Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Treasures in Clay Pigeons

The first half of my UK trip was pure joy. For the first time in my life I shot clay pigeons. It was more fun than a card carrying gun control advocate should ever admit to. For the first time in many years my whole family (minus one cousin) was in the one place at the same time. For the first time in donkey’s years family members were dancing on tables to 80s music, drinking flaming sambuca shots and laughing for no apparent reason.

The shooting instructor kept saying, “Don’t think about it. Just shoot.” He couldn’t have captured the weekend more perfectly. Stop over thinking and live now. As Alan Watts once said, “We usually don’t look. We overlook.” The instructor said, “See it and shoot. Don’t follow it. Shoot now.”

We were in England for the marriage of my brother to an English woman. Cupid’s arrow hit the mark with this match. My brother’s best man was a Kiwi. Every continent was represented as family and friends joined to celebrate love. Just in our family, there were people present from New York, Michigan, England, Hong Kong and Sydney. The setting was perfect. The mood was blissful. The spirit of Rapunzel was abundant, with hair being let down all over the place.

The healing power of fun and joy are tremendous. I was reading a great journal study on the correlation between children who attend “play free” preschools and later criminal activity. I had the page marked to include some statistics in this post, but then Meg dropped the whole journal in the bath. At first I was annoyed, but then I realized that was perfect too. The numbers aren’t essential (although it was something staggering like one third of children who attend “play free” preschools end up involved in crime compared to one tenth of kids who attend “play full” preschools). The point is that fun is essential. I’m sure there are other studies that show the correlation between play and productivity. If there aren’t, someone should prove that point for me. In the meantime, I will stick to my guns, so to speak.

The instructor was right. Every time I SAW the clay and shot, I hit it (with surprised euphoria). Every time I second guessed myself and waited, I missed. There were treasures beneath the shattered clay pigeons.

Paul describes life in 2 Corinthians 4 as being like “treasures in clay jars”. I’m not sure what he meant by that. Maybe it was a warning not to attach to particular identities or roles or experiences because they are like clay; here one minute and blown to smithereens the next. Beneath the clay exterior is the treasure, the unchanging essence. Maybe it’s a reminder to be humble and flexible. Fun is one way to practice humility and flexibility.

Now I head off on a two week tour of progressive and spiritual groups in England. It promises to be stimulating. We will discuss such weighty matters as the economic crisis, the declining interest in organized religion, and the nature of a post modern God. May a sense of fun constantly remind me that while my truths are partial, and my mind easily distracted, my instincts are often right.

In the midst of crisis, humility and flexibility are treasures. Fun reminds me that life is not as serious as I imagine, my theories are not as accurate as I suspect, and my personas are nowhere near as permanent as my ego would have me believe.

Clay pigeons around the world need fear not. When it comes to shooting, I’m as erratic as Dick Cheney. I’m still learning. I over think more than I realize. I over look more than I see. But then again, I did hit more than I expected. I want to experience in every day life the feeling I had when I hit the clay several times in a row; the sense of instinctive flow. I want the treasures beneath the clay pigeons; the humility and intuitive flexibility.

In the words of Leonard Cohen, “Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."


Allison said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. The picture was great, though the blog may have been enhanced by a photo of you dancing on a table to 80s music... we would have really liked that!

In all seriousness thank you for the reminder to live in the moment and to cherish the fun! We will no doubt have lots of stories of fun to share with you from tonight's Purim Festival at C3!

Safe travels!

Anonymous said...

What a breath of fresh air you are, Ian! I'm 63 years old, attended Presbyterian Sunday School as a kid, made numerous unsuccessful attempts as an adult to come to grips with religious doctrine and what it means to worship God. Recently, I watched a current affairs story on New Zealand television about a Presbyterian minister being sacked, supposedly for being non-fundamentalist. Professor Lloyd Geering was interviewed on the programme and I was prompted me to research his writings. Subsequently I found you and your establishment on the internet and suddenly the light's been turned on! God doesn't need to be some incredible and unbelievable old man in the sky! I don't need to believe the unbelievable myth and legend contained in the bible! But I still have a problem: how can I be a part of a group along the lines of yours in my own local community?

Ian Lawton said...

Hi Keith- thanks for writing. Im thrilled to hear about your freedom and joy. Where do you live? I might know of groups you could join

Allison, ive heard some great things about the Purim celebration. thanks for helping to make it happen- no photos of table dancing at wedding. Cameras were banned at that point

Anonymous said...

I'm in Dunedin, NZ, Ian.

Ian said...

Sorry Keith for delay- i wish i knew of something in Dunedin. It was one part of NZ i never got to. I will check in with some contacts in Auckland