Archive for the ‘MY WRITING’ Category

April 15, 2001

I was browsing through the Windsor Plywood store at Smithers. One of the staff asked me if he could help.
“No,” I replied, “I’m just looking for ideas.”
“White seems to be popular,” he answered. Not really helpful.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who goes trolling for ideas. Canadian Tire, Home Depot, A Buck or Two, Revelstoke, Windsor Plywood, Value Village – these are some of the places where I go trolling. I just wander around, looking to see what resources might be there, new or previously unnoticed. Perhaps I will find something I can use immediately – something I need but didn’t know I need. But I am really looking for things to add to my memory bank of possibilities, things I might some day be able to use to solve a problem I have not yet encountered.
As I told another salesperson offering to help, “I don’t know what I’m looking for, but I’ll recognize it when I see it.”
It works. I get a lot of enjoyment out of using some little invention I’ve cobbled together out of some junk and a piece of “Builders Hardware” from the Co-Op. It is the only one of its kind in existence and it serves its purpose better than anything I could have bought.
I wish I would go trolling for ideas a little more often, on another level. I wish I had done more trolling when I realize that my habitual ways of doing things, of relating to people, of living inside my skin are simply not good enough and I need to change something: an attitude, a routine, an assumption, an expectation. That’s when I discover that I don’t have much of a treasury of possibilities to sift through. Then I admit I have to put things on hold until I find something I can adapt. (The danger lies in putting something on hold and just leaving it there.)
I see that I need to spend more time just paying attention, watching other people and learning from them that my way is not necessarily the only way or even the best way to do what I need to do. Every person has found unique ways of dealing with life’s obstacles. Every person has something important to teach me. Every person offers an opportunity to marvel and admire.
I don’t troll for something to mimic, but for raw material I can take and shape to fit the demands of my own life, my own situation. There is an inexhaustible supply of human treasure waiting to be found, not even buried like the treasure in the Lord’s parable, but lying on the surface, if only I can slow down, forget my own agenda a while, and just look.
A replenished stock of possibilities is not all I need. If I can’t see which one best fits my situation or how I can make it my own I will never transformed it from possibility to reality. I need a spark of creativity. I need a transfusion of imagination.
Created in the image of our Creator, we are meant to be creators as well. We are destined to be originators, sources of new reality. So often our failures in life are failures of imagination. We work hard, we wear ourselves out with heroic dedication, but we fail to dream.
We are great at remembering. Our liturgies are based on remembering the stories of our predecessors in faith. Remembering the Passover of the Lord makes it present to us and makes us participants.
I don’t think we are so adept when it comes to imagining the future. We need a divine spur to help us move on. But I can’t remember hearing a prayer for imagination. I haven’t been able to find one. All my trolling has yielded only a maxim.
“Don’t mistake the edge of your rut for the horizon.”
© 2001, Phil Smith, Box 64, Ucluelet, B.C. Canada, VOR 3A0. Permission for non-profit use is hereby granted, provided no substantive changes are made and this information is included. I’d appreciate knowing how you may have used my musings!  Any typos?

My Kingdom for a Doughnut
March 15, 2001

I walked through the old Woolworth’s “five and dime” in downtown Milwaukee carrying a paper sack containing several of the glazed potato doughnuts which were a specialty of the house. I had stopped in on my way to the Greyhound depot to catch the bus home for our Christmas break from Saint Francis Major Seminary.
As I passed by the lunch counter I caught a glimpse of the kitchen through the swinging metal door. There, oblivious in steam and noise, a fellow younger than I, dressed in white, lifted a rack of heavy stoneware coffee mugs into a big dish washing machine.
For a split second which now seems to go on forever I realized, it seemed, that before long such a commonplace experience would be impossible for me.
At the time I knew that I was in my last year at the seminary in Milwaukee. The previous summer I had taken the long bus ride to Alton, Illinois, to visit the Oblate novitiate at La Vista. I had sampled the life of a novice. The novice master, Leo Figge, OMI, had answered the questions I came with, and I had committed myself to entering the Oblate congregation the following August. The process was under way.
“Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience.” The traditional religious vows, plus the fourth Oblate vow of Perseverance, didn’t seem to require much of me beyond what I understood the life of a diocesan priest would be. The biggest difference, I expected, would be in the area of poverty. I had been a Third Order Franciscan for some time, and had read much about the Little Poor Man. I knew that as an Oblate novice I would have no pocket money. I naively assumed that the rest of my life would find me in a similar condition. No more stopping into Woolworth’s for a doughnut and, if there was time, a cup of coffee. Somehow the totality of the life changes I would experience seemed to hit me all at once. There would be a price to pay.
Obviously, I didn’t let the threatened loss of a doughnut deter me. I would have been truly foolish if I had, like Esau exchanging his rights as elder son for a hot meal.
Looking back, I can seem really silly in my momentary hesitation. Of course I don’t live without a bit of pocket money, and after all, I’ve now spent most of my life in Canada! It didn’t happen until Tim Horton’s came to Port Alberni, but my citizenship has finally been authenticated. Now, if there is time, I can indulge in a doughnut and coffee when I travel to the big city.
There have been costs, as I had sensed there would be, and much bigger ones than coffee and doughnuts, but in the overall scheme of things they have all been fairly minor. I don’t know whether or not accountants would say I have received my promised hundred-fold, but I won’t bicker. Right now, at least, I enjoy the smug satisfaction of someone who has made a very good bargain and doesn’t want to crow too loudly.
I imagine God also smiling at that unsophisticated farm boy deliberating whether a life of mysterious adventure and tedious routine could outweigh a sack of doughnuts. I dare to imagine the smile includes a certain amount of pride .
© 2001, Phil Smith, Box 64, Ucluelet, B.C. Canada, VOR 3A0. Permission for non-profit use is hereby granted, provided no substantive changes are made and this information is included. I’d appreciate knowing how you may have used my musings!  Any typos?