Thursday, October 16, 2008

A glimpse of the divine

We arrived in Assisi in the late afternoon, and were given a tour guide to escort us through Santa Chiara and the St. Francis basilica. Unlike our other guides, she couldn't seem to talk and walk at the same time, so we'd go a few feet and then stop for a lecture; go a few more feet and stop for another lecture.

The end result was that by the time the tour ended it was well after 6pm, and we were informed that the stores -- many of which we had passed while wending our way down the street between the two churches -- would be closing at 7. Since we were to leave early the next morning and my husband needed to find an ATM, we elected to go back up through the town in the little time remaining before dinner to see what we could find. I was particularly interested in seeing if there might be any mementoes of a wonderful statue we had seen in the basilica of St. Francis kneeling at the foot of the cross.

In our rush through town (which turned out to be singularly unrewarding) we passed this mime, and after we passed him my husband turned to me and said he'd found that mannequin to be particularly lifelike: at first he had thought it was a real person.

"But it IS a real person," I replied; "look at his eyes."

"Why would someone do that?" he asked, "It's sort of a weird job."

"It's not a job," I said, "it's a calling."

My husband was not convinced, but on the way back he looked more closely, then dropped some coins in the man's bag. I looked into the monk's eyes, and as he looked back I found myself wondering if he had overheard our conversation: I felt acknowledged, somehow. And then he tried to hand me something -- I think it might have been a small cross -- but we were scurrying on, so I thanked him, shook my head, and blew him a kiss as we rushed back for dinner.

It was an odd response -- who would blow a kiss to a monk? -- but it felt right, somehow; as if he were a bodhisattva rather than a mime, a compassionate being working for the well-being of all creation rather than just an actor dressing up to make a quick buck off the gullible tourists.

But maybe that's the point: it doesn't matter who he was, or why he was doing it. What is holy is the moment of connection, the sense of compassionate affection conveyed in a single glance, which became, for just that moment, a taste of the divine. I'm glad I was awake for it.

1 comment:

Katherine said...

"As if he were a bodhisattva rather than a mime"
I like treating everyone like that. I'm sure it makes their day, anyway ^-^