Going to an Inner Party
By Meg Barnhouse

May/June 1999

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I don’t know if you have this experience, but I find overheard conversations are more interesting than the ones I’m part of. Television sounds more interesting if I don’t catch exactly what’s being said; an unopened Christmas present is always better than an opened one; the inventions I think up while half asleep are more fabulous than the ones my waking mind comes up with; and what’s about to happen is more interesting than what’s happening now. The thoughts along the edges of the mainstream are more interesting than the ones in full consciousness.

I don’t know what to call it when mis-reading and mis-hearing things are a source of inspiration and delight. Right now I think of it as my inner poet. I picture her as a tricky laughing woman who’s cross-eyed from trying to see around corners.

Here’s what I’m talking about: I heard someone on the radio say faintly: “It’s coming in at the speed of snow.” I still don’t know what they really said, but who cares? “It’s coming in at the speed of snow” is something you’d hear in a dream. What exactly is the speed of snow? It’s a Zen koan. The imagination opens and the linear train of thought derails.

Driving home from the mountains one afternoon, I saw a sign for the Trinity Fish Camp. When I looked again it said Tri-city Fish Camp, but I think “trinity” is a better name. After all, Jesus hung out with fishermen. You can picture the disciples at the Trinity Fish Camp, sitting around a paper-covered table, cracking crabs and talking theology, hush-puppy crumbs in their beards.

Another time I thought I saw a sign that said Children’s Truck Stop, and I got to thinking what a children’s truck stop might be like. Would children bring their trucks, gas them up, get the windshields washed? Would they buy tiny boots and eat small burgers with pecan swirls for dessert? I know there would be video games.

Rereading something I had written the other day, I found a typo. I was talking about a dinner party and I had left off the “d.” Going to an “inner party” sounds fun, although I’m not sure how you’d get there, who would be invited, and what would be served. I’m pretty sure you’d get to dance, though, and I think once in a while I’ve heard the music.

The Rev. Meg Barnhouse is a pastoral counselor and mother of two sons who lives in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She is a commentator for Western North Carolina Public Radio, has a second-degree black belt in karate, and provides consultation to corporations and nonprofits. Her meditation manual The Rock of Ages at the Taj Mahal was published by Skinner House in 1998.

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