Dorothy Day referred to her work in ‘The Long Loneliness’ as a memoir, not an autobiography. Writing a memoir and presenting it to the world must take some courage. Honesty has impact. Dorothy Day’s honesty, in her memoir, is enough to have an impact.
‘“You ask me what I’d like to be remembered for – well, I hope for some of the talks here [a gesture of her hand toward the kitchen tables, now empty] with our guests; and I hope they will remember that I tried to make good coffee for them, and good soup! I’ve enjoyed getting to know them – they have been good teachers.”’ 
Narrative helps to unpack things. Sharing ‘story’ in community can nurture healing and a sense of belonging. The reader of Dorothy Day may experience such belonging as connections may be found relating to loneliness or faith, relationship struggle (faith and physical) or social justice. Stories are sacred to the honest teller, and to the receiver; stories may be redemptive, to both teller and receiver, potentially redemptive and generative of the possibility for unforeseen belonging and hope.
What is there of order, and premeditated intention, in any true story? Dorothy’s life, along with her thoughts, jumped around in her memoir, albeit in a ‘movement forward’. Is it the desire to control, what would otherwise be chaos, that brings order? Margaret Wheatley writes, in her book Leadership and the New Science, ‘Linear thinking demands that we see things as separate states: One needs to be normal, the other exceptional. Yet there is a way to see this ballet of chaos and order, of change and stability, as two complimentary aspects in the process of growth, neither of which is primary’ . Key to notice in this ‘little piece of sweetness’, the absence of control and a willingness to surrender to power, a power that no ‘one’ encapsulates.
I have lots of material to write on. We all do. On the side, wonderful resources to tie into the work, we all have them. There are thoughts for themes, outlines drawn, and paragraphs titled to help the big-picture vision in the sweet mapping-of-a-piece. Honestly, I am too scrambled up by the chaos to pour into a plan for a post. Perhaps, unloading a memoir is the better plan.
I was listening to music earlier, classical piano and then, instrumental chillstep, moved by I have been in a little cabin all day; this, after a bottoming-out in weeks gone by (few know). Nature makes more sense to me than words do (see blogpost ‘Bear and Bare’), and the same effect has music. It is what it is, and it is open for interpretation, and with less violence than when words inspire. I reflected in a note that words, to me are more like noise usually, and that it is less so with music. I feel, normally, a greater sense of order with music.
I appreciate quietness, when someone emits a quiet presence. Too many words can be suffocating, for some. Too few words, for some, can make an awkward space it seems. I wonder what nature and music and effective, honest communication would have to say about this? Dorothy Day was passionate, resolute in her being, emotional, utterly present in her being and with people. Dorothy Day was ‘less noise’, and ‘more presence’. Less autobiography and more, memoir. Less about the words, more about the life.
Last week, I missed the memorial of a friend because I had to be in court to dispute a speeding ticket (seemingly, there was not getting around being absent for this). In the case before mine, there was a man disguised as a lawyer, who was noisy (and, nosey). I learned from his gross, apathetic attitude, to not say a word.
In silence and few words, respect. I want to talk less. I don’t want to preach anymore. My friend who passed away was a man of few words. His life consisted of more learning than libraries; enough learning to know, he didn’t need to talk about it. Then, Paul might ask, ‘well, how will they know?’ St. Francis might answer, ‘well, only if necessary.’ What mattered to Christian, was living it. Not perfectly, only honestly and with integrity.
“Christian had eyes of fire. He had seen the worst which not only allows someone a learning on what is real and true but also, gives a person the tempered vision, spiritual insight, for what is right and good.”
I wasn’t able to be at his memorial, which was held in the parking lot of the Mustard Seed Street Church, however, I left something to be read by a Chaplain friend of mine. Christian was quiet, though his mind was screaming. Fear and sadness were there, and only sometimes joy. When he smiled, inauthenticity anywhere in the world was at risk, light and the brightness of eyes, and elation. His smile reflected ‘Home’. Here, in a body wracked by trauma, he lived on the outside edge of the fringe, a safe place for him.
This is a brief memoir of moments in remembrance of a friend. Interspersed throughout our days, there are memoirs. Sometimes we reflect with the noise and mostly, incapable yet coercive potential of our many words. Sometimes, the memoir can invite a recollection into a song, sometimes into the presence of God by a stream. This is it, ‘Home’.
God preserved Christian through horrors to catch a glimpse of ‘Home’ with us. He was only thirty years old when he passed. We are not ‘Home’ in this place. We try so hard, and in so many ways, to make a home for ourselves here. It is when ‘Home’ comes to us, nestles down into our being, that we may find true hope, belonging, reason. I reflected on the ‘Celestial City’, in the piece I offered for his memorial. With us, once the seed is planted, twinkles of the Celestial City find us along the narrow road, little reminders of God and love. Present words of love and quietness, music with notes less forced and nature unmanipulated. ‘Peace, be still’, the King of Creation and Friend of misfits says to the storm. Come on Home.
‘We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.’
Sometimes, I am so alone. Then, suddenly, I am not.
- Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness (Harper SanFrancisco, 1952), 4.
- Margaret J. Wheatley, Leadership and the New Science: Learning about Organisation from an Orderly Universe (New York: Barrett-Koehler Publishers Inc, 1994), 21.
- Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness, back cover.