Søren Kierkegaard sagely writes, “When the child is to be weaned, his mother blackens her breast; for it were a pity if her breast should look sweet to him when he is not to have it. Then the child believes that her breast has changed… Happy he who needed not worse means to wean his child!”
These wise words could aptly describe my current experience of Kolkata with a few simple amendments such as, “when the time comes for the Jack to leave his Kolkata, the city unleashes it’s most loathsome weather, complete with heat rash upon him. For it were a pity if the city should still look sweet to him when he is not to have it. Happy the Jack who needed not worse means to leave Kolkata.” Yes, I believe it would be something like that. In other words, Kolkata is still wonderful, but the heat is pushing my heart to greener, cooler pastures.
I’m looking forward to a beautiful Easter here and then spending a few nice weeks sitting on my bum listening to monks chant the divine office at me in a medieval village in Italy. That sounds sublime. Since I’ve gotten back to the city I’ve found myself becoming somewhat more reclusive than before, and spending more time in the chapel and alone. I’m still happy, and really enjoying the work, but I’m also liking my quiet time. I’ve been reading a lot–spiritual books and fiction, which has been delightful–and writing a good deal. I only have a few pages in my journal left and have bought a second one to eek out my journey rambling.
Yesterday I went to a bookstore where I bought my new journal and a novel and did a little writing. I then walked next door to McDonald’s where I gorged myself on McNuggets and cold fries, reading all the while. I believe I looked like the loneliest human being in all of West Bengal. A sort of veal of solitude. This morning I made it to mass and confession which was niiiiiiiice. I’ve been feeling…not spiritually grimy, but just sort of yuck since my trip. I think that had something to do with how annoyed I was for about 60% of it, but also I just hadn’t gone to be shriven for a while. After I finished my penance of self flagellation before the assembled sisters and volunteers (did I mention it was a public confession?) I snagged a quick breakfast in the volunteer room (bananas, chai and bread, snatched quickly from the old Filipino lady who presides over the breakfast table. My nickname for her is the chai witch) and took the bus alone to get to Kalighat. I read most of the way, which produced the weird thought that I’d like to live in a city where I can read on buses.
This afternoon I basically force fed a man bits of watermelon because he wouldn’t eat anything else. He was so skinny and weak I had to hold him up. At one point his head just fell forward on to my chest so I just sat there and hugged him, which was beautiful but sort of overwhelming to experience. I don’t think he was particularly moved because he just didn’t want to eat, but I felt that it was very beautiful and wished someone was there to take a picture of how Christlike I was being.
For lunch I ate chow mein on the street and drank chai. At first I was reading my book again, but then I just felt this voice saying something like, “don’t read about other people living, live yourself.” So I sat on my bench, with the hot sun and my silence. Mother Teresa wrote, “in the silence of the heart, God speaks.”
I love that idea, but feel sort of stumped as to how to actually achieve that silence. Even when I pray I bring a list of activities to take up my time–rosary, prayer book, journal. I don’t particularly enjoy the moments where I try to close my eyes and open my heart. If anyone has any good advice re this, I’d be happy to hear it.
I’ve also been praying Rosie’s Blessed Miguel Pro prayer again, which is nice. Basically, I’ve realized that one of my goals this year, and for life in general, is to learn to love the silence.