Under Construction

Under Construction May 8, 2023

Those with brains like mine ought to have a sign on our foreheads that says, “Under Construction.”  That is to say, we are never complete. which is a good thing but frequently frustrating.

By good I mean we are ever learning. 

Bioscience, which once thought our brains stop making new cells around 25 years, now knows we make new cells as well as thicken theThe Connection Between Mind and Learning connection between those that remain.  One reason we geezers are encouraged to learn new things is that doing so makes dementia less likely.  Those gummy things called plaques are like places where the road is so bad or washed out that we have to slow down or go around.  Learning new things creates detours, as it were.

By frustrating I mean ever changing.

There is comfort in knowing the landscape, being able to move confidently.  When we learn new things it doesn’t just add to what we knew, it changes what we already knew.

Consider the word “I.”  By adding one letter, “t,” we have a new word altogether, “it.”

Add the letter “w” and “it” becomes “wit.”

Add the letter “h” and “wit” becomes “with.”

Add the letter “c” and “with becomes “witch.”

Add the letter “s” and “‘witch” becomes “switch.”

Not only are all all of them words, they are utterly unrelated.  Adding something changes what was there before.

Now you know the secret of Pigrim Life

It is to choose to be Under Construction as a way of life.  Whether you physically go other places or only figuratively, to be a pilgrim is to choose to be ever incomplete and uncertain.  It is to be willing to be drawn aside from the usual to the peculiar, to live a life of questioning, which is a kind of ‘quest’ isn’t it?  And most importantly, to question yourself at every turn – what you know, what you think you know, and so on.

ArticleDestruction is the beginning of Construction

Here in Michigan, a friend told me the four seasons are ‘almost winter, winter, still winter, and road construction.’ She was right, as soon as the likelhood of freezing thaws, those yellow cones came out.  They are all over the place, and as we all know, road construction starts with destruction – digging up the old.  Jackhammers and front end loaders, dust and noise, begin the process.

The same is true for Pilgrim Life.  We begin by destroying what we thought we knew, the questioning part, looking for the bedrock beneath it.  Consider another metaphor: filling a cavity.  When your dentist drills out the decay they also remove some material alongside so the amalgam will have a firmer grip.  Pilgrim Life requires letting go of some things you did not expect.  In my travels to Japan and India and Africa and Israel, just to name a few, what I expected was instantly dashed.  I had to let go of my presumptions, clear away the barnacles of prejudice.

Seek Bedrock and Suspect It

“On Jesus Christ, this rock I stand, all other ground is shifting sand,” says a familiar hymn.  Christianity says Jesus is the bedrock, and for that religion that is a rock solid fact.  For the Pilgrim that is a proposition not a fact, to be tested constantly.  More than once a builder mistook something for bedrock that wasn’t, and the building paid for it.  My favorite philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead, said, ‘seek simplicity and distrust it.’  The philosopher’s task is to reach the bedrock truths, but always to be wary of all claims to have found it.  Pilgrims are always testing their own bedrock.  They are not wandering but prospecting, as it were, seeing if it truly is the bottom below which we cannot go.

We Will Return to Our Program in a Moment

If you have been following me before this, you were expecting the next day in my account of visiting Israel back in February.  That will resume, but today – sensing it had been too long since the last post and suffering from a nasty head cold – I knew it would be easier to write about the sponsor of this blog, the reason for it.


Fred at Dome of the Rock

Put a pin in that, as we now say.  Or better, it seemed to pause and remind ourselves why we go on these journeys of body and mind.  For truth to tell, I am too sick even to write about walking right now.


Give me a week or so and I will be up and running again.

About Fred Wooden
Fred Wooden is a retire clergyman who discovered his spiritual practice - pilgrimage - by accident. Here he writes on his actual journeys and how they have shaped his mind and spirit. You can read more about the author here.

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