by Father Mark Goldasich
Right or left brain? I’m sure that you’re aware of the theory that we humans tend to favor one side or the other. Left-brain types are more analytical and logical; right-brain types, more subjective and intuitive. With all of the news from Vatican City these past few weeks and its effect on our work here at The Leaven, I’ve developed a third type: scatterbrained.
Happily, though, the following story has given me some hope.
The famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright once told of an incident that seemed insignificant at the time, but had a profound influence on the rest of his life.
The winter when he was nine years old, he went walking across a snow-covered field with his reserved, no-nonsense uncle. As the two of them reached the far end of the field, his uncle stopped him. He pointed out his own tracks in the snow — straight and true as an arrow’s flight. Then he indicated young Frank’s meandering path all over the field.
“Notice how your tracks wander aimlessly from the fence to the cattle to the woods and back again,” his uncle said. “And see how my tracks aim directly to my goal. There’s an important lesson in that.”
Years later, the world-famous architect liked to tell how this experience greatly contributed to his philosophy in life.
“I determined right then,” he’d say with a twinkle in his eye, “not to miss most things in life as my uncle had!” (Found in “Life Goals” in “Perfect Illustrations for Every Topic and Occasion,” by Craig Brian Larson and Drew Zahn.)
Obviously, we did get all of the issues of the paper out on time (right brain) and in a style that was, I hope, inviting, attractive and creative (left brain). In the process, though, I’ve learned a whole lot about the new pope — tons of fascinating tidbits that we didn’t have room for in the paper (scatterbrained).
Maybe being scatterbrained, taking that meandering path instead of the most direct route, is a blessing in life, as Frank Lloyd Wright discovered. The meanderer is open to seeing and experienc- ing new things.
For me, that’s what Easter is all about. The risen Christ brought a new way to look at things, a fresh hope, a recreated life. He invites us each year to not pursue the most efficient way in life, or the way that we’ve always done things before. Easter is meant to shake things up. It teases us to believe in life after death, light shining in darkness, happiness sending sorrow packing.
I continue to read with great interest the stories of Pope Francis. I think that he and Frank Lloyd Wright would get along well. Although it no doubt causes fits for the Swiss Guards and Vatican police, I relish that we have a pope who, while heading to the altar in St. Peter’s Square, asks the popemobile driver to stop so that he can get out and kiss the head of a disabled man or hold and bless a tiny baby. I love that he has Mass not only for important dignitaries in the church or government, but for the gardeners, cooks, and sanitation workers at the Vatican. And while I’m sure that he’ll carve out time for meetings and encyclicals, it’s exhilarating that he’s not afraid to dart into a crowd just to spend time with ordinary people.
During these seven weeks of the Easter season, let’s take a meandering path to Pentecost. Treat yourself to something new. It doesn’t need to be earthshaking. It can be as simple as going to
a different Mass or parish on Sunday, staying after Mass to visit in the parking lot, driving to church by a new route, or even walking there if possible.
You might try a new way to pray (there are many), or venture into an unfamiliar area of ministry (such as visiting shut-ins or volunteering at a food kitchen or building a Habitat house). Or you can just open up new areas in your personal experience (like trying a new food or recipe, wearing two different socks, or exploring a new hobby).
At least for these next few weeks, breathe in the Resurrection, set aside stifling efficiency and the pressure to rush. Take time to explore the wonders of your world, travel the long and adventurous route, and see life from the perspective of our new “roamin’” pontiff.