The Call

I was discussing with my daughter an assignment she had about emergent literacy. She was exploring how children (and adults) acquire literacy skills and what actually denotes a literate being. The key idea in her assignment was the concept of sense making. Simply put, when someone is able to ascribe meaning that matters around a symbol of communication they are literate.

So a person can see the symbol of man or woman on a door and make sense that that the object is in fact the door to a toilet or change room. A tick means yes, a cross no; red is danger, but then so too is a lightning bolt. If you see the word ‘pain’ does that equate to hurt, but if you’re French do you imagine bread? Language literacy starts to become a complicated matter. This got me thinking: What would happen if we taught a subject called Life Literacy?

When you see a flower what meaning does that have for you? Does a flower have the same purpose and meaning to each of us? Are you making the right sense of that flower? And if we expand that idea when you look at your life are you making the right sense of your life? I suppose the ultimate existential question then emerges: Does Life have a meaning or purpose?

Recently I have been plagued by early morning wake ups. I’m talking about the 2 a.m., 3 a.m. sort of wake ups when your brain is fired up and unable to call back the gentle, soothing drug of sleep. I know it is because I was trying to out-smart life. My head was trying to think myself through and out of a situation in which I found myself.

I was computing scenarios. If this happens then this person will do such and such, which will mean this could happen and then that will transpire. But then that could happen and then that person would do this and that would cause that. Endless permutations of imagined possibilities all of which were beyond my control.

And yet stop my brain I could not. Night after night, my brain, like a muezzin called me to my mental Adhan singing out the meditative prayer, “what is happening with your life?”

And then a strange occurrence took place. One night, with my brain chugging through mental logarithms with all their exponential variations, suddenly my mobile phone buzzed with a receiving call. It was not a number I knew so I let it ring out. I got up, resigned to the reality that I was awake and should do something worthwhile.

Whilst making a 4 a.m. coffee, my mobile phone then buzzed a message. Curiosity peaked and I decided to hear what message this stranger had left. It was a pocket dial and it was of a radio interview that someone must have been listening to whilst driving. It was crackled and disjointed like a message from some alien source. Then as clear as a day I heard the following:

Interviewer: So how did you cope with this uncertainty in your life?

Respondent: It was hard. I didn’t know what to do. I was driving myself mad with what I should do and what I shouldn’t do.

I: And so what did you do?

R: I let it go. I released it to God, or life, or whatever and I said, ‘Do what needs to be done and I’ll respond.’

I: And what happened once you’d did that?

R: Well I suppose there was an element of peace or okay-ness that just happened. I just knew I would be okay.

I: And obviously based on your success you were okay?

R: Success aside, I know that I’m always okay now and that’s beautiful.

And so a peace enveloped me. I immediately realised I was trying to outwit life. My ego was driving things and I believed I was able to take on life. I could out-think, out-smart, out-manoeuvre any possibility. Except I couldn’t. And more importantly, nor need I do such grand-standing against life.

When we separate ourselves from nature we challenge the gods. We like to think our brains are the command centre of our lives but the brain is just one organ demanding attention within a system that is connected to a greater and more complex consciousness of life.

I’m not entirely sure why my mobile rang at 4 a.m. and messaged me that interview. The meaning I am making from it is this: Trust that life knows what is best for you right now and do what you can to enjoy the experience you are having. This might not make me life-literate but it certainly makes me humble.

So whether it’s the bells of the church, the shofar of the Jewish ceremonies, the cry of the muezzin saying ‘Allahu Akbar’(God is great), a random message from the universe or a moment from nature unfolding itself all its splendour, I think we should respectfully share the governance of our lives with something other than our own sense of self. That there is Life Literacy.

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  • Shona
    April 18, 2016 at 4:22 am

    Ironically, I’m in NZ for the weekend and couldn’t sleep thinking about all the possible scenarios that may lay ahead for me in the coming months. Awake at 3.30am NZ time – I think I’ll use the quiet to read your blog Cal. Little did I know that your message would also be beautiful reminder from someone greater (I believe that is the Holy Spirit) that everything will be ok #fearless2016 (my 2015 Team Day word). We never know where those whisperings may come from or if we ourselves may be the carrier of that message for another who needs to hear it in that moment. Thank you for being a messager.

    • Cal McDonnell
      April 18, 2016 at 6:13 am

      Beautiful synchronicity – thanks for being the listener 🙂


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