Retired to Be Waylaid

By Terry Nyhuis

Every once in awhile, a quote from a book really hits home and causes me to dig deeper. This was the case with this quote, from a little book entitled Word by Word, which was gifted to me by a friend. I’m going to share with you the quote, and where it took me.

Genius: a Capacity to Be Waylaid

Genius lies not only in one’s capacity for noticing but in one’s readiness to be interested, informed, animated, even waylaid by whatever comes to hand.

― adapted from Word by Word

The immediate context of the original quote references Sherlock Holmes. His genius was, in large part, his ability to walk into a room and notice things. If there is such a thing as Spiritual Genius, I suspect it might have something to do with our capacity to notice, to be waylaid. I am going to come at this from a Christian perspective, as that is where my roots lie. However, I am quite sure it could be applied to most other spiritual practices as well.

A Capacity to Be Waylaid by the Broken and Needy

[A] Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the [wounded] man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him …

― From the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-35 NIV)

The way Jesus told this story, a couple of religious guys, a priest and Levite, didn’t have a capacity to be waylaid by a person who’d been beaten up. A (lower-class) Samaritan, however, had the capacity to be waylaid.

Earlier in life, I suspect―okay, I know―I was too busy, too focused, moving too fast to notice many who were broken and needy. However, in retirement, I am not as busy, focused, and rushed. I hope to live into a commensurate increase in my capacity to be waylaid.

A Capacity to Be Waylaid by Unknowing

Ascending, the forest becomes darker. Knowing becomes unknowing. Knowing by unknowing reaches the Light while reason crumbles in the darkness.

― St. John of the Cross

I love to think, string words together, and try to figure things out. But real genius, in my current train of understanding, is found in an ability to be waylaid by unknowing. When reason crumbles and mystery emerges, when things become dark, therein lies the Light.

Allowing knowing to become unknowing―allowing reason to crumble―isn’t easy. My mind finds it a challenge to be still, to know a deeper, more mystical knowing. I practice meditation to learn to be more easily waylaid by unknowing and darkness. It’s a slow process.

A Capacity to Be Waylaid by an Inner Life

People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.

― St. Augustine

I was raised Reformed, with a core belief in total depravity and original sin. In an old image, we are like onions: peel back the layers and we still stink. As Pastor Rob Bell put it, “Why do so many Christians’ Bibles begin with Genesis 3?”

The Bible begin with Genesis 1. At our core, we find original blessing, the breath of God, and the image and likeness of God.

To learn to stop and wonder at the wonder in myself, I turn to the mystics, poets, saints, and seers. I learn to see an original blessing, breath of God, and image of God in others around me. And, as I grow into a greater capacity to be waylaid, I am, every once in awhile, waylaid by the wonder in me.

Featured photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash.

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