Friday, January 29, 2010
So, as I was chewing on O'Donohue's thought, my mind was taken back to the story of the Tower of Babel. Many things can be said about this story; but the one that has most often captured me, and did again this morning, is the statement that they gathered together at Babel to "make a name for themselves" or, in another translation, to build a "monument to our greatness." Wow! What a profound statement about the human condition, and the human need to become "something," coming as it does at the end of Genesis 1-11 and right before God calls Abram and initiates the "rebuilding" project. It is the perfect way to end Genesis 1-11. What does it all mean? Here is my thought: We can bet that if the stones that they were using at Babel to build their tower could have cried out to the people, and told of their folly, they would have.........but indeed, as O'Donohue reminds us, they were doing precisely that!
Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.
–Thomas Merton, in a letter to Jim Forest dated February 21, 1966, reproduced in The Hidden Ground of Love: Letters by Thomas Merton (W. Shannon ed. 1993).
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
“If you were a stone, you could remain still, gathered in silent witness in the same landscape. The horizons and the infinity would never trouble you. Nothing could draw you out. As a human, your daily experience is riven with fracture and fragmentation.
Like a nomad you wander from event to event, from person to person, unable to settle anywhere for too long. The day is a chase after ghost duties; at evening you are exhausted. A day is over and so much of it was wasted on things that meant to little to you, duties and meetings from which your heart was absent. Months and years pass and you fumble on, still incapable of finding a foothold on the path of time you walk.
A large proportion of your activity distracts you from remembering that you are a guest of the universe, to whom one life has been given. You mistake the insisten pressure of daily demands for reality and your more delicate and intuitive nature wilts. When you wake from your obsessions, you feel cheated.
Your longing is being numbed and your longing becomes merely external. Your way of life has so little to do with what you feel and love in the world. But, because of the many demands on you and responsibilities that you have, you feel helpless to gather your self; you are dragged in so many directions away from true belonging.”
From ‘Eternal Echoes’ by John O Donohue
Saturday, January 23, 2010
There is something hopeful in this approach to life. In our community we often ask, “What is our reflex? What attitudes and postures are we attempting to cultivate?” If our initial thought about someone is “friend”, our interactions with them will have a fundamentally different tone than if we view them as “foe” or even as a neutral “unknown.” If we normatively grant others the privileged status of one who is included, the very trajectory of our interactions will be realigned.
This point was brought home to me a few months ago, when I was nearly cut off by a minivan as I drove through downtown. As it moved into my lane, I braked and angrily laid on the horn, thinking ugly thoughts about the driver. When the van slowed to let me pass, I saw that the driver was actually a friend of mine from a playgroup. Immediately, my attitude became more understanding and generous; I began to think, “Oh, she’s probably talking to her girls; it’s so difficult driving with kids.” Our positive relationship made a fundamental difference in how I perceived her and her actions, how I responded to her accidental violation of my space. But had she been a stranger, I doubt I would have been as forgiving. This is where I should learn from my daughter.
How can we cultivate this generosity and openness to others? How do we reset our default settings so that the other is spontaneously viewed as friend instead of foe? And how might our lives be different if we succeeded?
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Monday, January 18, 2010
I came across this interview of Dr. King by Robert Penn Warren. Here is a quote:
In regards to what might further the movement for civil rights and follow it:
I think if there is a next phase it will be an extension of the present phase. My feeling is that we will really have to grapple with ways and means to really bring about an integrated society. Nonviolent direct action, working through the courts, and working through legislative processes may be extremely helpful in bringing about a desegregated society. But when we move into the realm of actual integration which deals with mutual acceptance, a genuine intergroup, interpersonal living, then it seems to me that other methods will have to be used. And I think that the next phase will be the phase that really grapples with the--the methods that must be used to bring about a thoroughly integrated society.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Christine Sine has these helpful reflections on the terrible situation in Haiti. Christine and Tom are wise mentors and worth listening to, especially at times such as this.
The horrendous earthquake in Haiti on Tuesday evening has shocked all of us. It is hard to imagine the death and devastation that it has caused – at least 50,000 dead, hundreds of thousands injured and 3 million people displaced – almost half the population of Haiti. And of course the ramifications of this disaster will go on for a long time to come not just for those who live in this tiny country but for all those who love and care for the people of Haiti.
Both Tom and I have worked in Haiti and our hearts ache as we think of the wonderful people we have known there. These people were already poor and struggling to keep their families alive. What will happen now I wonder?
At times like this all of us feel so inadequate and can easily be overwhelmed into numbing paralysis as we try to get our heads around the magnitude of the horror . It amazes me how closely connected we can be these days to what is happening on the ground in a disaster like this. Every news channel and website, like CNN, gives us moment by moment images and stories of what is happening – which unfortunately can add to the mind numbing paralysis we feel. We can even follow along in the blogosphere like this account from Troy Livesay – which I find preferable because it gives me a sense of real people doing real things to make a difference.