I’ll admit it right off the bat – I like hot-dogs – not so much as a great meal but as a quick fill-up when things are too busy to plan out a real meal. Yet the funny thing is that I also vividly remember Sister T’s biology class where she had us experiment on hot dogs to discover what they were made of and consider their actual nutritional content. I vowed, then and there, as a sixteen year old, that I would never eat another hot dog and certainly, if I ever had children,never offer them to my kids as actual food. Thanks to the experiment – I knew better than that. I am pretty sure that was Sister’s plan all along. And maybe a little something else, too, which it has only taken me thirty+ years to decipher – poor sister – she tried – but I’ve been a little slow on the up-take.
As I look on my struggles to maintain order in my day, educate my kids, keep up with some vague notion of what is happening on the outside world, and perhaps participate in some measure, I find myself having to make skips and cuts here and there just to keep up. We eat well most of the time – but lately hot-dogs have made it onto our dinner table more often than I like. And as I struggle to maintain my morning prayer routine (after all – real life is waiting!) – I realized that those hot-dogs aren’t the only empty calories I’ve been consuming lately. I watch as we slip into hurrying through our prayers, as we miss opportunities to share our day with each other, as I say “I can’t” to an opportunity to read a book to a little one… Sometimes we prefer a quick hot-dog reality to the nutritious reality of an intentional life.
Lately I’ve been drawn to poetry – nothing fancy – but just to tune into someone who writes to reflect something of “the collective conscience” (English Poetry in Translation).The Catholic Church has long respected the universal acclaim that certain people speak to the world in such an enlightening manner that they must be given titles such as “Doctor” and/or recognized as saints. Poets may not be Doctors or saints perse – but often they intentionally speak to the heart and soul, and that right there is worth a great deal. Usually I do not have time to ponder a whole poem – but a few words will strike me and I may ponder them for weeks. Here is an example from The Listeners by Walter de la Mare.
‘Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:-
“Tell them that I came, and no one answered,
That I gave my word,” he said
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake…
I can’t explain why this excerpt rings so loudly in my inner ear – but I fear that there is something that we are not hearing in our world – some call – some reminder and we are too sleepy to listen. Hot-dogs can only take us so far. Time to sit at a table with real food for a change.