"I emptied my mind of all thought, and in its absence was light."

October 30th, 2013, 11am

It was 14°C with scattered clouds. The breeze was gentle.

When was the last time you simply sat?

This is a sketch about me, the Pope, and Louis CK.

For once, Glenn was a little late and I was a little early. I sat on the bench in the Madison lobby watching the lunchers file past and out into the October day.

My impulse was to check my email, the weather, the headlines. Glenn would arrive in anywhere from 30 seconds to 4 minutes, so of course I reached for my phone. That’s what we all do, right?

Then two bald guys — Louis CK and Pope Francis I — whispered to me.

First Louis:

You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what the phones are taking away: the ability to just sit there.

The whole interview is remarkably insightful.

As I waited for Glenn it provided a segue to even deeper insight by Pope Francis I:

Before I accepted [the offer of being named Pope] I asked if I could spend a few minutes in the room next to the one with the balcony overlooking the square. My head was completely empty and I was seized by a great anxiety. To make it go away and relax I closed my eyes and made every thought disappear, even the thought of refusing to accept the position, as the liturgical procedure allows. I closed my eyes and I no longer had any anxiety or emotion. At a certain point I was filled with a great light. It lasted a moment, but to me it seemed very long. Then the light faded, I got up suddenly and walked into the room where the cardinals were waiting and the table on which was the act of acceptance. I signed it, the Cardinal Camerlengo countersigned it and then on the balcony there was the ‘Habemus Papam’.

Credit to Andrew Sullivan for promoting the original interview and providing his own excellent commentary.

I learned these lessons myself in 2010. After having a large portion of my jaw replaced with a bone graft from my ribcage (thank you Doctors Ross, Obeid and Golocovsky) my immediate recovery period included a two-week sabbatical from all phone and email. By the end I realized that over the years I’d steadily surrendered meditative quiet for a constant stream of phone-supplied distraction.

I also realized what a terrible cad I’d become, glancing at my phone during meals with friends, listening to loved ones with barely one of my ears and neither of my eyes.

The enemy? Fear of boredom.

My brilliant friend LD once told me, “I don’t write and record music to be happy. I do it to not be bored.”

Rather than grab the phone I took in my surroundings. I noticed the lobby ceiling and had a long look. Not many people find the Madison aesthetically appealing (especially compared to the glorious Jefferson) so I go out of my way to notice beautiful spots and angles.

… At a certain moment I was filled with a great light. It lasted a moment, but to me it seemed very long.

Glenn arrived. “Hold on,” I told him. “I need to take a picture.”

Yes, I grabbed my phone. Not impulsively nor compulsively — I made a conscious decision to sketch and share the moment.

Anecdotally: Andrew Sullivan is bald. Glenn and LD are not.

Aakash, Rita, Christine, Gerry and 18 others said thanks.

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John Pull

builder, mentor, maker, traveler

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