Anne Lamott Does the Spiritual Jig

anne-lamott-2.jpgMy sister and I went to see author Anne Lamott speak a little more than a week ago at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall right here in Pittsburgh.

I have two things to say about Ms. Lamott:

1.) She is incredible and inspiring and goofy and spiritual and hilarious and make-you-want-to-laugh-out-loud, but cry all at the same time.

2.) She really is just fabulous.

OK, so that was more like 18 things rolled into 2 thoughts, but it would really be quite difficult to sum up her wonderfulness in bulleted points anyway.

She is one of those people who just has a presence; her simple being could make you feel a multitude of emotions before she ever even gets the chance to speak.

Lamott opened the event, which was sponsored by the Community of Reconciliation Church, by reading from her latest book Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith, a collection of essays that was preceded by two other books about faith, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith and Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith.

My sister and I laughed the whole way through her reading — not only did her writing and words paint fantastic pictures, but her animated voice and expressions made the essay come to life.

After her talk, Lamott spoke about her writing and life, and how she thought faith played a part in the greater scheme of both those things. I particularly enjoyed when she talked about how she and her boyfriend have been taking dance lessons.

“And we are just horrible,” she said, joining the audience in laughter.

She told the audience about the foxtrot and how it is the first dance that is taught to beginners.bird_bird-2.jpg

“And the steps are slow, slow, quick, quick,” Lamott said, showing the audience the simple foot movements.

And just when you begin to think, “Now what does this have to do with faith?” Lamott tells you just how much a few movements can apply to the great laws of the universe:

“If you want to grow in the spirit, you start where you are, and you go in baby steps,” she said. “And it’s slow, slow, quick, quick.”

How cool is that? Think for a moment about what Lamott is suggesting; it is so simple and so complex all at the same time.

If faith and spirit are like the foxtrot, then really the only true way to achieve either would be to move slowly, and then take a few quick “steps” forward. This is really quite practical if you consider it in the grand scheme of things. When one decides to, as Lamott puts it, “Grow in the spirit,” it is never an overnight affair. Discovering that faith takes time, baby steps if you may.

However, when one does begin to uncover the contents of spirit and grace, quick movements are made in that direction. One might assume then, that she has achieved a better understanding of faith. But nevertheless, something is always thrown in her path to deter her from that course; a roadblock to the greater parts of the spirit. A test in faith has been aimed at the spiritual pursuer, and the steps become slow, slow once again.

And the path to spiritual growth continues just like that — forever. Because spirituality is not a new piece of clothing of which to try. Instead, it is a consistent swarm of choices and observations for one to make. And the decisions will not always fit like your favorite pair of jeans. Because growing in the spirit is simply not that comfortable. It takes thousands of try-ons, and even then, one will often find himself at the beginning, searching for that perfect “fit” once again.

Lamott finished that portion of her talk by quoting E.L. Doctorow, the author of Ragtime. He once said:

“Writing is like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

While that quote means so many things to the writer in me, it is interesting to think of it in a spiritual manner as well. Because the truth is, that road is no more well lit than that which is only illuminated by headlights.

But, when it comes right down to it, you can continue along that way forever. And the steps along the way?

Slow, slow, quick quick.



Filed under March 2008, Pray

6 responses to “Anne Lamott Does the Spiritual Jig

  1. Mom

    I just love the way you wrote this post…the next time I get frustrated or a little off track I will think “slow,slow,quick,quick”!!!! xoxo

  2. Amanda

    I loved hearing her speak… her analogies made such sense. You are right, she has this way of making you laugh and bringing you to tears at the same time. Really just a cool, amazing person! 🙂

  3. Mandi

    I stumbled upon your blog while searching for Anne Lamott on google. Your post was so well-written that it sucked me in even though I had no intention of staying. And even though I don’t know you I wanted to tell you that I learned something while reading this: spirituality is not a new piece of clothing of which to try. That resonates with me. So thank you.

  4. Ron Bedry

    Great post. I read “Bird by Bird” while helping my mom get over a terrible case of pneumonia. Her writing instructions are also spiritual lessons; step by step we can get to the next place we need to be, in writing and in life. Sadly, I have a Christian friend, of the evangelical persuasion, who has stopped corresponding with me ever since I cited Ms. Lamott as one of my favorite Christian writers.

  5. My family really enjoys and follows closely the work of Anne Lamott. By chance found her on a writing seminar (pbs?) answering and encouraging…being pressed about”when do you get an agenT?” she kept avoiding the question. Writing is its own best reward, or words to that effect. “you won’t make any money until your fifth or sixth attempt…” But the she said'”Jesus is my agent, I give him tenpercent….” we statrted buying her books and giving them to friends…she is so refreshing. She restores my soul.


  6. Bill, I am so glad that you enjoy Anne Lamott as much as I do. She really is a fabulous writer and speaker. Take care!

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