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This is the view out the door from inside my poustinia. I didn’t notice at first the shadow of the bell which is mounted on the exterior wall. This unintended artifact in the photo just adds to the meaning.

I have always desired and simultaneously resisted order. There have been seasons when order reigned, and others when chaos reigned. But the majority of my life has been more like the Western Front in Belgium during the Great War: a stalemate. Trench warfare.

In recent years I have come to understand this paradox in at least one way: My personal aesthetic. This picture gets at it. I love natural textures and materials juxtaposed with straight lines: rows of crops. A clearly defined pathway through natural vegetation. The perfectly straight trunk of a Douglas Fir against the winding limbs of a Vine Maple. I love seeing rough wood tamed (not FULLY) into planks. Vines trained onto a trellis. It’s…stewardship. Permaculture. Working WITH the materials God has created, modifying them NO MORE THAN NECESSARY to accomplish the goal you have set out.

There’s something so peaceful about this. The English garden (as I understand it) might be a good example. I’d like to think this represents the Created Order…though I might be a little arrogant to think I’ve understood this in any great detail.

Most recently, I’m connecting this aesthetic with my new understanding of how chaos worked in my life. I’ve always made “forts”, places of refuge, security and order. I remember being 20 years old and getting my first office at PSF Industries. I was given a little budget to get binders, a stapler, file folders, etc. I was so excited. Not just for the status associated with an “office” (it was really more of a Less Nessman Office!) but because it brought order. I got to organize it and make it…safe. I have many other experiences like this.

I TRY to manage my time and my food in such a way as to create this same kind of safety. But chaos is always pressing in. Threatening to take over. Yet, when I try to enthrone “Order” as the Monarch of my life, well,”Chaos” rebels: “Fuck the Bourgeois!” I’m praying that God will help me to see that this need not be a hostile stalemate, but a partnership.

God, please help me to reconcile these two.


Over the last 4 weeks, I have tried to engage in “dialogue” with 5-year-old-Dan on a regular basis. I am operating under the premise that when I get anxious, angry, afraid or feel the urge to over-eat that 5YOD is trying to speak. He is trying to get “my” attention.

If I’m paying attention, this happens several dozen times a day.

I turn and look down to see 5YOD standing to my left, holding his blanket ( I was a “blankie-thumb-sucker” just like Linus until I was much older than 5) and I see him looking up at me. It’s clear that he has needs. Needs he is looking to me to meet. But he doesn’t speak.

My impulse has been three-fold. For the first two weeks (less often now) I would be annoyed and ashamed. Very much like I feel my father, brothers and grandfather felt about 5YOD. It was a long day filled with tears when I realized I was doing to myself, all over again, what had been done before. I am still trying to regain 5YOD’s trust.

My second impulse has been to sweep him up in my arms and hold him tightly. He’s not all-together comfortable with this, but it does meet a need and he seems to appreciate it. But it’s not ultimately what he’s after. This gesture is…”temporary”.

The third impulse is to simply “see” him. To adopt an open, inquisitive and…participatory posture with him. I now address him when he shows up, “Hey, little Buddy!” and I get on my knees to address him face to face. I want him to have my full attention, not in an effort to satiate him, quiet him, protect him or appease him, but to SEE him.

*as I wrote that last paragraph, I had to pause for a brief conversation with him*

Like any 5 year old, he sometimes just likes having me in that position, ready. It’s enough for him. Other times, he is trying to get me to engage with him, to see something, to participate.

About 10 days ago, while paused in this tableau of kneeling before a silent 5YOD, with his blankie firmly gripped in his right hand, and the thumb of his left hand firmly in his mouth, he extended the forefinger of his left hand right in front of his nose, a gesture indicating that I should I look up. As I did, his eyes moved upward along with mine as if to confirm that I was in fact looking.

In a flat plane, about three feet above our heads was a landscape of utter chaos: turbulent, violent and unpredictable. It did not reach us, as if it was behind glass, but I could feel the impact and rumble of the frayed and ragged parts collided, swirled togther and tore apart again.

This was 5YOD’s world. Just three feet away, constant turmoil. Chaos. And below it. Just him.