With a leap, a whistle and a fart. These words are borrowed from Holy Fools & Mad Hatters by Catholic priest and contemplative Edward Hays. My dear friend Betsy gifted me with this book as I headed off to divinity school four years ago. Through it, Hays invites us to become “fools for Christ,” to let go of the need to look good and to become willing to accept the loneliness that at times accompanies faithfully living out a particular call to serve God.
This makes for sound advice for my dear friends graduating this weekend from Yale Divinity School and Berkeley Divinity School at Yale. I want to tell them to go out from that amazing place “with a leap, a whistle and a fart.”[i] And, of course, along with that, to carry a continuing commitment to prayer.
This line (”a leap, a whistle and a fart”) has caused me to chuckle of late, because it is so free, happy and undignified. Doing the next right thing is a formula for freedom and happiness but it also can be a bit undignified. Especially when it involves self-care of a physical nature.
Recently I acquiesced to the advice to have a benchmark colonoscopy screening for colon cancer. The prep was not lovely but the procedure itself was no big deal in that I got to have a great nap. When the GI doc checked in on me, he informed me that I have a “flip-floppy” colon so he was only able to view a portion of it. He left the more discouraging news for the nurse practitioner to deliver. I will have to do another “prep” and return for an Xray for which I will remain awake and during which I may have to perform some “exam table calisthenics.” My apologies for this revelation of TMI. But, to make my first point: if you are “of a certain age,” maybe you’ll join the club and get screened as well.
The second point is less invasive but worth considering: our spiritual journeys can seem a bit “flip-floppy” at times. In my experience, it is rare to move directly from “point a” to “point b.” More often we travel in a spiral motion, through which we may seem to visit the same experience or lesson more than once. Such times, it is easy to misjudge our progress as regression (“I’ve been here before”) rather than to recognize that we are indeed growing. Life presents us with many rich, though sometimes painful experiences – experiences that can be mined in new and deepening ways over time. In 12-Step programs we are taught that our life experiences are our greatest assets. Those we would prefer to not repeat can nonetheless be sources of information and learning if we will allow ourselves to explore them with open minds and the guidance of a trusted spiritual companion.
According to the nurse practitioner Ben, my colon isn’t simply a “flip” and a “flop” but rather it appears to comprise a series of twists and turns. Ben is quite fascinated by this but even more so by the fact that my colon works just fine, that I am indeed a “regular gal.” While my initial reaction to all of this has been irritation that I have to go through another process in 2 weeks (rather than in the expected 10 years), I am beginning to embrace this journey. I am choosing to view my colon, with its series of twists and turns, as a sort of internal labyrinth – a metaphor for the journey toward a deeper and closer relationship with God and self. I would never in a million years have planned that journey the way it has played out to date. But I wouldn’t give up a single twist or turn no matter how foolish it makes me look.
[i] Hays, Edward, Holy Fools & Mad Hatters: A Handbook for Hobbyhorse Holiness, p 165.