I am reflecting on The Glenmary Farm through the lens of a playlist of songs that have a strong connection to my time there. The playlist is called Peace Came And Stayed and can be found in its entirety on Spotify:
2) Furr- Blitzen Trapper off Furr
So if you're gonna' get made,
Don't be afraid of what you've learned
I think I may have played this one a few times during reflection. Aside from being a great song, I'd like to think it's a nice parallel to the journey that volunteers going to The Farm often take. The song chronicles the story of a man who is lured into the woods by the sound of Angels and slowly becomes fused with the woodlands around him. His skin turns to fur and he becomes almost wild. But he is eventually brought out of his reverie and his forest home. His fur once again turns to skin and he enters into this world he no longer knows, still dreaming of running through the forest again.
I think there is something a little primal about the Farm experience. The charism of Simplicity that's so pervasive is literally a stripping away of all the worldly trappings and distractions to get to the heart of the human experience. Some of my favorite experiences at The Farm revolve around God's Time Room. Some simple couches, a couple chairs, and a bevy of board games were all that comprised that place, but there was something a little magical about the way that room encouraged true human connection. The absence of clocks and the need or even the knowledge of having somewhere to be was, at first, a disorienting experience. The Farm throws into stark relief just how beholden we are to our schedules. We start counting our experience in minutes that only gain meaning because they signal when we should move on to whatever it is we are doing next- ery Prufrockian. Given the chance to hang out with friends, we so often (intentionally or not) choose to keep intact the roadblocks that prevent a truly deep and meaningful connection. Whether it's our choice of venue (crowded bar), our choice of activity (playing video games, seeing a movie) or just that fact that we all-too-often give into the temptation of having a small computer in our front pocket, its often hard to focus on the people around us.
Now, those previously mentioned places, and activities, and even the cell phones aren't inherently evil. But it can be a struggle to remained actively engaged among all the activity of our lives. So even during times where we may want to connect with others, we can be our own worst enemy.
But at The Farm, given the chance to live with those we are serving and serving with, this beautiful, collective slow-down happens. Without that pressure of where to be next, we start appreciating where we ARE, and that's where the transformation begins. Now every moment, every interaction, becomes infused with presence. Where you would be side-glanced to all hell if you suggested a night of playing Canasta to your friends, here it becomes a wonderful opportunity to laugh, share, and connect. And through this, every moment becomes one of service. There is not distinction between construction work where you put up insulation in the Kentucky heat and the UNO game you share at the end of the day. The skin turns to fur and you begin to feel a little more of the moment, than merely experiencing it.
Unfortunately, for all of us, that can only be temporary. Something has to interrupt our reverie, bringing us out of the wilderness. Now we are ushered into this world we do not know but our time in the woods was real. We've been in this world of deep connection and presence that clashes mightily with the fast paced reality of life beyond the Farm. It's a jarring experience, and an unpleasant one to return to a life that now feels harsh and confused, like trying to speak a foreign language. And so I think a lot of us end up dreaming of running careless through the snow. But I think the last line of the song is one to remember. So if you're gonna get made/ Don't be afraid of what you learned. The lessons of the Farm are meant to be taken out of the physical place. It may be difficult to carry them out, but we can't shy away from the gifts bestowed upon us there. We're called to take a little of that wild back with us.