This statue of an angel holding a shell stands gently atop the vestibule from the Clarkson door beneath the southeast tower on which our bees will soon be installed. If one were to emerge from Dagwell Hall and climb the stairs to the chapter offices, the statue would be there to one’s left perched high above the hallway from which one enters the chapel of Saint Martin.
Because it is a piece of art past which I move many times each day, I enjoy they way it works on me. Art works on us. The angel stands holding a shell. The statue tends to be an icon of waiting and openness for me. It reminds me that we never know what is going to happen next – something wonderful – something terrible – something dull – something interesting. We wait in gentle welcome of what happens next and we welcome it. We do not fight with it. We do not over-analyze it. We do not greet it with violence simply because we did not expect it or because we do not like it. Its arrival has occurred. It may bring something good and needed even though it may seem hard in the moment of its arrival.
A couple of weeks ago I noticed that a butterfly, caught in the cathedral, had made its home in the angel’s shell. Each day I greet the butterfly along with the angel. Greeting two on the stairway takes longer, so I pause on the fifth step and greet this majestic creature. She sits with wings up so that in a moment she can pull them down and lift off to safety. Sometimes she cleans her face.
She reminds me, as I mount the steps to my work, that we land in places and we stay there a time. I know people struggling with divorce, with failing marriages, with children or parents difficult to like, with illnesses, with limiting capacities where abundant ones would be welcome. One of the best parts about being a priest is that one is welcomed into the holy space of hearing people tell their story. The chief role of a good priest is simply to be present to people. My friend Harold taught me that when I was a curate.
When I look at this butterfly, I am reminded of the importance of dealing well with limiting beliefs. The greatest violence and heartache in the world, in this moment, is not guns or bombs or even starvation. The greatest harm humans perpetrate this moment, all around the planet, is the temptation to believe what they are thinking simply because they have thought it.
We think thoughts and accept them as if they are true, without examining them at all. Is that thought true? Am I absolutely sure it is true? How do I react – what happens- when I think that thought? Who would I be without that thought?
(… for a worksheet on this work and some videos go to http://thework.com/downloads/worksheets/JudgeYourNeighbor_Worksheet.pdf )
We will be working on limiting beliefs as a community of faith as we enter into the preparations for the Dream Together Conference which the Art of Hosting Meaningful Conversations Committee will host on October 11th.
What is this butterfly thinking? “I hate this place!” perhaps. Is that thought true? Am I absolutely sure it is true? How do I react, what happens, when I think that thought? Who would I be without that thought?
Without that thought the butterfly would not be caught in a dark cathedral. Without that thought, the butterfly would simply be resting in the safest place on earth. And so too might we be.