the kind of religious teaching, or any other kind of teaching, that has the most effect.  "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth good fruit, and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth that which is evil.  For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh."

And it is precisely this speech "out of the abundance of the heart" that makes an impression and produces an effect in other people.  We give ear and pay at least a partially respectful attention to anyone who is really sincerely convinced of what he is saying, no matter what it is, even if it is opposed to our own ideas.

I have not the slightest idea what the little pasteur told us about the Pharisee and the Publican, but I shall never forget a casual remark Father happened to make, in which he told me of St. Peter's betrayal of Christ, and how, hearing the cock crow, Peter went out and wept bitterly.  I forget how it came up, and what the context was that suggested it:  we were just talking casually, standing in the hall of the flat we had taken on the Place de la Condamine.

I have never lost the vivid picture I got, at that moment, of Peter going out and weeping bitterly.  I wonder how I ever managed to forget, for so many years, the understanding I acquired at that moment of how St. Peter felt, and of what his betrayal meant to him.

Greetings from my Saturday morning.  Usually, pre-pandemic, I would be choosing and practicing the music I would be playing for Mass this evening and worship tomorrow at one of the other churches for which I play.  In a lot of ways, music has been religion for most of my life.  Merton learned from his father, and I learned from sitting on an organ bench as a young adult.  It wasn't until I had to pay attention to liturgy and Gospel readings as a church musician that I really got it, that it sank through the thick bone in my head.

And now, in this piece of history in which I'm living right now, I am learning how to cope from a another source:  my puppy, Juno.  She is a mini Australian shepherd, and every minute of her life is about joy and finding joy.  So, for this post, I am going to let Juno take over the keyboard.  I figure, out of the abundance of her canine heart, she can teach us all a little about how to appreciate what we have.  Here is Juno, in her own words:

I love this blue twisty thing, with its bumps and knots.  It makes my teeth feel so good when I bite it, and the two-leggeds don't mind.  They don't get all barky at me if I sit in the middle of the floor and gnaw and gnaw and gnaw.

What is that?  It's something outside, high-pitched.  One of the two-leggeds just made sounds like "pring" and "irds" or something like that.  I don't understand everything they bark at each other.  But it seems like the irds are the ones making that high-pitched sounds because it is pring outside.  And the two-leggeds don't seem excited about it.  They don't go outside even though it's warm and full of good smells and that bright ball up above is bouncing in the big blue.

I love that bright ball in the blue.  I want to chew it, feel it against my tongue. It hurts to look at it, but I think it must taste wonderful, like my treats, but better.  Warmer, softer.  Like when I sink my teeth into the male two-legged's toe, and he barks at me.  But that soft part of him in my mouth makes me so happy.  As if I've caught something small and alive and wriggling running through the white piles outside.

I go to the thing with the gold knob and scratch it.  The two-leggeds ignore me.  I scratch again.  The two-leggeds ignore me.  I need to go out and see the bright ball and taste the air.  I look at the two-leggeds.  They don't move.  I go to the middle of the room, spread my back legs, and squat.  

The male two-legged jumps up and scoops me off the floor.  He rushes to the thing with the gold knob and pulls it open.  He puts a leash on me, and soon I am standing on the stone ground outside.

I am surrounded by smells and sounds.  I put my snout up and sniff deeply.  There's dirt and rot and water and mud and the bright ball in the blue and the high-pitched irds.  The two-leggeds said this is pring.  I love pring.  I want to roll in pring, drive it into my back and belly.  I want to carry it around with me forever.

I bark.  It sounds so good, I bark again.  The sound fills the air.  I want the irds and the bright ball to know I'm out here.  I bark again and again.  The male two-legged says "pee" and tugs the leash.

How can he not be on the ground, rolling in pring?  How can he just stand there and not raise his face and bark with me?  I bark at him, pull him toward a pool of mud.  He pulls me back.  I bark at him again, grab the leash in my mouth.  He pulls me back.  I pull.  He pulls.  I pull.  He pulls.  What a great pring game!

Finally, the male two-legged scoops me up again.  I lick and nip at his face.  He puts me on top of one of the big white piles.  "Pee," he says.

I can see so much more.  I am closer to the bright ball, the irds.  I can smell something in the air.  Something new.  It's like when the female two-legged makes light with the stick.  She takes the stick and makes light and then puts the light on another stick.  And she lets that stick burn and burn and fill the room with sweet.  That's what this new smell is like.  It's like light burning, but bigger.  More sweet.  And it smells like food, too. It makes my teeth itch.


I'm singing to the bright ball, to the irds.  It is so much glory.  And the male two-legged doesn't see it.  Doesn't smell it.  Doesn't taste it.  I roll on top of the big white pile.  I roll and roll.  I will take pring inside with me.

The male two-legged pulls on my leash and grabs me.  He is huffy and annoyed.  But underneath, I taste something else on him, too.  Something that has nothing to do with pring or pee or irds or the bright ball.  I lick his face.  I've tasted this before.  

I taste it on the little male two-legged when he goes into a dark room.  It tastes sharp and cold.  And I can taste it all over the big male two-legged right now.  He carries me inside.  I squirm and wriggle, try to rub pring and the bright ball and the irds into him.  

Take it, I tell him.  Take it from me.  It's yours.  I want you to have it.  Take the irds.  Take the bright ball.  Take pring.  There's enough for both of us.

He sets me on the floor inside.  He sits down.

I go to the blue twisty thing with bumps and knots, take it in my mouth.  I carry it to the male two-legged.  He sits in his place, stares at me.  I drop the blue twisty thing on his feet.  He reaches over.  Rubs my ears.  Makes sounds that make me feel warm.

The sharp and cold moves away.  There is no dark right now.  In this moment.  In this place.  Between me and him.  I jump into his lap, flop on my back.  He scratches my belly.  He keeps making those warm sounds.

I fall asleep with the sound of the irds in my ears. 

Have a wonderful night, from Saint Marty and Saint Juno.

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