A chronological recounting of the retreat

Reluctance. Had Brandon not asked again me the other day, as we sat on the marble steps of the church, waiting for Lou to pick us up, I doubt I would’ve willed myself to come. These retreats appear all the same to me; a series of pious praising, and later, during the nights, an air of solemnity, moist with the tears of either apologetic friends or exuberant worshippers. And were one to present it as an opportunity to heighten the intimacy amongst friends, he faces the challenge of proving why the retreat over the myriad other means.

Slight relief. Upon seeing my friends (how glad I was for their presence!), my displeasure was temporarily dispelled. We immediately shared a laugh, and the coming days began to appear far less menacing. That night, after supper, we played cards on the mattresses, during which it felt as if community-living could always be so pleasant and comfortable.

Wisdom. True wisdom adheres to reason, and not to authority. We must not be too quick to accept the beliefs of others, nor too gullible as to fall for the beautiful cocoon that is charisma. A person can speak as passionately as he might for a belief, but one must realize that passion renders no merit to the truthfulness of a belief. Thus, one must learn to question everything, and most of all to question the ones that seem to regard themselves as wholly evident and infallible. Question this then: “People are naturally divisive”.

Terrified. Ever since I first participated in one these vivacious sessions; as I looked about me and saw how people were so immersed in something I could not understand, something that felt swathed in suspect and the mystic powers of emotion; I have never taken well to the exercise. I doubt I shall ever be able to raise my arms like them, in complete exultation.

Solemnity. The session came early – it was only the middle of afternoon, a far cry from the opportune night. I have never quite liked these solemn sessions, wherein the lights are dim and the air somber, even though I do see the importance of having them; that is, as an outlet for people to express what they have kept in secrecy within themselves, and what yearns for the sympathy of other souls. But I supposed that it was only respectful to acquiesce to such a mood. And so I did: remained silently on carpet and gave my highest attention to the all those troubled hearts.

Annoyance. The entire session ran for slightly more than five hours, and I had become tired of the depressing mood. People were still going up to make their apologies, but I couldn’t be bothered anymore – I desperately needed some peace. And so I left the room to go downstairs. What really ran through my mind then was this: Why must retreats always endeavor to bring out the deepest upsets and frustrations of people? I know, it sounds petty and naive and selfish. Maybe it was just the duration that irked me; that voracious prolonging of a mood that ought never to be prolonged.

Joy. I remember feeling it for a moment. Everyone was being so nice and warm, and genuinely so. That is all I have ever expected of friends. I also remember feeling as if the 1COR12 dream could be achieved. I believed it, despite the usual force of my skepticism.

Hesitation. Had I stood outside for just a minute longer, things might turned out quite different. But the world is divided into two and I can have only one half; the other half is nebulous anyway.

Guilt. In the Honest Room, I read of a friend’s dismay, or maybe jadedness, at having done so much and yet seen so little progress. This has been brewing in him for some time now I think. And I feel guilty for having likely contributed to that stagnation which so frustrates him. Nonetheless, I truly admire his unfailing diligence and liveliness in building the communal spirit.

Gratitude. I have been so busy trying to find the faults of the retreat, to prove the gratuitousness of deliberating lofty names and lofty ideals, that I did not think to thank the people who had devoted so much of their time to the planning and organizing of the retreat. Thus I thank them now, insofar as these surreptitious words may find their way to them, and insofar as they may carry the force of a personable praise.

Realization. Retreats like these, as often as I consider them pointless, seem to have their merits in something beyond the sessions and words and prayers and apologies. Retreats give us a space and a silence to look into ourselves and thence, an opportunity for rediscovery. We are relinquished for those few days from all the worries and anxieties arising worldly duties. And the array of petty distractions are too kept away. There is nothing left but oneself. I suppose, for this reason, that I am glad to have gone for the retreat. In spite of the tumult that so many disagreeble things raised in my heart, the serenity of mind given was ineffable, and so made the time entirely worthwhile.


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