Ah, a two hour ride from San Francisco to Sacramento and a chance to nap. I chose the non-sunny side of the bus only a few rows from the front to avoid the noisy chatter so common to rear seats. (I’ve been riding Greyhounds since 1953.) Peace and quiet. Good smooth hiways. Snooze.
Until Oakland where we picked up two additional drivers deadheading with us over to Sacramento. Oh, no! I’ve been here before. They’ll sit up front and yack with the driver the entire trip. Instant resentment on my part. Shop talk about “cushioning” and “spiking the board” and “doubling” and backs to be watched and shop stewards to call even prevailed over a furtive nod to professional football. There went my nap.
And then in some quieter time as I reflected on what I would be saying during my book presentation last night in Sacramento, those drivers and I and my audience managed to trade places. I came to realize that one of the most basic exchanges in all existence is the sharing of enthusiasms life brings us, no matter what we do.
Those professional drivers were part of a very complex organization that was dedicated to getting me and others to different places on time. They and their jobs made possible my evening jabber about ritual and circus and sanctuaries and the stage and the world being “charged with the grandeur of God” whose“ Holy Ghost over the bent/World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.”
That brief quoting from the great Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins came in my reaction to a listener’s observation: When you were performing in the circus the audience must have been feeding you with energy you needed and used to keep up the intensity. Off I went about being aware of divine presence and power in the persons I was addressing—including the dear man who had placed the observation. My delivery itself recharged even as I looked at him. His hunch was so keen.
A lady in the group asked the so basic question, How did you minister in the circus? Then I felt drawn to take the spiritual energy we in the circus trucked with beyond the obvious spiritual “messages” of the short morality fables of our shows. Her gentle and honest prod brought me back into the cherished territory of the parable quality of literally dancing with a bear and Genesis. I didn’t stop in my attempt to answer her till I’d come home to Augustine. There are symbolic powers in the jugglers’ and acrobats’ defiance of the laws of gravity. Those conscious stretchings and reachings—set to ritual-inducing music--are nothing if not evidence that “our hearts [and bodies] were made for you oh God, and they will not rest until they rest in you.”
Jargon about resting, and drives, and making connections, and directions, and being together. If I still had my commercial driver’s license, I could have been one of those deadheading Greyhound operators.
Now if I could only figure out what they meaning my “cushioning.”