George Washington, Amtrak, Cassian, Slug

Monday, February 22. George Washington’s birthday.
Amtrak. Somewhere between D. C.and N.Y.

I’ve been in Fredericksburg, Virginia since Friday, leading a workshop on one day, an adult forum the next, participating in a youth group event, two dinner parties, and numerous extraordinary conversations with extraordinary people.

I stayed across the street from George Washington’s sister’s house and walked past his mother’s house on the way back and forth to the parish I was visiting. George Washington went to Sunday School there. Oh, and Happy Birthday George!

Thank you, wonderful people of St. George’s church! What a great parish!

So I’m on my way home. My mind is mush. Nevertheless I’m reading Mary Margaret Funk’s Thoughts Matter – a reflection on Cassian’s teaching on renunciation of mindless thoughts. Cassian teaches about noticing thoughts, redirecting them, letting prayer accompany them. I’m still playing around with models of the Seven Deadly Sins, which is why I chose this book for the train ride.

She writes,
Thoughts that are thought about become desires. Desires that are thought about become passions. Good thoughts become virtues. Bad thoughts become bad desires; bad passions or actions of habit become sins. The passions are acted upon when we consent, then the passions move from passive to active engagement.
e can redirect our thoughts. We can notice our thoughts at the first instance and can get control of our mind. A mind in control of itself is at peace.
First thoughts beget second thoughts, which become intentions. Intentions constitute motivations and indicate where the heart resides. Motivation moves the will to decide and act on the thought. Decisions give voice to the choices we intend to act upon.
Attention to our thoughts reveals our intentions. Right deeds must be accompanied by the right reason, or the deed becomes wrong for us in that particular situation. Discernment is our ability to do the right deed with the right intention or motivation.
The thoughts that we find in our interior chatter cluster into eight themes which recur constantly.

Those themes comprise the remaining chapters: About Food, About Sex, About Things, About Anger, About Dejection, About Acedia, About Vainglory, About Pride.

It’s comforting to know that the early Christian monastics recognized the ceaseless chatter and clutter and chaos in the brain. I’m glad for techniques to acknowledge the spontaneous passions erupting into endless circles of self-defeating interruptions. I was especially amused and comforted by Mary Margaret Funk’s inclusion of this observation by Thomas Merton in The Wisdom of the Desert.

Did the early monks rise above their passions? According to Thomas Merton it seems that the praise of monks “beyond all passion” came from tourists who passed briefly through the deserts and went home to write books about what they had seen, rather than from those who had spent their whole lives in the wilderness. The monks themselves used this very struggle as the path. 

Why did I think I’d be productive and alert on this train ride? I was hoping for uninterrupted time to read and think. I might have remembered that I’m usually psychically drained after giving a conference. If I follow Funk’s system of thoughts leading to actions, my mushy thoughts might become mushy ideas and lead to mushy deeds dripping in mindless mush. I should be careful!

Sorry for posting late today. There’s no internet on the train, and Amtrak’s running late.

St. Aidan’s House
around 5 pm

(Arriving in Brewster, I saw the ground for the first time on my trip! Snow still lies in heaps throughout Virginia and the states south of New York.) After posting the blog, website, and newsletter, I’m going to get into pajamas, turn into a slug, eat some mush, and watch old episodes of “Bones” on TV with Bill.  I don’t think Cassian would approve.  But I’m not quite ready to completely renounce mindlessness.

One Response to “George Washington, Amtrak, Cassian, Slug”

  1. Anna Black Says:

    We loved having you at St. George’s!

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