How to catch a demon with his pants down.

Catching a demon with his Pants Down

I was walking to my truck today and as I passed another man on the sidewalk, we said hello to one another and continued on our way. He looked me in the eyes and in a subtle flash of a moment I noticed that something inside me averted my eyes, and didn’t want to be seen. His gaze, like headlights—my lies and deceits, like a deer—stood frozen for a quick moment, exposed and afraid under his momentary gaze, until this something inside me convinced me to look away.

Who was that, what was that within me? There was no specific shame, no specific thought or image that ran for shelter inside me, but a general fright caused this little panic, and caught my interest. As I continued walking, I decided not to let this little shifty creep off the hook, I decided to pursue this poltergeist within me to see of what it is made, from where it came, and to where it fled.

And here’s how to catch a demon with its pants down. They first and foremost don’t want to be seen, as they do their dirty work. So if you catch them, don’t let them hide. Keep them under the bright light of scrutiny until they melt away. To do this I considered, ‘what was it that caused me to look away just now’ and coupled with that consideration, I used imagination to consider, ‘what would have to be different inside me in order to not feel the impulse to look away’, and by this method I triangulated the tiny monster and exposed him briefly in my mind’s eye—he was Judgement I have against other people, not against this man I met on the sidewalk in particular, but general judgement I hold towards life, as if to say, “I could do the world better”.

And this realization then exposed Judgement’s comrade, Pride, which then showed me Complaint and Selfishness as well. They were all there, like a haze covering my vision, or like scales over my eyes. They hated to be seen; and I saw how they pulled the strings behind the scenes, distorted my vision of life, and caused me intuitively to feel ashamed due to the knowledge that my vision is distorted because of them, and I’m not as I should be so long as they act with impunity in the shadows within me.

Then I envisioned what I would be if I was without them, and extrapolated that out to imagine what would the world be without them? And this led to a prayer, a request and desire, written as a poem, for just this type of me, and this type of world:

An Economy of Purity

 

I don’t want to be a purveyor of judgement;

a vendor of complaints.

 

Nor do I wish to do business in arguments;

making transactions in rights and wrongs—

 

Or assessing the value of others,

based on their utility for me.

 

Instead.

 

I wish to see into your eyes,

and have you look into mine;

trading in trust and purity,

exchanging understandings—

 

Making our livings

by love.

 

And by this method, and similar ones, we can catch the demons with their pants down, and make the world a better place within us.

 

~FS

 

 

 

 

October 30

If you wish to be granted a mental vision of the divine you must first embrace a peaceful and quiet way of life, and devote your efforts to acquiring a knowledge of both yourself and God. If you do this and achieve a pure state untroubled by any passion, there is nothing to prevent your intellect from perceiving, as it were in a light breeze (1 Kings 19:12), Him who is invisible to all; and He will bring you good tidings of salvation through a yet clearer knowledge of Himself.

~St Theognostos

An Economy of Purity

I don’t want to be a purveyor of judgement;

a vendor of complaints.

 

Nor do I wish to do business in arguments;

making transactions in rights and wrongs—

 

Or assessing the value of others,

based on their utility for me.

 

Instead.

 

I wish to see into your eyes,

and have you look into mine;

trading in trust and purity,

exchanging understandings—

 

Making our livings

by love.

 

~FS

 

 

 

 

 

Our First Ride

Twenty-five years ago, perhaps a little longer, I did my last long bicycle ride. Today, I still ride a bit, and commute by bike, but I pretty much figured my significant riding was behind me.  However, recently my wife got a new bike and encouraged me to join her on longer rides. I resisted at first, remembering the saddle-sore associated with rides of several hours or more, and rather preferring long-sitting on the couch reading, to long rides on a hard seat.

But I could see how much she wanted a biking partner, and it did seem like a good way to spend time together, so I rode a few times with her, just for a half-hour or so on some shorter local rides around town. Eventually I bought a new bike of my own, in hopes of giving myself a fighting chance of keeping up with her, and the bicycling bug bit me again—the wind in the hair, the smell of the grass and trees, the closeness to the rhythms and harmonies of the earth. I was hooked.

A few days ago we did our first longer bike ride together. We rode the Centennial Trail north of Seattle, which is 60 miles roundtrip: beginning at the southern trailhead in downtown Snohomish, WA, traveling north through Arlington and on to the northern trailhead at the Nakashima Heritage Barn near the Skagit County line, and then back again.

