Why go to Winnipeg?


 Someone looked aghast upon learning that I had just got back from a trip to Winnipeg. Alarmed, she asked: “Why ever would you go to Winnipeg?"

 "I had a good reason,” was my reply. Said she: "I wouldn’t go there even if I had a reason.” 

 Well, whatever she lamely thought, I had a great reason - in fact, the best of reasons - to visit Winnipeg. My wife and I did the road trip from Vancouver because of a friendship with another couple. 

 With our friends in Winnipeg, we once again experienced that elevated and inspiring level of conversation that we have come to expect with them.

 On our way back to Vancouver we thought about what it is that most deeply characterizes the friendship. We reflected on the question: 'What has created the quality of friendship that we experience with them?’

 We agreed together that what stands out most is a shared search, or yearning for transcendence.

 That is, put in other words, the distinguishing characteristic of the friendship is a shared longing for the ultimate, for the highest - for essential things, for things that matter

 What both grounds and inspires the relationship is a certain kind of holy restlessness, what might be called, an intense search for a hard-to-define something more.

 It’s an intense feeling we couples share that none us can live in any other way than to be constantly curious and full of wonder.

 As couples we are on the same page when it comes to the sort of feeling or longing that C.S. Lewis expressed, as when, for instance, as a young lad he read, Siegfried and the Twlight of the Gods: "Pure northerness engulfed me; a vision of huge, clear spaces hanging above the Atlantic in the endless twilight of Northern summer, remote severity.” 

 "And with that plunge back into my past there arose at once, almost like heartbreak, the memory of Joy itself, the knowledge that I had once had what I now lacked for years, that I was returning at last from exile and desert lands to my own country.” 

 Lewis wrote about being surprised by Joy, an experience that happened again years later when, upon picking up a copy of George MacDonald’s Phantastes at a train station, he felt his imagination being baptized as he read the book’s first chapter.

 MacDonald’s writings took Lewis into another world, another dimension. He felt himself to be smitten by, and in the grip of, a longing for a mysterious something more. 

 Lewis described his experience as the 'inconsolable longing in the heart for we know not what.’

 It’s a longing for an "unnameable something.” Something so very hard to define, but which means everything. (Which of course implies that if something can be easily defined, it probably isn’t worth much!)

 This something, this longing or feeling, (or whatever it is), remains dormant - locked up and locked away, until that fine day when it is sparked by a surprising or shocking experience of truth, beauty or goodness

 The awakening has been called aesthetic arrest and it feels like some kind of incredible gift of grace, both a shattering and an awakening at once. 

 The experience both shakes and stirs the grateful recepient to the core of his being.

 The experience is an electrifying jolt to the system. 

 Having been thus engaged, one hopes never to recover from such a blessed shock.

 This awakening is a surge in the heart. The soul awakens and the deepest longings of one’s heart are, as someone has put it, "fleetingly fulfilled."

 For C.S. Lewis, it was the experience of pure Joy. It’s been described as a 'painfully exquisitive joy.'

 Now, the experience of Joy seems to come unbidden, but echoes in the heart like the sound of the distant horn of a long lost hero. 

 I have always loved the particular words used by Lewis to describe that fundamental or essential holy longing that creates friendship and enables it to endure.

 Friendship, he says, is "born when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling of that something which you were born desiring, that you have been looking for, watching for, listening for, all your life."

 The desire, says Lewis, is a certain "incommunicable want.” 

 It is, says Lewis, "the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work." 

 “While we are, said Lewis, "this is." If we lose this, we lose all.” (C.S. Lewis, in Gilbert Meilander's The Taste for the Other, the Social and Ethical Thought of C.S. Lewis, p.14)

 Lewis is referencing a sacred desire so deep and essential that to share it with another could well be the best thing that ever happened to you. (Its absence is what eventually kills relationships.)

 I was delighted to learn in Winnipeg that the first thing that both my friend and I noticed about our respective wives-to-be was that they were young women who always had their hands up in class - forever asking questions.

 We both fell in love with women who were seekers by nature.

 Neither of them are thrill seekers that is, party girls, always on the look out for what are called good times, i.e. trips to Vegas and such. 

Which means then that the women we chose to spend our lives with are truly thrilling. 

 They are thrilling in the sense that each lady is more than capable of the kind of conversation on essential things that can stretch from dinner time to 2:30 in the morning.  

 There is an incredible sense of communion that is created by friends who engage each other on the level of a shared search for truth, beauty and goodness.

 It’s what happened between the third century philosopher, Plotinus, and his student, Porphry, who once spent three days together in an attempt to understand the relation of the soul to the body.

 Someone watching the encounter got tired of watching their exchange, like the sort of person who can’t stand it when people get real with other.

 Perhaps you’ve experienced this at a social affair of some kind. You’re just getting going with someone. There is perhaps a shared sense of wonder. You’ve begun to sort of fire each other up. There is a growing and deepening understanding. And then suddenly you’re blindsided by somebody who throws cold water on the conversation by an inane or jocular comment.

 It happens all the time in social situations. It’s as if there’s some kind of power struggle going on everywhere between people whose desire is to uplift and those who seem determined to extinguish the fire of holy inquiry.

 Well, friendships that matter are built upon a shared yearning for transcendence.

 The communion that builds up between us is because of our shared search for God.

 The wonder and quality of the relationship stirs a desire to contemplate the still point at the heart of the turning world

 That’s the power of a vital friendship in my experience, a quality of friendship that motivated a road trip to Winnipeg.


  Metatone, Meditation - The Third Eye