This morning in Henri Nouwen’s Desert Wisdom: Sayings from the Desert Fathers, I read the following story about Abba Anthony:
Abba Anthony said: The time is coming when people will be insane, and when they see someone who is not insane, they will attack that person saying: You are insane because you are not like us.
The story was accompanied by this drawing:
I couldn’t stop looking at this image. In particular, my eyes were continually drawn to the figure at the bottom. Do you feel his stillness, his sense of centeredness?
He is being just himself.
I looked at the two groups laughing at him, and it made me sad they could not relate to who he was or what he was doing, that they would stand in clusters around him and cover their mouths in laughter, guffawing and and poking fun at his solitude, finding the strength to do so in their numbers.
Those who are standing in the groups look like each other. They have lost touch with their uniqueness and their identities. I sense their fear of being alone and discovering who they are apart from the crowd.
But who they are apart from the crowd would be brilliant and beautiful.
Don’t you see that in the lone figure by himself? There is a strength and beauty in his form. There is a gentility and calm. He wears his long hair in a ponytail, and he kneels on the ground, his long robe creating a pool that keeps him centered in the island of himself.
He knows who he is, and in that, he carries peace.
Can you identify with this singular figure? Are there ways in which you connect to who you are, apart from the crowd? Does that create a sense of gladness or stillness or peace inside of you?
If you can’t relate to this singular figure, do you wish you could? Does that notion feel at all scary or intimidating? Do you long for it in any way?
Today, I invite you to spend a few moments considering your experience of being just yourself. Who do you know yourself to be, and how do you experience that in the world?