Had some good conversations the last two evenings. Nate was in typical form Monday night as I talked with him, Joe and Daniele on Skype: even with the onset of his Terrible Twos, he's still pretty much the most upbeat kid the universe has ever produced. Like when I got him online at Leslie and Jim's in April, he just keeps looking up and off to the side at the monitor where he sees your image and shouts "Hi!" in a voice with a bit of a squeak still in it, and falls over himself laughing at the sheer hilarity of talking to someone on a computer screen. "Hi!" and more laughter. He gabbled a bit about a camera toy of his that he likes to play with, so I showed him that my iPhone had a camera, too, taking this shot of him talking to/laughing at me, and showing his image right back to him, which managed to capture his interest for a moment. To Joe and Daniele's delight, he also introduced himself to me as "Captain," which is a new self-designated name that has inexplicably popped out of him the last few days.
He counted some for me, spelled some, and did the usual proud displays of early learning you see in a child. But I also got to see him open up a non-illustrated, dense-with-print text on leadership from one of Daniele's Master's in Educational Administration courses, and read gabble out of that, turning the pages and laughing to himself with unwearying delight as he read an hysterical story in those pages that only he could see. Joe watched on with a sort of amused pride, enjoying Nate's ability to enthusiastically entertain himself. We squeezed in a little talk around the edges, but I still didn't get much of a sense of his thoughts on Jordan's Towers of Midnight, which I still don't think we've really talked about, or about his thoughts on HBO's adaptation of Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire as Game of Thrones. As usual, a child's antics proved far too easily distracting, and even when Nathan clunked his head on the wooden arm of the couch upon which he was performing light gymnastics for me, he still only paused long enough to rub his head, watch me rub my head in imitation of him, and then think better of crying and burst into laughter instead.
The following evening featured McGlinn calling me from Kansas City, and launching into a long conversation while I enjoyed the fading light from my porch. There was the usual catching one another up on news, and also some interesting discussion touching on my dissertation. Mike hasn't read it, but apparently he's pondered quite a bit of the synopsis of it that I gave him last year when we were driving to or from our Do-It-Yourself Retreat in Arkansas. So that got us talking on the theme of particular charisms and how they play out in the spiritual life of the Church and of individuals.
In this case, it's had to do with his own particular artistic calling that he's sensed over the last few years, finding some specific way to take his musical gifts and play these out within or along the theme of Divine Mercy, a particular charism or spirituality coming out of Europe in the past century. His own musical efforts, like the amazing Afro-Caribbean explosion of his CD Virtues, which he was finishing up in Nashville as he was helping produce my own collection Life and Other Impossibilities, have had tendencies in this direction, and his organized artistic efforts, showcased in his Out of the Blue Works, have been increasing playing with this theme. So it was cool to hear that his path has been crossing that of others who have a strong sense of this particular charism, and that there could be some collaboration coming out of that intersection soon. I'll at the very least hear more about that when my path crosses his and the rest of usual suspects at our fourth Do-It-Yourself retreat in August, as we've gone and rented the same space at Winterwood Lakeside Cottage in the Ozarks for this year, too.
My spiritual sense and Michael's tend to be pretty different, but, given the logic of charisms – of a truly diverse and complementary spiritual gifts that make up the living reality of the Church and of the Holy Spirit loose in the world – that makes me usually try to pay especial attention. The last thing I want is to fall into the spiritual trap of thinking that diversity means being just like me, or is limited to those diversities I especially like. I am amazed when I look at history and see that we seem to play out over and over again the same sorts of spiritual problems or dysfunctions that Paul spells out in 1 Corinthians as he describes a Church made up of a vast and diverse amount of distinct spiritual gifts, all of which are supposed to draw us into communion, and not to set themselves up as unique structures, spiritualities or ideologies., despite the fact that our gifts – natural and supernatural – will inevitably conflict, given the complexity of reality. And there's the challenge of love....