Two Ice-creams on Sunday
Updated: Sep 17, 2019
A number of years ago I was invited to a weekend of talks at the University of Aberdeen. The big draw in going, for me, was that the late Jean Vanier would be there, speaking on the subject of disability and being human. I had read some of Jean Vanier’s books and knew about the set- up of the L’Arche communities. In my view, Vanier was a modern day saint. *
I remember a number of things from his talk, but there were two things that stood out in my mind. One was his extremely personable manner. Whether he was talking to 200 people or to one - it felt like he was talking directly to me, just in the same way that he made me feel so welcome and ‘important’ when he put his long arm around my shoulders and dipped his head to listen to me after his public talk. He was so fully attentive. I am reminded of a quote I came across recently, by Simone Weil: ‘Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.’
Vanier knew how to pay attention.
The second thing that stood out for me was what he shared about celebration, and celebrating the lives of people in his L’Arche community in Paris. The members of the community would take every opportunity to celebrate - big things, little things…. Each day was practically a celebration, or had something in it to be celebrated. That really struck me somehow (where, in my Protestant upbringing, whitewashing the walls was a sign of virtue and focus, as was the abstinence of buying an ice-cream on a Sunday!)
Recently I read of a man whose wife had just died. Soon after her death, he found a brooch in her dresser which was still wrapped up and saved for a special occasion. Sadly, that occasion ended up being her funeral. Interesting how we can hold things so precious to save them for that special occasion - one which may never come. Perhaps we have to grab the occasions now, not later!
After some close calls with various people in my life, I’m coming a little bit nearer to seeing that every day we’re alive is a special occasion, as was so clear with Jean Vanier’s approach to living.
Nothing is too precious to use up. Instead of saving the china for a special occasion, use it! Don’t wait. Otherwise the time may never come.
Light a candle at dinnertime!
Maybe we need to make these moments happen in the every day. Rather than pull back or hold off doing something, perhaps there is a case for not putting things off for the ‘right moment’.
Instead of zero ice-creams on a Sunday, or one ice-cream — should Sunday not especially be a day for two ice-creams? (Something my friend’s father would say.)
I started to link all this in my mind to a book I’ve been reading by Seth Godin called ‘Linchpin’. (Now, bear with me here, but I think there is some connection.) I took Godin’s advice in chapter one and jumped ahead to the section on ‘Resistance' - a well known subject for the artist. In this chapter Godin talks about ‘shipping’ (getting your work out there).
In relation to the creative person, whether that be a writer, or a painter, or a dancer… ‘Sometimes, shipping feels like a compromise. You set out to make a huge difference, to create art that matters and to do your best work. Then a deadline arrives and you have to cut it short. Is shipping that important? I think it is…. While some artists manage to work for years or decades and actually ship something important, far more often we find the dreams of art shattered by the resistance. We give in to the fear and our art ends up lying in a box somewhere, unseen. …
Shipping means hitting the publish button on your blog, showing a presentation to the sales team, answering the phone, selling the muffins, sending out your references. Shipping is the collision between your work and the outside world. The French refer to esprit d’escalier, the clever comeback that you think of a few minutes after moment has passed. This is unshipped insight, and it doesn’t count for much. Shipping something out the door, doing it regularly, without hassle, emergency, or fear [my emphasis] —- this is a rare skill….’ (Resistance, Linchpin, Seth Godin)
What if we were to ship more often? And sooner? To spend. Not waste time. Put the work out there. GIVE.
What is there to lose? What is there to gain?
Eat two ice creams on a Sunday!
*Jean Vanier, CC, GOQ (September 10, 1928 – May 7, 2019) was a Canadian Catholic philosopher, theologian, and humanitarian. In 1964, he founded L'Arche, an international federation of communities spread over 37 countries, for people with developmental disabilities and those who assist them. Subsequently, in 1971, he co-founded Faith and Light with Marie-Hélène Mathieu, which also works for people with developmental disabilities, their families, and friends in over 80 countries. He continued to live as a member of the original L'Arche community in Trosly-Breuil, France, until his death.
Over the years he wrote 30 books on religion, disability, normality, success, and tolerance. Among the honours he received were the Companion of the Order of Canada (1986), Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec (1992), French Legion of Honour (2003), Community of Christ International Peace Award (2003), the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award (2013), and the Templeton Prize (2015).