Living As If in a What-If World

Staff_McDermott, TomThe poet and cancer survivor, Mark Nepo, tells a curious story about a bicyclist who had trained long and hard for a race similar to the Tour de France. Disciplined. Focused. The cyclist even shaved his legs and arms, creating as fast and streamlined a body as possible.

As the race progressed, the cyclist sped out far ahead of the group early on to the point the cyclists behind him were nowhere in sight. The race continued like this for miles until late in the morning, just as he was descending a long hill, an enormous blue heron, with its magnificent wings fully spread, swooped down in front of his handlebars! The cyclist was stunned and stopped in the road. It was as if something opened in him that he’d been chasing more than the bicycle race itself. He stood there, straddling his bike, watching the heron glide off in the distance as the other cyclists raced past him.

Some years later, someone asked him, “What cost you the race that day?” The cyclist stared off and said, “I didn’t lose the race — I left it.”

A pragmatist, or realist, would say, “Still, he did lose the race.”

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“Metamorphosis” by photographer David Taggart

But what if all this training and effort were done just so he could see the blue heron at that moment — even if such training wasn’t his initial intent? What if failing at what we’re after (what we think we’re after) in order to be present to what’s happening here and now is the truest journey for our soul?

This Sunday we continue our Eastertide series, “Living ‘As If’ in a ‘What-If’ World” — exploring what it means to practice resurrection. We’ll be looking at one of my favorite texts in the New Testament, John 12, where Jesus says to his disciples, “listen carefully: unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.”

What really constitutes success and failure? How deeply ingrained are notions of failure and success? In a culture so defined by success and failure, what do the words of Jesus, and the deeper longings of our hearts, offer as a path to practicing resurrection and living “as if” here and now?

This Sunday, May 7, we’ll have several guest singers with us as we bring together the music of Imagine Dragons, Susan Tedeschi, Rumi, and explore the idea of “Failing to Succeed.”

Hope to see you then!

Tom

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