“Though usually regarded as a result of trying to give too much, burnout…results from trying to give what I do not possess–the ultimate in giving too little.  Burnout is the state of emptiness to be sure, but it does not result from giving all I have; it merely reveals the nothingness from which I was trying to give in the first place”

–Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak, 49

Conclusions: Starting With Now

A book by Anthony de Mello, Wellsprings (Doubleday: New York.  1986) begins with a spiritual exercise called “Conclusions” (14-15).

The spiritual life requires courageous ventures into what is new, unknown, and uncomfortable. There, in the process of discovery, meaning is to be found–or rather, created. Faith is about trust founded on remembering how God has been with us in the past, so we have courage as we follow the Holy Spirit into the new life God is creating through us in the present.

Here is de Mello’s spiritual exercise for new beginnings.

Pr Craig

I imagine that today I am to die.
I ask for some time alone and write down for my friends a sort of testament for which the points that follow could serve as chapter titles.
1.  These things I have loved in life:
Things I tasted,
looked at,
2.  These experiences I have cherished:
3. These ideas have brought me liberation:
4.  These beliefs I have outgrown:
5.  These convictions I have lived by:
6.  These are the things I have lived for:
7.  These insights I have gained in the school of life:
Insights into God,
the world,
human nature,
Jesus Christ,
8.  These risks I took,
these dangers I have courted:
9.  These sufferings have seasoned me:
10.  These lessons life has taught me:
11.  These influences have shaped my life (persons, occupations, books, events):
12.  These scripture texts have lit my path:
13.  These things I regret about my life:
14.  These things are my life’s achievements:
15.  These persons are enshrined within my heart:
16.  These are my unfulfilled desires:
I choose an ending for this document:
a poem–my own or someone else’s;
or a prayer;
a sketch
or a picture from a magazine;
a scripture text;
or anything that I judge would be
an apt conclusion to my testament.

Trout Skin

Trout slip through the water and the water doesn’t touch them.  They have a slime, a film, which protects them.  There is an ichthyological name for it: mucoprotein coating.  This coating contains enzymes and antibodies that fight infection.  When even a small portion of this coating is compromised, fish bleed essential electrolytes into the water.

This slime coat is what stinks on your hands after you have touched a fish.

When you love trout as I do, you handle them gently so as not to mar their delicate, essential protection.

Before you touch a trout, you dip your hands in the stream as if it is holy water, gathering enough water to make your hands a font. Your touch does not injure; it anoints.

In that moment, there is but one thought in your mind: release. 

If you practice enough–and if you love trout you will practice–you can release a trout without touching it at all.  It doesn’t happen every time, but if you keep the trout on the line just long enough, and if you use barbless hooks, and if you are focused on the fish so that you become one with it for the brief time of your connection with it, then you can reach down, grasp the fly, and remove the hook without even touching the fish.

Often, the fish will swim behind your waders, breathing, regaining strength.  You wait and watch, yet the trout disappears like a dream.

Effortlessly, silently, it glides into deep waters.