You don’t even have sense enough to drink when somebody brings you a cup of consecrated chicken soup—which is the only kind of chicken soup Bessie ever brings to anybody around this madhouse. So just tell me…how in the hell are you going to recognize a legitimate holy man when you see one if you don’t even know a cup of consecrated chicken soup when it’s right in front of your nose?
-JD Salinger, Franny and Zooey
In the first part of Salinger’s Franny and Zooey, college student Franny has an emotional breakdown. In the second part, she is at home in New York City’s Upper East Side—surrounded by her loving and somewhat eccentric family and being nursed back to health. Franny explains at length that she is overwhelmed by the meaninglessness of of life, by the greed and ego and selfishness that surround her. She is looking for truth, for goodness, for spirituality. And here we see, at the end of the story, Franny’s brother Zooey explaining that the spiritual life she seeks is closer than she perhaps realized.
Like Franny, I sometimes feel disconnected and even beaten down by “the man”, or the negative political climate, or disputes at home. I occasionally feel misunderstood, isolated…all the while looking, as did Franny, for the holy man. Yet, I’ve also had experiences of connection—being with loved ones, reading a few great lines in a book, or witnessing a glorious sunset. But these times are few and far between.
Or are they? What if the holy man is here? Now. What if everything we see or hear or taste or smell—however big or small or spectacular or mundane—is the holy man bringing us into this universal conversation?
The holy man is the chicken soup and dirty dishes and the cherry blossoms and my daughter’s texts from college. He is the heartbreak and surprises and lessons and every line of this novel that we are writing together. The holy man is here.
Maybe it’s time to take off my blinders, stop seeing the world only from my limited perspective, and open up, listen, absorb, take notes, and walk—hand in hand—with the holy man.