We had a monastic ordination ceremony this morning. Yes, a brand new monk, Koun (there is a line over the o making it a long o, ‘aw’). Roughly. For days there have been rehearsals for this and that, ceremonial details to be gone over, last-minute re ironing of a robe, robe seams checked, preparations for moving into the monk’s zendo. This is where novice monks live for the first years of their monastic lives. I did that at Shasta Abbey in the 1980s, it’s a Zen tradition that goes way back.
The about to become monk make their own vestments and some are learning the art of needle and thread and the sewing machine as they go along. One of my contemporaries and a seriously good seamster said ‘the hot iron is the lousy seamster’s handmaiden’! The hot iron can go so far but only so far in correcting wrinkled seams etc. Nobody likes to unpick, least of all me however sometimes one has to accept that ones sewing skills are wanting. Those early lessons are paving the way, strengthening the way to accepting one’s fallibility and so-called imperfections. Both as a selfed person and as a functionary.
It is common to think of ‘vocation’ as being about having a ‘calling’ to the religious life which indeed the word does point to. However, I regard vocation in a much broader way to include a calling to dedicate one’s life path in a specific direction. As a young woman I was moved to be a photojournalist having seen pictures of emaciated children in Biafra and stories about Whaling Ships and the like.* I wanted to expose injustice. Although I trained as a photographer and loved to write, eventually I realized my vocation was in the direction of religion. Not to achieve becoming a perfect person, more a completely human person. Fallible and OK with that. Not so easy.
Here is a telling excerpt from an article titled The Importance of Singing Badley! Thanks to Chris Y for posting the link to this article on FB.
From this point of view, the greatest glory of collective singing isn’t performance by a famous choir. It’s rather, in the back room of a pub or around a campfire or in someone’s house, when people who can’t really sing, manage to sing together and what they sing gives a collective voice to the buried longings of each of their flawed, lonely and yearning hearts.
And this moment singing isn’t just about singing. We’re encountering a fundamental idea: that we don’t need to be good at something, anything for us to join in. That we belong here anyway. That we deserve to exist. Others – much more than we think – are like us; they’re not judging us harshly most of the time; they’re wishing that they, themselves, could take the step we’re taking and – in fact – they are finding some of the encouragement they need precisely in our own inept, gloriously out of key but utterly genuine and beautiful efforts.
The Importance of Singing Badly from the site: The Book of Life
*Japan announced last year it was leaving the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and would resume commercial whaling on July 1, 2019 sparking global condemnation and fears for the world’s whales. Japanese whaling ships prepare first commercial hunt in more than 30 years.