Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Fr. Francis Kline, O.C.S.O. 1948-2006

I received news this past Wednesday that Father Francis Kline, Abbott of Mepkin Abbey, a Trappist monestary in South Carolina, passed away the previous Sunday. (You can read his obituary online.)

It's hard for me to convey, all at once, the significance of Father Francis in my life. I'm even going to try. He was a great friend to the SKS and sat on its board of directors. He was a visionary in world of spiritual life; he, like us, was trying to define a way that ancient traditions can grow and thrive in a modern world. My second son bears his name. Talk about your "basically better person" -- Francis was the greatest human being I have ever met. His talents for organization, leadership, music, theology, spirituality, and friendship were unsurpassed.

I received this news with a cloud of sadness at first. His going was not completely unexpected; he had been suffereing from leukemia for years and had held on much longer than had been expected. But the dark cloud didn't dissapate; I went through my day with greater heaviness, a heaviness and tiredness and distraction that felt like a physical sickness. The first customer I spoke with asked me, "Are you OK? You sound kind of tense." And that afternoon, when I spoke to Harry about it, and about possibly going to the memorial service, I came apart at the seams and wept. "Well, I guess you need to go, then," he said after an awkward pause.

Where did this come from? It would not be the first time that I had been taken unawares by my emotions. I am Captain Repression, and among my superpowers is the capacity to stuff the thorniest feelings deep down beneath a facade of stoic impassiveness. But this was too strong even for me to contain. And it didn't just explode and go away, having spent its energy. It gained momentum. I couldn't do any work. I could barely manage to talk to people. And . . . oh shit, I had to lead the UNC SKS tonight. I can't be coming apart at the seams for the first meeting.

So, with a mammoth effort, I stuffed it all back down. I managed to not even look like I had been crying for hours, though I had a splitting headache from the effort. I knew I was just postponing the inevitable.


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