|SEAMS LIKE REPETITION
a photo of a baseball from thesussman
I can’t remember where I saw it, but … I can’t remember where I saw it. It was a blog post reminding me that repetition is no bad thing, but, I am sorry that I can’t remember where. My repeating myself may be boring.
But repetition may be of a totally different order. Repetition may be re-petition, signifying the return to a subject (any subject) petitioning them to be …. subject and agent. Repeating a subject is re-petitioning that subject for fresh meaning, or insight, or a bit more give. Young children often pester grandparents and parents to repeat the same story. They want to re-petition the story, re-questing the comfort, excitement, romance …… Couples repeat the story of how they first met. Communities and families re-mind themselves of who they are by re-petitioning their past stories to yield something to re-store their memory and identity. I want to repeat reading some books (East of Eden, Wild), some films (Dogville), some music (always Paul Simon or Leonard Cohen) because I am confident that they will reveal new things for me.
But the repetitive strain of meaninglessness that saps our vitality I can well do without – or is there some special grace (or love) which allows people to cheerfully and tirelessly repeat the same routine and tasks time and time again?
Repetition is fundamental to prayer. Repetitive rhythms (the prayer wheel), rosaries, postures and words are all reminders of our re-petitioning. Some give themselves to re-petitioning God through one line prayers for their whole lives. The Jesus Prayer – “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner” – is a one line prayer repeated over and over again. For some it is a life long re-petition. It is lifted from the story of the Pharisee and the Publican. According to the 19th century Russian spiritual writer, Theophan the Recluse, the prayer’s repetition begins as something on the lips and external to us, travels inwards by focusing the mind till it becomes the heart of who we are.
I wonder. Does genuine and sincere re-petitioning result in us taking the person, the thing, the story to heart? Is that how we come to care so much that we can bear the repetition?