“Never Enough and Prisca Theologia”: A Preview of What You Will See
In his latest incredibly insightful book, Ageless Soul: The Lifelong Journey Toward Meaning and Joy, former monk, bestselling psychotherapist and cutting-edge modern spirituality guru Thomas Moore posits that we need to (we must!) celebrate and embrace those who have paved the road before us.
Moore explains that, “Centuries ago artists and writers had a practice of honoring a certain historical line of figures who shaped them. They referred to their own list of inspirers and muses as ‘prisca theologia’–a spiritual lineage.” We all have this gift from the past and present, don’t we? Folks who contribute to our lives, our growth, our thinking, our mental and physical development, our essence. Life benefactors.
Everybody has such a developmental legacy, a set of contributors, not perfect (or anywhere near perfection, of course) but THERE, one way or another, in our humanly sacred DNA.
My life, for example, has been/still is lifted up by a plethora of men and women who gave and continue to give me breath to live–my personal prisca theologia, my spiritual legacy.
Great-grandfather J. P. Saye was my North Georgia hometown Ball Ground’s first doctor.
I grew up with stories about his brand of doctoring. In 1963 the University of Georgia Press published a slice-of-life portrait of turn-of-the century small town Southern Americana, Yesterday in the Hills, by father/son historians and co-authors Floyd and Charles Watkins. One chapter features Dr. Saye, illustrating a sample of what life was like for a country doctor who was often paid with chickens and pigs. Consider Dr. Saye’s obstetrics work, for example:
“Once Dr. Saye was delivering a baby in Andy Cockriel’s home in Lawson Town. Andy said, ‘You keep your hands off my wife. She’s mine and you nor nairy other man ain’t gonna tech her.’ Doc snapped his old black bag, rose, and countered, ‘You deliver the damn baby yourself then,” and walked out the door. Andy had to change his mind fast and beg hard before Doc Saye would return and deliver the baby.”
One of the odder pieces of family history involves my great-grandfather’s house in Ball Ground. Dr. Saye’s first wife Angie spent months at a time at Georgia’s state mental asylum in Milledgeville. During one particularly long stay, “Doc’s home burned, and he hired carpenters to build another house exactly like the first one so that she would not be disturbed when she came home” (Watkins and Watkins). Family stories suggest that great-great grandmother Angie never realized her first house had burned.
I urge you to revel in the quirkiness of your own family lore. According to Thomas Moore, “odd” simply means you have more soul in your family dynamics. (I possess an abundance of soul.) Yesterday in the Hills: “Another oddity is that no one ever knew Doc Saye’s age. How old he was remained his secret until the end, and no dates were placed on his tombstone or those of his two wives who died before him.” My great, great grandfather and I are definitely kindred spirits.
My fifth grade teacher Mrs. Ligdon gifted me with the lifelong joy of reading. We had oral reading every afternoon, either she reading to us (often, classic novels far above our grade level) or the students taking turns. I remember trying to hide my eyes in class when she read the sadder parts of Dicken’s Oliver Twist. (Seriously, Oliver was hungry–he needed more gruel.)
I could write about neighbors, teachers, friends, pastors and favorite authors who have all left their imprint on me. Where would I be if I hadn’t, in junior high, stumbled upon Chaim Potok’s The Chosen (reread time and again) and learned that books not only entertain but impact our lives. This coming-of-age novel showed me the enduring significance of both friendship and fatherhood. Much of my personal legacy can be found within the pages of books.
Today my big non-traditional family is at the heart of my spiritual legacy.
My former wife Donna taught me the meaning of enduring family love, and sticking with it, supporting it. My younger daughter Emily taught me to love gymnastics and to joyfully affirm the okay-ness of jumping up and down, twirling and spinning in life. My older daughter Amy taught me the appropriateness of meandering through the complexities of life and relationships. My grandchildren are continuing to teach me the joy of childish enthusiasm. And Robert continues to teach me the freedom and day-to-day reality of love.
The most longstanding force in my prisca theologia is my elderly dad up in North Georgia. Harold Hulon Saye Sr., my father, is …
He’ll be 95 in November, in the last season of his life. (Unlike Old Doc Saye–and me–he isn’t hesitant to reveal his age.)
