Meditation for All Seasons
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In Colum McCann’s latest novel, Let the Great World Spin, one of the complex and beautifully wrought characters is a Christ-like figure who chooses to live his life among what society clearly considers the dregs of life. Speaking of him, his brother muses, “he made people become what they didn’t think they could become. He twisted something in their hearts. Gave them new places to go to.”
As I read McCann’s book, becoming more and more drawn into the life of Corrigan, this man whose love gave people “new places to go to,” I recognized the tug of conversion in my own heart. Fictional characters that emerge from the soul of a gifted writer can do that for us. In that wonderful way that literature can become a present reality, encountering Corrigan twisted something in my own heart. He lingers there, calling forth some largely dormant part of my self that in all likelihood will remain checked and under control but calling it forth enough to know that it is there, a holy remnant.
Conversion is like that, a lifelong process of slowly and usually only episodically being reminded of that spark of God in each of us. Although it is a flammable ember, ready to burst into flames of love and goodness that would surprise us, it does not pout when we choose to leave it burning only lowly. Instead it sits in hope, believing the best in us and calling it forth, declaring its existence even when we have long ceased to believe.
I can neither bring conversion into my own life nor provide it for someone else; but as in the case of the judge, who had to make a judgment about pornography, I may not be able to define it but I recognize it “when I see it.” When someone like Corrigan or whoever it is in our lives, fictional or not, tugs us toward that spark, we do well to go with the flow, feeling what we feel, hoping what we hope, and believing what we can.