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In the spiritual life we have to make a distinction between two kinds of loneliness. In the first loneliness, we are out of touch with God and experience ourselves as anxiously looking for someone or something that can give us a sense of belonging, intimacy, and home. The second loneliness comes from an intimacy with God that is deeper and greater than our feelings and thoughts can capture.
We might think of these two kinds of loneliness as two forms of blindness. The first blindness comes from the absence of light, the second from too much light. The first loneliness we must try to outgrow with faith and hope. The second we must be willing to embrace in love.
Sometimes we experience a terrible dryness in our spiritual life. We feel no desire to pray, don’t experience God’s presence, get bored with worship services, and even think that everything we ever believed about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is little more than a childhood fairy tale.
Then it is important to realise that most of these feelings and thoughts are just feelings and thoughts, and that the Spirit of God dwells beyond our feelings and thoughts. It is a great grace to be able to experience God’s presence in our feelings and thoughts, but when we don’t, it does not mean that God is absent. It often means that God is calling us to a greater faithfulness. It is precisely in times of spiritual dryness that we must hold on to our spiritual discipline so that we can grow into new intimacy with God.
Everyday—even on sabbatical—I check my in-box for the Dead Mule. But it isn’t everyday that we get fan mail. In fact, fan mail comes infrequently enough that it is worth writing about.
I will respect the privacy of the young woman who wrote the note to the Mule, but I will include in full—minus her name—my response to her note in hopes that a part of it might serve as a reminder to all writers and potential writers. That sentence is in bold type below.
Thanks for your kind comments about one of our summer chapbooks. We at the Dead Mule are happy you enjoyed the poems by CL Bledsoe and will pass your comment along to him. Writers are always glad to know their work has been meaningful to someone, and publishers and editors are glad that work was presented by their magazine.
Why don’t you try writing about your Dad, and maybe your Mom. too? You never know what you will come up with when you start writing. Every famous poem or story began with a blank sheet of paper.
Hope you enjoy the rest of your summer.
All the Best,
Valerie Mac Ewan
The Dead Mule has enough stories, essays, and poems (including four chapbooks) to keep most of us busy all summer long. More stories and essays will be added from time to time, and a full issue of poems will be posted on October 5.
Submissions for short (500word) stories and nonfiction are open. Poetry submissions will open again after the first of the year. Until then, enjoy the many poems from out already-full in-box.
Consideration for the Dead Mule submissions for Best of the Net is underway. We’ll make those announcements in August or September.
Editor Jessie Carty has posted artwork by Jimmy Pitts to accompany my poem, Concerning Apple Pie,” on Referential Magazine.
Makes the poem seem new again.
Love is, in fact, an intensification of life, a completeness, a fullness, a wholeness of life….We will never be fully real until we let ourselves fall in love—either with another human person or with God. And this must not be confined only to sexual fulfillment: it embraces everything in the human person—the capacity for self-giving, for sharing, for creativity, for mutual care, for spiritual concern.
…love is not just something that happens to you: it is a certain special way of being alive.
Thomas Merton. Love and Living. (New York: Harcourt, 1965). p. 27
When someone hurts us, offends us, ignores us, or rejects us, a deep inner protest emerges. It can be rage or depression, desire to take revenge or an impulse to harm ourselves. We can feel a deep urge to wound those who have wounded us or to withdraw in a suicidal mood of self-rejection. Although these extreme reactions might seem exceptional, they are never far away from our hearts. During the long nights we often find ourselves brooding about words and actions we might have used in response to what others have said or done to us.
It is precisely here that we have to dig deep into our spiritual resources and find the center within us, the center that lies beyond our need to hurt others or ourselves, where we are free to forgive and love
Our emotional lives move up and down constantly. Sometimes we experience great mood swings: from excitement to depression, from joy to sorrow, from inner harmony to inner chaos. A little event, a word from someone, a disappointment in work, many things can trigger such mood swings. Mostly we have little control over these changes. It seems that they happen to us rather than being created by us.
Thus it is important to know that our emotional life is not the same as our spiritual life. Our spiritual life is the life of the Spirit of God within us. As we feel our emotions shift we must connect our spirits with the Spirit of God and remind ourselves that what we feel is not who we are. We are and remain, whatever our moods, God’s beloved children.
Isn’t it wonderful to know that God’s promises do not depend on my fleeting mood?
To become neighbours is to bridge the gap between people. As long as there is distance between us and we cannot look in each other’s eyes, all sorts of false ideas and images arise. We give them names, make jokes about them, cover them with our prejudices, and avoid direct contact. We think of them as enemies. We forget that they love as we love, care for their children as we care for ours, become sick and die as we do. We forget that they are our brothers and sisters and treat them as objects that can be destroyed at will.
Only when we have the courage to cross the street and look in one another’s eyes can we see there that we are children of the same God and members of the same human family.
We become neighbours when we are willing to cross the road for one another. There is so much separation and segregation: between black people and white people, between gay people and straight people, between young people and old people, between sick people and healthy people, between prisoners and free people, between Jews and Gentiles, Muslims and Christians, Protestants and Catholics, Greek Catholics and Latin Catholics.
There is a lot of road crossing to do. We are all very busy in our own circles. We have our own people to go to and our own affairs to take care of. But if we could cross the street once in a while and pay attention to what is happening on the other side, we might become neighbours.