It was a beautiful, clear and crisp fall day. And it was exciting. Our first real bicycling adventure together and what a perfect trail to initiate ourselves. The trail is generally flat and meanders through small towns, across pastures, over old trestle-bridges spanning several rivers and creeks, and alongside forested areas; it overlooks wide agricultural valleys, and shoulders up against small lakes as it winds its way northward.

Under canopies of big-leaf maples the trail is strewn with fallen leaves the color of gold and pumpkin, which crackle and crunch under our tires. We pass small farms, smell the sweet scent of freshly cut grass, hear the sounds of life as we ride by, and encounter new surprises again and again as we make our way along the trail.

Everyone knows that smells can unlock old memories. Taking up old activities again can also awaken long-forgotten feelings. This bicycle ride was reviving in me an exhilarating freedom, a return to youth. As we coasted under the trees, I felt a strong and vivid remembrance of a younger me—one with a future of endless possibilities, living in a world of simple pleasures, and enjoying the moment, without concern for tomorrow. With very little effort I imagined myself back there again, in that time, in my youth, riding as I had over 25 years before.

We felt so alive, my wife and I, as we pedaled our way along the trail. Which is so great, because as the ride wore on, most of my extremities began to give out, and felt as though they were slowly dying. We were pounding the pedals fairly hard, at least from my perspective, because, glancing over at my wife it didn’t appear that she was working nearly as hard as me; and for most of the ride my left foot had gone numb. I don’t have great circulation so I’m guessing this was the problem.

At some point along the way my right foot also started to tingle, and eventually it also stopped sending signals back to my brain. But I wanted to keep up with her, so as long as I could still pedal I was all for it; besides it was just such a beautiful day, I didn’t want to complain. Although I did. I complained and whined quite a bit and shook my right foot, and then my left foot every so often to prove that I was telling the truth.

In the meantime my right hand also went numb. It seemed every extremity of mine was slowly shutting down, in protest to all the activity. I still had feeling in my left hand and unfortunately in my behind. That seemed to be the one area where all my feeling was concentrated. As we continued to ride, it felt hotter and hotter back there. It was as if a ring of fire had encircled, and was now devouring my rear end.

But what a beautiful day. And the trail is one of the most beautiful you could hope for, with such varied and picturesque scenery. Traveling this way, by bicycle, one gets to experience the sights, the sounds, the smells, all of the senses in a full and complete way, uninsulated from one’s surroundings, with nothing to come between you and your environment. And the pace of travel by bicycle is delightful and relaxing, offering opportunities for enriching experiences with other bicyclists, walkers on the trail, dogs and other creatures, children and townsfolk.

There is something about bicycling that breaks down walls, piques interest, and makes people happy. Some cyclists take things very seriously and look extremely determined but I suspect even those, if you could catch them and talk with them for a moment, you’d find a fun-loving kid underneath all that riding gear and equipment.

Getting outside and experiencing life in this way is a genuine breath of fresh air and is as easy as riding a bike.

~FS

 

 

 

 

 

October 29

If your wish is to become a theologian and a contemplative, ascend by the path of ascetic practice and through self-purification acquire what is pure. Do not pursue theology beyond the limits of your present state of development; it is wrong for us who are still drinking the milk of the virtues to attempt to soar to the heights of theology, and if we do so we will flounder like fledglings, however great the longing roused within us by the honey of spiritual knowledge. But, once purified by self-restraint and tears, we will be lifted up from the earth like Elijah or Habakkuk (2 Kings 2:11; Bel and the Dragon 36-99), anticipating the time when we will be caught up into the clouds (1 Thessalonians 4:17); and transported beyond the world of the senses by undistracted prayer, pure and contemplative, we may then in our search for God touch the fringe of theology.

~St Theognostos

October 27

“You have to struggle. The heart has to strive and to suffer. Things worth striving and suffering for do not come to us if we sleep or are indolent. Even earth’s blessings do not come to us without effort on our part. If you want to develop spiritually you must above all renounce your own will; you must acquire a heart that is sorrowful…

But if when you set out on the path of renunciation there is no sorrow in your heart, no spiritual tears or remembrance of endless punishment, no true stillness or persistent prayer…if none of these things has become habitual in you…and if awe of God does not grow in your mind, then you are still attached to the world and your intellect cannot be pure when you pray. True devoutness and awe of God purify the soul from the passions, render the intellect free, lead it to natural contemplation, and make it apt for theology.”

~A Discourse on Abba Philimon