our inner tour-guide

I was once visiting a house museum and was taken on a tour by the museum tour guide whose job it was to take my ticket and show me around, watching that I did not snitch anything off tables and explaining what I was seeing.  It was an old house in which each room was decorated and filled with items from a different decade spanning from the Victorian era through to the end of the 20th century.

It was anxiety producing to get to rooms “exhibiting how life was way back then” only to find that the room was from “back in the 1970’s” and to see it filled with things I used and toys with which I played.  It made me feel old to see my own possession in an historical museum. Children on the tour would look at that “Operation” game or that “Simon” machine with blinking lights, or that Ronco smokeless ashtray I bought for my dad one Christmas and say (OUT LOUD!)  “Gosh, what was it like to live WAY BACK THEN.”  I felt in my pockets for Geritol, finding none. I wondered if I should start using a cane. And if I might strike the parents of these loud children with it for their impertinence. (Perhaps not.)

The docent who was touring us around the museum must have been born in the first Bush administration. He was too young and, though his tag said “docent” he seemed to know very little about the things in the museum or about the epochs of history for which he was fielding questions.  I, being “ancient of days” had grown up in the years in which this house museum was a display and so, knew quite a bit about the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and my family had taught me much about the Victorian era, as has the church, much of which remains so deeply imbedded in it.

People would ask about this or that, and the tour guide would make something up which was clearly wrong.  They would ask questions about life “back in the old days” and while I restrained my inclination to smack the questioner with my imaginary cane, I was aware that the tour guide had no idea what happened in those decades.

At the end of this humiliating and frustrating tour, I lingered in the bookstore by the checkout counter to buy a book about historic houses called “If these walls could talk” (a stunning book!) and overheard the cashier and the tour guide talking. It turned out, from that on which I eavesdropped, that the “tour guide” was actually the teenaged gardener.  The real tour guide, “old Mrs. Symington”  had not come in that day due to hemorrhoids and great age (I assumed like mine!) and so the gardener had to show us around pretending to be the tour guide.  The kid knew very little about anything but gaming and cars, which made the terrible tour make a little more sense.

In my own life, and perhaps in yours, I find that I have an unqualified tour guide in my head when I am not living a balanced, centered and prayerful life.  Often God is there pointing at this or raising my awareness to that or leaving hints about things for me to find.  But when I am not meditating, not walking, not seeking wise counsel, not resting etc. then there is this stupid teenager, this other moronic pre-teen and this screaming baby inside me – and all of them are pretending to be the tour guide of the life I am leading.  But like that kid who was the stupid-gardener-19-year-old-pretending-to-be-the-tour-guide in that museum, my inner, younger, three ego states are unqualified to show me around my life and around this planet. As are yours.

When I am looking through the spectacles of wellness and centeredness, I can easily see idiots, threats, counterfeit spiritual leaders, liars, charmers and seducers as well as real beauty, truth, authenticity, courage and joy.  But when I am over-tired, over-scheduled, over-worked, under-silenced and under-laughed, then I find that the ego-tour-guides in my mind and soul are imposters like that gardener – talking but about thinks of which they know nothing and all the while, giving false information with just enough truth to sound a bit convincing.  And when that happens, I begin to see what I want to see, or think that I see, rather than what is actually true.

I define spirituality as a relentless desire to see what is true. I know…not very angels-and-incense of me. But I see church leadership as a willingness to have the courage to speak what is true from a prayerful and well place. Lead where it may and cost what it will.


4 Replies to “our inner tour-guide”

  1. Charles, how your inner self has matured and shows in your writing! Proud of you! BTW, I’m downsizing. Want your rocking chair? Swanaee. You have to transport 😉

  2. I’ve missed your writings this week. You normally begin my day, reading outside , coffee, and dogs. Are you okay?

    1. Liz: We all have times in our lives when, in fact, we are not OK. Indeed I am not OK right now. But I will be. It is dis-spiriting to be in such a terribly anxious national Episcopal Church right now, especially as a gifted and successful fundraiser at a place as wonderful and successful as Saint John’s Cathedral in Denver, but I am figuring out how to defend myself in The Church with kindness and real integrity and how to support churches working so hard just to fund their good missions. Moving into the second half of life is not easy but it is essential. All shall be well and very soon, I will be back to a week-daily routine of writing The Daily Sip as well as a second blog on Episcopal Cafe which will help churches to raise money in a more DIY and responsible way. All will be well. Thank you for asking. Everything is set in place for me to thrive again very soon. Thank you for the kindness of asking. Thank you for the great kindness of this inquiry to my well-being and for the more than 30 other similar questions from Daily Sip readers for which this is an answer to their inquiry as well. Warmly, Charles

  3. A young man who was recently baptized at your church (I have the beautiful pictures) sent me the post you wrote above. I am an almost-60-year-old Jewish woman from Connecticut, and reading this piece was inspiring, comforting, and educational. It also shows me once again how people can benefit from the teachings of all variety of religious leaders. Thank you for all the good work you are doing.

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