“However well satisfied you are with your own skill or intelligence,
never forget how much there is that remains unknown to you.”
-Imitation of Christ, Thomas à Kempis
There’s so much we don’t know, so much we don’t see, so much we can’t understand. There is a story behind everything.
On a recent country drive, I stumbled upon a cemetery I had never seen before. It was an old cemetery surrounded by, likely, the original iron fence and arched gate.
I find the old gate breathtaking: the rust over the exquisite spirals and twists on the finials and posts; the contrast of brown and green grasses; the juxtaposition of birth and death, new and old, all at once. I wonder: How many people have passed through that gate? How many tears shed at the graves of loved ones? I wonder when flowers were last placed on a grave.
The gate remains locked now, and instead, a simpler entrance and a few graveled paths intersect to help visitors find their beloved. Only symbolic now, the fence and gate remain part of this sacred site and its story.
I continue my journey for miles down a country road, passing no houses, or people, or other cars–truly, a solitary journey. In a wooded area, I notice several old vehicles behind the limbs and brush, so easily missed that I turned around at the next intersection to drive by again. Taking a closer look from many angles and directions, I photographed the old truck. I wondered when it’s dying day had come and it was left to become part of the landscape. When had it last been driven to town? How many children had ridden in the back of the truck, wind blowing in their hair, or perhaps more recently, used it as a jungle gym?
I wonder about stories like these–the story behind the cemetery gate and the tombstones, the wooded area and the old truck that called it home.
I wonder how I see things–situations, relationships, people, myself. What I see becomes the story I tell myself; my perception is my truth. But my truth is one perspective, just one way to see a story.
My journey is to see beyond the story.
The country drive brought me to my destination–a Holy Days and Easter retreat at St. Benedict Center. Here, we enter into the story of Jesus in his final days on the way to the cross. There is the story of Jesus, his mother, Mary, the disciples, the women who comforted him, those who stood by and did nothing and, even, those who taunted and tortured an already suffering Jesus. We enter into the story. We reflect on the mystery of Christ and the way of the cross from many points of view.
There is much that remains unknown to us. There are many ways to see the same thing, so many perspectives and many different points of view. This is a good reminder that there is the thing and then there is the shadow of the thing. There is a story behind everything.
“We find no absolute perfection in this world; always there is a background of imperfection behind our achievement, and so it is that our guesses at the truth can never be more than light obscured by shadow.”
-The Imitation of Christ, Thomas à Kempis