I remember a play from my college theatre days – “No Exit” by Jean-Paul Sartre in which three characters, after dying, are brought to a clean and comfortable room for eternity rather than go to the tortures of hell as they expected. They have, instead, been placed together in this room, one character says, to make each other miserable. And proceed to do so.
I am in a clean, comfortable room. At least moderately so. The heat wave continues unabated and our air conditioner, which hasn’t received the attention it deserves in this never-ending heat, is not keeping up. We are living with fans and the house temperature is in the mid-80s. I got up early and began calling heating-cooling repairmen. One promises to come by late morning.
In the meantime, I’m pondering escape.
It’s too early for a movie and going to a mall at eight o’clock in the morning hardly sounds fun. What’s to do when there’s no escape? The only cool places are on the West coast and they are so unusually cool this summer, they’re uncomfortable too. Shots from West Coast ballgames show people in coats and hoods. I don’t want to be in a coat and hood.
Most of you reading this are also having your summer of never-ending heat. With or without air conditioning. And we’re all getting a little testy. And when we allow our testy-ness to come out on other people, we make each other miserable. And testy in turn.
So for words of wisdom this morning, for both of us, I picked up my much-used copy of an old friend’s book. I first met Monique Pasternak in Hawaii when I lived at the retreat center. She’s a poet and a mystic, and her book “The New Siddur For Creators.”
“The soul is like a lake: The less storms agitate its surface, the more it can absorb the rays of the sun. As the being learns to rest inside the body, letting go of unnecessary winds and thunders, the soul begins to operate at its full potential. As we empty ourselves, more of God can enter.”
So if you’re trapped in a one-way-no-exit moment…Stop. Go get a bag of ice and put it on the top of your head (it worked for me)! Bring yourself back to emotional balance, and if you don’t want to be a lake absorbing sun, be a lake in a mountain meadow. Allow yourself to enter into a place of calm.
It’s always there, regardless of the circumstances, if we make that choice. And pretty much, we’re all in this summer thing together. Allow the holy presence to soothe your way today, and in that soothing, be the holy presence for others, (and especially for air-conditioning repairmen)!