There is a poem that calls summer “more eternity-like than the other seasons,” meaning that winter, spring, and fall relate to time-passing while summer represents time-present. Winter is endured more than lived until it’s finally over. Spring, of course, anticipates summer but hardly seems to be more than a coming attraction. Fall, sadly, looks back on the season that was.
But summer! Summer is the present moment of the year. The high point. Maybe a metaphor for a reality that we talk about so frequently now. Transformation.
Well, not exactly. Whatever degree of transformation I’ve reached doesn’t translate into an eternal summer. Yet the whole process of changing (and being changed) has to do with a summer feeling of new life, doesn’t it? With moving on toward something. With becoming more myself, the person I was meant to be.
And with moving away from some of what was.
The latest issue of America Media speaks of the new Star Wars event’s difficulty with transformation: how to move into a future that is longer tied to its roots, to its traditions, to the people who gave it life. Will it be necessary for the new characters to reject their forbearers, deny their training?
The article presents a parallel with religion, drawing on sociology and anthropology to criticize the kind of religion “in which authenticity and belief are untethered from a rooted tradition, from the need for training” and states that “True authenticity recognizes our connection to past traditions and the need to be formed within them, flawed though they may be.” (That’s an interesting phrase: “flawed though they may be.”)
The article continues, “As true masters of tradition have always known, failures are a critical part of our shared history. And it is the same for traditions as it is for persons: Only in fidelity to our weaknesses are we truly strong.”
Fidelity to our weaknesses? Really? I have a problem with this vocabulary. Flawed? tethered? trained? Acknowledgement of our weaknesses, yes. Acceptance of our failures and our flaws, yes. But to be faithful to our flaws? Not our aim. To move beyond, to be transformed, is.
Is the article’s purpose to shine a positive light on the letter-of-the-law (and flawed) “training” many of us received in the old days when dogmatic statements about what you had to do and what you couldn’t do told you all you needed to know about the God-life—no thinking necessary?
Why does this question remind me so forcefully of the four cardinals of the hierarchical church (“true masters of tradition”?) who oppose the Spirit-driven, truly transformational counsels of Pope Francis?
And finally, if transformation is our goal, into what are we to be transformed? Some theologians say that the love between Father and Son is so all-encompassing that it becomes another person, the Holy Spirit. Immersion in the life of that Spirit, in our own time and according to the persons we are, can be our channel to transformation, one that is, yes, “rooted in tradition.”
According to Richard Rohr, “The Holy Spirit has become wind, fire, joy, excitement, universal shareability. . . . intimacy, enlightenment . . . the power to love beyond boundaries and ethnicities. . . . surprising, elusive, and free. . . . All we can do is surrender, enjoy and share.”
Not exactly a workable definition. Not logical or practical. But somehow graspable, thrilling, and very welcome. Like Pope Francis himself. Like summer.