Along with my late mother, my father taught me some of (most of?) my greatest life lessons, none more profound than this one I heard in various iterations over the years: “Neal, treat everybody you come in contact with as if they are the most important person in the world. Because when they are with you, they are.” My dad personifies that ambitious life strategy.
Who are the members of your own spiritual legacy, the people who made you who you are today? The models who helped you dream and even believe you could fly? Maybe take a few minutes and jot down a quick list. Can we ever thank them enough? I don’t think it’s possible.
Consider these lines from the gorgeous ballad, “Never Enough,” featured in the recent musical movie The Greatest Showman: “You set off a dream with me. Without you, all the shine of a thousand spotlights, all the stars we steal from the nightsky will never be enough for me.” I agree: without our “contributors,” we would not be us.
If you have a moment, take a listen:
“Towers of gold are still too little, these hands could hold the world, but it’ll never be enough for me … without you.”
In gratitude for life benefactors, Neal.
Come on, You Know You Want To!
(And I DEFINITELY Want You!)
I want to thank all my followers of “NealEnJoy.com.” I LOVED interacting with all of you!
Neal (EnJoy) Saye
Hello out there. I did this blog post quite a while ago, but thought in today’s adversarial political and cultural environment, it might be relevant. We (okay, I!) judge others much too quickly.
Let’s try, in this new year with relatively few mistakes in it so far, to give each other the benefit of the doubt, to refuse to label somebody or some thing based on initial interactions or our preconceived notions.
What an incredible truth! (And, oh gosh, how it indicts me.)
I LOVE this short video about labeling:
2018: A Label-Free Year (at least for you and me).
For my recent suxteee-seckth birthday, I celebrated with my big ole’ modern family …
… at Savannah’s Tequila’s Town restaurant in Sandfly.
(Seriously? Can you believe they come hooting “Happy Bday” laden with tequila for the celebrant! Even though I had my large head prepared for an oversized sombrero and some flan.)
Post-tequila I received some neat gifts, but perhaps my Favorites came from five-year-old grandtwins Madison (inappropriately pictured above next to the tequila) and Matthew. Their mom let them pick out their gifts for me. Madison gave me a pink unicorn in a love mug …
…while Matthew opted for a brown bear that actually smells like chocolate when you rub it vigorously!
(Matthew is in an over-smiling-for-the-camera stage.)
Oh, they also each got me a large skein of yarn–yellow from Madison and green from Matthew. Not that I knit (who has the patience for that?!), but because they like to unravel the yarn, make giant spiderwebs and throw it all over the furniture and each other.
Thus, inspired by the tequila, when I got home I opted for a quick photoshoot to document my suxteee-seckth.
Moral of Story: the strangest little gifts ofttimes make for the biggest shots of … Joy.
I love Brand New Years, with no mistakes in them.
[Okay, with relatively few (major) mistakes in them.]
Perhaps it is because I just recently celebrated (?) my suxteee-sickth birthday, that I am being all Contemplative about Life, but I want to give you my “Call” for 2018:
A Call for Calm, A Call to Reset.
“Huh,” you say, Returning Blog Reader?
Well, this: Politically (on both sides of the aisle), I see, hear and sense discord, disagreement and “I’m not working with you.” It’s really not just Trump. It’s the political system that is basically adversarial.
“I hate you because you do not agree with me on issues.”
But it’s pervasive in our society, even entertainment. We say we hate violence, bemoan and suffer over Las Vegas, Charleston and Orlando–and yet go in throngs to movies with gratuitous violence (check out any blockbuster superhero movie), listen to songs which present women as sexual objects to be used and discarded.
Maybe it is time in this New Year to think about what we are doing day by day, vote by vote, movie ticket by movie ticket, song by song.
Breathing is Life. Deep in, deep out. Deep in, deep out. Deep in, deep out.
Let’s reset in 2018 to a new norm, one that emphasizes Joy, Peace, Calm and Getting Along.
We really can find Good if we look for it.
I am starting the blog again. May you all have the best year, this year, that you have ever had! Full of Joy, Health, and Enlightenment.
An other-worldly Savannah snowstorm in Savannah, GA. A harbinger of great things to come!