In a sanitized world of counterfeit comforts monitoring our deepest desires with disposable plastic imitations of the latest craze, flying to Tanzania by propeller plane fills a certain romance with reality that I’ve been lacking in the Boeing 777 jumbo jetliners in which I’ve been flying as of late. The smooth comfort of Boeing airships that bus masses of people through the sky like milk cartons, have very little of which to boast, in comparison to buzzed rattle of your whole body, as the cramped plane crawls alongside Kilimanjaro during the setting sun.
Kilimanjaro. Africa’s most tallest, and most glorious mountain. It majestically rises from the African planes with a feeling of triumph. It saunters out of stillness deep into the sky, and leaves a person asking whether Kilimanjaro meets the heavens, or the heavens meet Kilimanjaro. As its unlikely neighbor in the sky, I can understand why it is at the heart of the early African myths about God. It is the tall itself. It is the high itself. It is splendor itself. It must be the source where “that which is beyond” has taken his rest.
And as its unlikely neighbor, Kilimanjaro is teaching me a lesson of calm and tranquility as the very vessel showing me its majesty is wants to agitate my complacency.
Let me go back a few weeks to a story that I don’t want to forget. Before, I had mentioned a Russian movie that I had seen while in Rome working at the planning meeting for the World Congress on the Divine Mercy. I never got the name of the movie, but it had so many great lessons.
The movie surrounded the life of a crazy hermit who attracted many people as they sought spiritual wisdom. At one point in the story, the hermit had been visited by a bishop. During an extremely cold night, the hermit, in a fit of madness, began to shout that he had to get rid of the demons. He HAD to get rid of the demons. He took off the bishop’s shoes and then threw them in the fire. In a rabid fit of commotion, the bishop struggled with the man as the hermit took the bishops warm blankets and fled to the lake where the two of them struggled for its possession. The bishop asked “What are you doing you crazy man?” and the hermit replied “I’m dispelling the demons. I’m dispelling the demons.”
At the end of the struggle, the bishop was shoeless, and his blanket was in the icy waters of the lake, as the two sat breathless, weary from their skirmish in the cold Russian night. The bishop gasped as he muttered,
“I would like to thank you my friend.”
“Why dear bishop?”
“Because you have helped me realize that in this cold weather, I was very much attached to my boots… and my blanket. But you have rid them from me, and thus rid me from the attachments which could keep me from depending on God.”
Well… I need to thank the personnel of Precision Air, because they have done precisely the same to me
They have rid me from dependency on my backpack. I have discovered what I have known for months, I am so attached to my backpack, that I lack the freedom to always be a pilgrim. But now it is gone. I am not worried so much, because they are supposed to send it tomorrow. Over half the passengers on the plane did not receive their luggage. I really don’t know how I will get it, if I will get it, or when, but that doesn’t matter right now. For now, I am just enjoying the freedom that comes with letting go of one’s attachments.
I have no job. I have no car. I have no change of clothes. It has radically put me in a place of attentiveness to my hosts in Arusha, Tanzania, the Passionist Fathers. They are very concerned, and very helpful. They want to make sure that I get the bag and all my things. I do too, but I’m rather enjoying these few moments where I can be relatively detached from anything but my dependency on God.It sounds a little crazy, but what else is a person to do? The only thing I really NEED is the malaria medication that I need to take on Friday. If I don’t have my bag by then, I can go and buy some more. The Fathers have a bed for me, and God has a plan. What is more, I am free to follow that plan, since I can no longer attach myself to a bag. If I am so worried about the bag and its contents, I lose one of the most important gifts God has given me… freedom.