Hope for the Future
I recently installed a bird-feeding tree outside our breakfast window – made from a crooked mountain laurel branch. Among its branches I have hung several feeders that get refilled daily. It is a pleasure and a joy to find a “new” bird that needs identifying, as well as to see our same “friends” each day.
This is just one of the pastimes I have had the opportunity to pursue this year – this time of “staying home.” I have enjoyed the quiet and the routine and even the sameness of the days. The hustle and bustle of two busy schedules is winnowed down to what we can do from home and a few trips to the grocery store. At first the days crept by but now they seem as swift in passing as ever. Still, though the pace has increased, there is time for contemplation.
But —I have a niggling feeling, that I should be “doing more.” I try to keep up with the news of the world but find myself only able to take small sips. Anything more and I get overwhelmed. Sometimes it seems there is so much coming at me that I feel as though I am drinking from a fire hose.
I have heard a statistic – that a person today is exposed to more information in a day (hour, week, month, year?) than a person a hundred years ago might experience in a lifetime. We were NOT MEANT to comprehend what is thrown our way in such volume. No wonder we end up overwhelmed and with different opinions and views of — everything!
My small sips of “news” have led me to try to understand both sides of arguments, to try to see where we, on seemingly opposite sides, might find common ground. I believe that there IS a large common ground – we have just forgotten how to get there. Though I am not sure I found a way to DO anything – I am grateful for the opportunity to have time to explore other ideas and viewpoints and try to understand.
The following from Richard Rohr and The Center for Action and Contemplation spoke particularly to me in light of our divided world. (cac.org)
Creating Peaceful Change (Sunday, August 18, 2019)
The root of violence is the illusion of separation—from God, from being one with oneself and everything else, and from Being Itself. When we don’t know how to consciously live out of union (which is called love), we resort to violence, fighting anything that is not like us and that we cannot control. Contemplative practice teaches us to honor differences and also realize that we are all much more than our nationality, skin color, gender, or other labels which are all aspects of the passing and thus false self. Contemplation brings us back to our True Self, who we are in God.
When we can become little enough, naked enough, and honest enough, then we will, ironically, find that we are more than enough. This is the wisdom of the Gospel that is especially emphasized in Franciscan spirituality. At this place of both poverty and freedom we have nothing to prove or protect. Here we can connect with everything and everyone. Everything belongs. This cuts violence at its very roots before there is any basis for fear, anger, vengeance, or self-promotion—the things that often cause violence.
One of the reasons I founded the Center for Action and Contemplation thirty-two years ago was to give activists some grounding in spirituality (their True Self) so they could continue working for social change, but from a stance much different than anger, ideology, or oppositional willpower. Many activists I knew in the 1960s loved the nonviolent teachings of Jesus, Mohandas Gandhi (1869–1948), and Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968). But it became clear to me that theirs was often a mere intellectual appreciation rather than a participation in the much deeper mystery.
To create peaceful change, we first have to get the “Who” right. Who are you? Most of us, particularly pragmatic Americans, lead with strategic questions—what, how, when. These are secondary questions. Before we act or react, we need to wait—wait for communion, wait until we’re reconnected to the Ground of Being and even in our “enemies,” wait until we’re conscious, wait until a “yes” appears within us.
When we begin by connecting with our inner experience of communion, our actions can be pure, clear, and firm. This kind of action, rooted in one’s True Self, comes from a deeper knowing of what is real, good, true, and beautiful—beyond labels and dualistic judgments of right or wrong. From this place, our energy is positive and has the most potential to create change for the good. This stance is precisely what we mean by “being in prayer” and why we must pray always to maintain this state of constant prayer.
I’m not telling you not to act. The Gospel offers a way to make our action sustainable and lasting over the long haul. People on the Right tend to be perpetually angry, fearful, and overly defensive, and people on the Left tend to be perpetually cynical, morally righteous, and outraged. The Gospel calls forth a refined instrument beyond these two falsehoods that can really make a difference because it is a new level of consciousness altogether. Such activists are themselves “a new creation” (Galatians 6:15) and the lightning rods of God’s transformative energy into the world.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Healing Our Violence Through the Journey of Centering Prayer, discs 1 and 2 (Franciscan Media: 2002), CD.