"Thirty years ago, God began tearing apart my plan for the rest of my life," Jones writes. It was 1971, and Jones, a self-proclaimed "persistent social radical" who had started his own commune in the inner city, wanted to know if the Church had communes other than the "Jesus freak" places he had visited. A friend suggested that he visit a nearby Trappist monastery.
After three days at a Trappist monastery, Jones decided to abandon his successful teaching career to take a nine-month monastic sabbatical. "For reasons that I am still attempting to discern," Jones writes, "I felt driven to enter my own frozen springtime. . . to perch on some lonely sill, with only myself for companionship . . . perhaps to be discovered by One capable of teaching me to sing an untimely song in an unlikely place."
Teaching the Dead Bird to Sing is based on a journal that Jones kept during his first foray into monastic life. He describes the intensely spiritual experience of building his hermitage out of scrap lumber, his daily struggles with feelings of loneliness and vulnerability, and the eventual inner peace that he attained.
While Jones was initially reluctant to publish his journal, his years of serving as a spiritual director convinced him that his writings would resonate with other spiritual seekers. "The life most of us live is a lonely one," he writes, "wandering through our own wildernesses, eager to find a traveling companion with whom we can be vulnerable together."
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Teaching the Dead Bird to SingLIVING THE HERMIT LIFE WITHOUT AND WITHIN
By W. PAUL JONES
PARACLETE PRESSCopyright © 2002 W. Paul Jones
All right reserved.
PrologueI once lived in a third-floor apartment in the inner city, within an easy roar of the interstate. Shortly after dawn one morning, I heard a scratching outside my window. It was a mourning dove inspecting the window ledge for immediate occupancy, with infants allowed. She permitted my discreet voyeurism, and soon her venture into motherhood became a centering point for my days. The ledge, having met her specifications, became a foundation sufficient for one nest with one egg.
My grand-bird-daughter was born unceremoniously one morning. I was unprepared for the responsibilities. This city is notorious for early springs that coax the flowering trees into full array, only to be ravaged in midcareer by freezing rain. We were one postnatal week into such a spring when the radio threatened "plunging temperatures." I spent a restless night-me in my warm bed on one side of the window, and my Madonna-bird-friend in the freezing rain on the other.
I awoke with delight to her cooing. All was well. With a smile, I peeped around the window blind and peered into the dawn light. In the corner of the windowsill, she had propped upright her small infant-bird-frozen. With patient repetition, she was trying to teach the dead bird tosing.
Not long afterward, I applied for a nine-month leave from my seminary teaching. For reasons that I am still attempting to discern, I felt driven to enter my own frozen springtime. I would become a hermit for a time. I would perch on some lonely sill, with only myself for companionship. I would be patient this time. I would not fly. Then, perhaps, I could be discovered by One capable of teaching me to sing an untimely song in an unlikely place.
Excerpted from Teaching the Dead Bird to Sing by W. PAUL JONES Copyright © 2002 by W. Paul Jones
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.