I awoke this morning “strangely pensive” – and where that phrase came from, God only knows! That, however, is not strictly true. I can identify a number of catalysts.
(1) The enlightenment by Bonhoeffer with respect to Marg’s death has been, and is, extremely significant – so much so that at the gathering of the faithful yesterday I gave to Russell a copy of yesterday’s journaling and asked him to “check it out”. What I expect him to say, I don’t exactly know. It just seems to me as if a Rubicon has been crossed, and I am now on the other side.
(2) St Francis has something to do with it, and I have a number of “recollections with respect to that strange guy to whom I feel strangely drawn this morning.
I remember, for instance. when I learned that Bob Maddox was dying, I sent a note to him saying “Keep hoeing the field”. I have no idea whether he actually got the message but it certainly confused his good wife Shirley. To avoid repeating the faux pas, I hasten to add that there is a story that when St Francis was hoeing a field, he was asked what he would do if he was told that he was about to die. His answer was “I would keep hoeing the field”.
I have always had a soft spot for Francis, and my friend Bernadette certainly played a large part in that. I have statues of the guy everywhere that were given to me by Bern – one of which I took with me to the Iraq war as a kind of icon. Bern and I enjoyed a relationship that was akin to that of Francis and Clair on a minor scale. Sex was never entertained as far as we were concerned, notwithstanding we often shared a bedroom when necessary. We did so many things together. We were involved in the interfada together, we cared for aboriginal folk and Palestinian people together – we even went to jail together after a protest. We did so many things together. When at Bern’s insistence, I published my Iraq war journaling and dedicated it to “the women in my life”, Bern was one of those to whom I was referring. Marg was also very close to Bern and she and Bern for weeks protested the stupidity of he Iraq war outside the American Embassy while I was (in Bern’s words) “living it up in Iraq”. I remember, with a grin on my face, when we were in Jerusalem on Christmas Eve and there literally was no room for us at any of the Inns. As we left our “inn” I said to Bern “I don’t suppose by any chance you are pregnant”. Her response was ‘Well if I am, it’s certainly going to be a virgin birth!” We spent the night praying in the numerous chapels surrounding the Church of the Nativity, a night to be forever remembered.
All of the above is to point up the fact that I am today thinking about St Francis, and I am not sure why. On one of our trips to Europe we came back via Mt La Verna the place where Francis drew his life together and died about eighteen months later. We met there while walking in the woods a young priest about to be dedicated to work in an Italian slum. Francis is certainly alive and well today. We talked for a long time and parted with an embrace. I have no idea whether the young priest is still alive. What I do know is that Francis has died, Bern has died, Marg has died, and it is only a short time before I too will die. The question is what do I do in the meantime? That is the question I now feel before me!
(3) I am not the first, of course. The philosopher Heidegger maintained that “The contemplation of death is the key to authenticate existence”. The problem is that he identified with the Nazis. Whether or not this was “a human error” as some of his philosophic friends have called it is hardly the point. His disillusionment with democracy I can understand and share. The holocaust is a very different consideration. Be that as it may it isn’t what I am on about. My concern is that, with the life of Maggie being immortalized by Bonhoeffer, what should I now be doing.