Subversive Acts

“Rest and laughter are the most spiritual and subversive acts of all.  Laugh, rest, slow down.”

–Anne Lamott

“Let Us Commence”

Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

I know what you’re thinking.  Does Joy have one original thought in her head, or is her mind only occupied by quotes from famous authors,  swirling around like plastic bags and empty coffee cups in an empty lot?  Well, deal with it.  At least until I’ve read everything by Anne Lamott and get over it.

When I first got back from Norway, I mentioned to a friend that I found it difficult to keep a quiet heart while residing here in Los Angeles.  At Grimerud, in the countryside, it was still difficult to get my mind to shut up for a little while so I could have some peace.  But it was easier.  I could take an hour long walk and not see one other person or car.  I could set myself up in one of the living rooms overlooking the lake with provisions of brown cheese, tea, and Jason Upton to aid my quieting process.  But ever since I came back, it’s like there’s a bird flapping around in my head all the time, piercing any attempts at peace with its frantic squawking.  

The problem is, I haven’t been doing what I need to do to quiet my mind, my heart, my soul.  Well, sometimes I do.  I go to Starbucks with my bag full of books: the Bible, my journal, a devotional or two, a Christian book, and a novel.  Oh, and my iPod.  I sit in the shade and drown out the sound of traffic on Valencia Boulevard and wait for the dust to settle.  Usually out of that dust comes Jesus, with some tender words, reassurances, and help for things I didn’t even know I needed help with.  These are times that lift me up, strengthen me, and buoy me for the rest of the day (or sometimes hour).  Andreas, my leader in Norway, once said that a solid affirmation from God can keep him going for weeks.

It’s true, and after these times with Him I always wonder why I waste my time on anything else.  And yet I do.  I putter around my room, I waste endless hours on Facebook, I watch television that doesn’t even entertain me, and I ruminate on anxiety-laden scenarios of the future or rejection-stained moments from the past.

When I’m alone, why don’t I do the things that make me quiet, and make me happy?  Reading good books, writing, spending time outdoors, savoring good food.  I don’t feel like a true American unless I’m busy and caught up on all the latest TV shows.  It’s such a status symbol here: being busy.  That’s why Anne Lamott says it’s subversive to rest.  You’re going against the grain, you’re that lady with cellulite who still wears shorts and refuses to wear the shame others try to pin on her.  I find myself sometimes doing my errands with a flat line for a mouth and a furrowed brow.  That’s when I feel Jesus nudge me with his elbow and say, “Lighten up, Joy.  Why are you so serious?”  

Instead of being stressed out and irritated and mad at myself for getting lost for the third time this week, can I just laugh at myself?  Can I laugh at the situation I’m in, or the feeling that I’m not what they’re looking for, or at the sight of a dog recklessly hanging his head out the window of a moving car, with the wind in his hair?  This morning on my run, as I was somberly plodding along, I saw a squirrel bounding toward a tree, trampoline-hopping off all four paws at once, barely letting them touch the ground.  I let out the breath I hadn’t realized I was holding in a quick, spastic laugh.  

Tonight while I ate dinner, instead or watching The Office online or another episode of Gilmore Girls, I read out of The Wind in the Willows and let my heart rest in the burrows and fields and ponds of Kenneth Grahame’s imagination.

Subversive acts usually start on a small scale.


One thought on “Subversive Acts

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  1. You’re post reminded me of this passage by the Zen poet Ryokan:

    “If someone asks what is the mark of enlightenment or illusion,
    I cannot say — wealth and honor are nothing but dust,
    As the evening rain falls, I sit in my hermitage
    And stretch out both feet in answer.”

    Rest is highly subversive.


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