This blog is about a famous story and a painting, a son and father even more amazing, for I speak of my son, William, and then my essay ends with a tribute to Henri Nouwen, who wrote about all of this in his beautiful, poignant and poetic book, The Return of the Prodigal Son. His fascination with the painting by Rembrandt drew such love and awe from all who knew him and all admirers around the world that the Dutch gallery closed off the exhibit hall to let Nouwen be alone in quiet contemplation with all within and on the other side of this painting and to simply lose himself in sheer enchantment of painting swirling into the biblical story and out again and sweeping through him and all that it evoked of his own personal life and so much wider the widening circles of his loves.
For example, in his being with those multitudes he, I and we sing of “astonishing differences” and a mutual cultivating of the habits of empathy, joy, imagination, intimacy and the needed gentle humanity of shared sorrows, fears and yearnings for real love met but never enough. But the world sighs nonetheless and tries to stifle its condescending pleasure like corrosive acid in its soul and thus its conventional exclusionary wisdom reduces cruelly each and every unique child the same as not of astonishing differences and other mysteries when we let ourselves and all others go free of these burdenings and simply greet one another in anticipatory illumination. But rather they are of “identified disabilities” in its prejudice of “Abelism” and they are the “weak” who perfect the strengths of the “strong” and yet how often are these “hideous strengths.” See the podcast episode by this title of “Abelism” by Laura Sommer, a wondrous prophet and poet pioneer of Autistic Liberation Theology which is simply exquisite and in a manner just like that of Jesus and Nouwen: expansively inclusive and transgressive in a world becoming smaller and turned in upon itself—but no longer for we are incandescent whole spectrums exploding like dynamite for changing the world. And this is whst Gandhi said of Christianity, especially the Beatitudes and Sermon on the Mount, if only Christians dare to use and ignite it.
If only we can be this wild fire of deep-souled Pentecostal joy, and to feel this wind of the soul take us away again.
And perhaps this kindred sharing of Sommer and Nouwen is the true, honest and lovely Spirit in Nouwen’s life, teaching, friendships, pastoral care, ministry and living life as triumphal, meaningful and beautiful as possible by celebrating the tender wisdom of humanekindness. It does seem increasingly rare these days.
His memorable and profound prophetic witness and imprint upon the beloved good earth and people still endures and is particularly alive in the Nouwen Foundation: I still enjoy from time to time his daily meditations. It is said that when he preached, his fingers seemed to be filled with fire.
Hope you enjoy!
Our shared adventure as fathers and sons, artist and poets and out life together as a new ethos of “Prodigious Loving by Abundant Being” in sheer embrace of life, hope, love and grace as anticipatory illumination and expansively inclusive new flourishing now begins: