Thursday, May 8, 2014

Yearning for the Cell of Julian of Norwich

Today is the feast day of Julian of Norwich, a 14th century mystic who kept herself in almost total isolation in a small room attached to a cathedral.  I've written about her before, and today, my post about her is up at the Living Lutheran site.  Go here to read it.

You may be asking why I would mention a 14th century mystic on my creativity blog.  Here are some reasons:

--Julian of Norwich wasn't just a mystic; she actually wrote down her visions.  She is likely the first woman to write a book-length work in English.

--And what a series of visions!  She gives God a distinctly feminine face, although it might not be the kind of face that attracts modern feminists.  She's groundbreaking in that way too, although I'm fairly sure she didn't set out to be groundbreaking.

--She might see herself as unworthy of being thought of as a writer. After all, she was only writing the visions that God sent her (in her eyes).  However, those of us who write know that one can utilize any number of techniques to write down a vision, even if one gives credit for the vision to someone else.  Julian of Norwich wrote those visions with amazing craft and art.

I've also been thinking about the little cell which she almost never left.  Lately, I'm beginning to feel the same way about my office.

My office is likely smaller than Julian of Norwich's cell, although unlike some of my colleagues, I do have the advantage of a door that shuts.  The door is heavy; the walls, alas, are not.  I find myself envying the stone walls of Julian of Norwich's cell, walls which would have kept out the sound far more effectively than my office walls.

If I began receiving visions, I'd assume I was going mad from the constant bombardment of sound.

Those of you who knew me in my younger years might think I'm getting my just rewards.  In my younger years, I was often the one bombarding others with sound, although the loud stereos of my youth did not have that throbbing bass beat (the thumpity thump music, as my grandmother called it).

In my older years, I think longingly of monasteries and other places where vows of silence are kept.

I try to use the noise of the modern office as a call to prayer, much the way that cathedral bells used to be a call to prayer.  I confess that I'm not very good at it.

My Lenten discipline was praying for all the angry people who crossed my path.  I had no idea how many angry people crossed my path until I began to pray for them.  Happily, they weren't angry at me, for the most part.  Still, it was rather sobering.

I'm afraid that if I pray every time I feel the flash of irritation from too much noise, I might realize how much noise there really is.  I might not recover. 

If I pray every time I feel the flash of irritation from too much noise, I might get very little else done at the office.

And here's the philosophical thought for the day:  would that be such a bad thing?

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