Have you ever had an experience that didn’t seem out of the ordinary when it happened, but after you had the chance to reflect on it you realized that everything was not as it seemed in real-time? Could I have phrased that any more cryptically?
As I have mentioned before, I have a small business for which I do occupancy and property inspections. It takes me to some of the finest parts of the City of Milwaukee, and has been a real education in the short time I have been doing it. In fact, it’s been such an education that I think every seminarian and every politician should have to ride with me for just one day. I’m certain that both our clergy and out government would be stronger for the experience.
Yesterday I walked up to a home in a neighborhood of boarded up homes and vacant lots. I recalled being at that home before because I noticed a rather conspicuous security camera that was pointed at anyone standing in front of the front door. I also noticed that, since the last time I was there, the house number (address) had disappeared from the front of the home. In and of itself, that’s not very remarkable in areas where property maintenance has been neglected and many of these homes are owned by absentee landlords. What happened next was unusual.
A voice from inside the door, which had a large window in it that I could not see through, asked if I was looking for the address. I told him the address I was looking for and he said I was at the right house. I asked if the person whose name was on my inspection sheet lived at the home and he indicated they did. I had some paperwork for that person and asked if he would give it to them. He agreed, and told me to pass it through the mail slot. It seemed to me that it was rather odd that he didn’t just open the door – I may like to think I am a pretty imposing figure, but the truth is that in the neighborhoods where I hang out for work I am about as imposing as Casper the Friendly Ghost. Under the watchful eye of the security camera, I made my way down the steps and to my van with the last stop of the day having been completed. I drove home, pondering the odd person at my last stop. After all, why would anybody have a security camera that would let them see who comes to the front door…
Of course, I am not stupid. I may be slow at intervals, but not stupid. I dodged a bullet today, both literally and figuratively. I didn’t listen to my gut, and got lucky. In truth, I was too busy and too focused for my own good. Most of society would say that being focused and progressing efficiently toward accomplishing a task or goal are good things – and they are, in a perfect world. Sometimes all the contemporary talk about mindfulness can lead us to believe that the goal is to achieve single pointed focus at all times. In theory, that may be well and good, but in practice outside the monastery such single pointedness can get you killed. We need also to trust our instincts, and when we see something that seems out-of-place to slow down and allow ourselves to ask some questions.
Very often, so-called spiritual truths are excellent in theory and marginal in practice. That’s why it’s so important for each generation and each cultural setting to reinterpret those truths for their time and circumstances. Blindly following the blind – or the seriously outdated – simply doesn’t work.