I'm sure you have had this experience; you open a book that you have bought secondhand, or in "good condition" from a third-party amazon seller, and you open it up and it's full of underlined paragraphs, little notes in the margins (no matter how narrow), stars by key words or N.B at the top of a whole page. Well, this past week I opened a book and there they were, the notes and scribbles of another human.
As I started reading this book the strangest feeling started to come over me, like a presence, kind of warm, and I realized that I delighted in the small handwritten note in the margin of the first few pages. The funny thing is that the handwriting wasn't that legible, but the scribble was delightfully endearing and it captured my imagination. It had me gazing off beyond the page and wondering who wrote those words, where they are now, whether they ever returned to the book again and could they recall why they first scribbled something in the margin to begin with. I found myself smiling and saying out loud, "God you are so good and so fun."
It was in this moment that I heard the title for the blog I wanted to write today because something about it made me grateful for the mystery of the margins, for the mystery of humanity, our stories and the narratives we add and subtract to by memory or even as they are happening. I think we unconsciously and, at times consciously, have those moments where you circle a word or underline a sentence in the everyday motions of living, desperately hoping you will remember that moment of thought that made you want to put an exclamation mark upon the page in some way.
As I gazed off the page I found myself wandering down the street with the person who used to own the book. It's a Henri Nouwen book called Clowning in Rome: Reflections on Solitude, Celibacy, Prayer and Contemplation and even the title is ironic to my experience. This moment or solitude had me with someone in a whole new way. A silent and yet very present connection and voice. My experience is that the true essence of solitude is a quality of presence versus some kind of isolation.
As I continue reading this book and I see all the lines and scribbles, I will be grateful for what is found in the margins and know that this human condition thing that we all walk around with is a gift to us. That as we pray, God give us eyes to see, we will experience more and more what it means to see like God does. In the layered spectrum of reality. Of life upon life upon life.
Let us be grateful for the margins in our lives, for the words of others and the markers of memorial that we leave upon a page of ours and others stories and simply say, I was here, we are in it together, let us be grateful.