The Dome

First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, Tennessee

I am awake; I will spend my life taking this armor off.

Pema Chodron

Lots of talk about self care these days. Lots. And no doubt we need it. A long time friend and I were skimming the topic, a frequent discussion of the senescent crowd when we came to the fork in the road and wouldn’t you know: two roads diverged in a yellow wood (thank you, Robert Frost).

And yes we can hang our crowns on the fact that one road is yellow because vintage does win the day. Still we took up the remaining path – the sterile tunnel of magic tricks in the name of preservation.

For better or worse I told my friend, I favor the yellow road because for me it is golden and not unlike the process of learning to read or swim. Intentional research and development is a deposit in life that keeps on giving. A good for you overture was her uncertain response.

Illusion does have its fun place of course; after all I cherish my super duper moisturizer, but a mightier preference is for spending more time on a fundamental shift – to unfurl the better human before I blow this joint.

Is that an old fashioned notion? I hope to Dear Jesus it is not because in the wake of a generational departure we will be leaving beloved descendants to deal with the mindsets that we carelessly adopted and embedded in them.

This might be tricky because on earth today there are around 7.9 billion people saddled with fearful gospels that they developed to suit themselves. During the past year we had front row seats to the effectiveness of this schtick.

Daniel Goldman brings the better human to the forefront when in Emotional Intelligence he says, “if there is a remedy, I feel it must lie in how we prepare our young for life.”

A few years ago I was gifted with a hit of the golden rule. The case in point called me to examine my evil way of living in a world that excludes the consideration of another’s road.

Our 100 year old church was in need of a stabilizing redo and as each member formulated their opinion of the project, we began to argue over whether or not to replace “the dome.” Now “the dome” was not included in the original set of architectural plans. In fact it was added later like a cherry on top for some reason unknown to me. Hmmph.

Personally I found it offensive that we would be in the business of raising money for something not true to the first congregation’s vision. Besides other needy community endeavors called out for salvage. Hmmph. For me it was, in fact clunky, and my own father almost met an early death investigating its design which was prone to leakage.

On the flip side, the back story of a long time church member who vehemently pushed his opinion revealed that “the dome” must be replaced and rebuilt better than ever. Naturally, I thought, this made sense because this elderly member had never, to my knowledge, entertained anything that smacked of the visionary.

I’ll refer to him as Mr. Stoic, a humorless soul. I claimed to understand his motives as I scrutinized him at close range for decades while sitting in the pew behind his squared-off shoulders.

As the church body smoldered, leadership prayed for a way back to unification for the renovation. For Sundays on end we found ourselves seated in folding chairs inside a temporary structure and Mr. Stoic sat before me per usual. Post service one Sunday we were called to offer our dome ideas where upon my nemesis walked to the podium and turned with tighten lips to face us all.

And then a strange thing happen. His voice cracked with the pain of surviving WWII. In few words he talked about the relief he felt after the long journey home concluding with tears by saying that as he turned the corner on to West 7th Street and saw “the dome,” he knew everything would be alright.

The next day I wrote a check for “that dome.” Grace offered me the sort of learning that presented an evolutionary best practice. Its path has nothing to do with the maintenance of the present or the past; it was an invitation to walk in another person’s tired shoes.

For all the tearing apart that occurs to prove we are right, our support of others is where we will build the new earth. This journey of burdens-shared will absolutely lighten our loads. I’m sure of it because Mother Nature doesn’t quibble. She proves the point everyday and harmony prevails.

And though I can slide back into that sort of righteous personality who thinks my vision, my ideas, my holy place, my school, my race and my notion about money spent on “the dome” is correct; I’m saved only by breathing in Mr. Stoic’s pain.

A duplicated dome hovered above Mr. Stoic and me as our stories contemplatively wove together inside the small sanctuary on West 7th Street until he flew away. His vulnerability and some deep listening made it all possible.

I now point to its shelter with a faithful sigh because of the choice trail through the yellow wood.