On the Romance of Unbelonging, the Sabbath of Work-Life, and the Slowness of Love
In another life, I would be a dancer. I would come alive – physically, spiritually, passionately. Then I would retreat to a solitary haven for my soul to find its sabbath. I would ponder about life and about God. I would even pray.
In this other life, I would have a steady rhythm. I would go about my vanilla routine, do my chores, hang out with the people I dance with. I might even call some of these people friends. But I would not have found my soulmate. I would not have found my community. I would be searching. And I would be okay with that. I would even be joyous (though I suspect that I would not know it).
I would learn French. I would learn to cook, and I would experiment with new recipes that would not always work. I would write my book which would never seem to finish. But I would write.
A few days ago, when I was walking out of the house on my way to work, the world suddenly felt surreal. All these expectations and obligations, these familiar friends and comfort zones, these things to do and places to go – I felt there was something, somewhere, sometime out there more real than all of these. I did not chafe at my current responsibilities; but I felt so drawn to this loneliness, this life of unbelonging, this magis.
But I wonder also if the romance of the misfit lies not in that he does not belong, but he does: to a Toothless or to a Stitch, to a Landover or a Narnia, to a Door or an Yvaine. I wonder if the romance lies in him belonging so exclusively to the Other (be it a Being, a World, or a Person) that it matters not, and in fact it also necessitates, that he does not belong to all the others.
It has been a while since I revisited such bohemian dreams. Am I being escapist? I cannot help feeling that I am being moved more by attraction than by attrition.
But then there are countervailing virtues to purpose: there is persistence and there is performance. There is patience.
During the Sec 2 Camp last weekend, N led a powerful worship on the first day centred around Jesus, Lover of my soul. Thereafter, the ‘love story’ theme resounded throughout the Camp. Having blogged about the same just a day before the Camp began, I thought surely God intended this message for me too. And so I kept waiting for the opportunity to reignite my faith.
But each time I thought I could go off later on my own to pray, that time shrivelled away – through music pracs, games, et al. Even when Adoration was part of the session on the second night, I had hardly knelt down when I had to resume playing keys. How then do I rest? Where is my respite? When is my sabbath?
In The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man,Heschel argues that we have got it all backwards: “The Sabbath is not for the sake of the weekdays; the weekdays are for the sake of Sabbath. It is not an interlude but the climax of living.”
(Heschel also argues that Judaism is a “religion centrally concerned with holiness in time… God is not in things of space, but in moments of time.” I wonder then if it is blasphemy to commodify what is blessed into what is billable.)
Sitaraman builds on this idea to argue that the commitment to serve profesionally and the finding of meaning beyond the professional (the “Work-Life Model”) is just as noble as the courage to do what we love (the “Integrationist Model”). This is especially pertinent for lawyers because we will advocate for causes we do not believe in, and act for clients whom we do not agree with.
In short, we will not always do what we love, desire, or are attracted to.
The week after Sec 2 Camp, I listened to Audrey Assad’s Slow almost every morning. I had to comfort myself that if I could not reignite a faithfire, I could at least rekindle a glow – not too much, but enough to give me hope.
I have a vision of a milestone 5 years (ambitiouslly, 3 years) down this path. It is bright and it is steady. And if I can endure beyond my inexperience, I may perhaps “live [my] way into the answer”.
I shall also visit Geneva during my call break. I shall explore this path of unbelonging and attraction.
But like I told the service team at the Camp Debrief, in the grand scheme of things, there is still such a long way to go. Love moves slow, so let’s move slow.