Thursday, October 29, 2020

Everything Matters

[I seldom (never?) quote Richard Rohr's daily posting in its entirety, but this one hit home for me. The reflection is from Cynthia Bourgeault. It belongs here.]

 Thursday,  October 29, 2020


Only the Divine matters,
And because the Divine matters,
Everything matters.

                                                             —Thomas Keating, “What Matters”

The simplicity of the final poem in The Secret Embrace speaks eloquently of what I (Richard) know more deeply to be true with every passing year. It’s the incarnational message at the heart of the Gospel: everything belongs! It is a Christ-soaked universe. As we near the end of this series, Cynthia Bourgeault shares her understanding of Thomas Keating’s final legacy to us. 

In October 2018, two weeks before he died, Thomas Keating emerged briefly from four days in what appeared to be a coma to deliver an extraordinary final message beamed straight to the heart of the world. [1] Acknowledging that “an extraordinary moment of civilization seems to be overtaking us,” he urged the human family to scrap old approaches based on religious or political dogma and “begin a new world with one that actually exists,” a world whose truth is guided by “silence and science” and whose heart is revealed in a universal resurgence of human compassion and creativity. “We need to find ways to make these really happen,” he said. “I leave this hope in your hands and hearts coming as a real inspiration from the heart of God.”

Two momentous years later, his words seem more prophetic than ever.

Of the many insights Thomas Keating has given us in these poems, two gifts stand out in particular. The first is that he has completely reframed the traditional Christian notion of God, offering us a powerful new roadmap with which to make spiritual sense of our contemporary world. In this short poem of eleven laser-like words, Thomas smashes through centuries of theological barricades separating God from the world and contemplation from action, offering instead a flowing vision of oneness within a profoundly interwoven and responsive relational field.

To have this universal wisdom affirmed so forcefully by one of Christianity’s most revered elders creates a powerful new incentive for a compassionate re-engagement with our times. Practically speaking, the map affirms that our actions, our choices, our connections bear more weight than we dare to believe. We are neither isolated nor helpless but immersed in a great web of belonging in which divine intelligence and compassion are always at our disposal if our courage does not fail us.

The second gift awaiting us in these poems is their powerful reaffirmation that the access route to all new beginning comes by leaning into the diminishment, stripping, and emptiness. Not by trying to distract ourselves, anesthetize ourselves, or use our spiritual tool kit to re-establish the status quo. New beginning is intrinsically disorienting and anguishing; it builds on the wreckage of what has been outgrown but not yet relinquished. As the veils are lifted and our familiar reference points dissolve, it is only on the timeless path of surrender (a.k.a. “letting go,” “consenting to the presence and action of God”) that we find our way through the darkness and into the new beginning. Godspeed and know that we travel the path together!

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

a monstrous irrationality

"We are victims of a monstrous irrationality

- which we call 'means of communication' -

but which in actual fact obstructs real communication.

A vast machine which processes 'events' and reduces them to gibberish

in which reality is a total loss."

- Thomas Merton

Monday, October 26, 2020

Wendall Berry Sabbath Poem

Tanya and Wendell Berry working in the field, Courtesy of Platform Media Group

Praise “family values,”

“a better future for our children,”

displacing meanwhile the familiar

membership to be a “labor force”

of homeless strangers. Praise

work and name it “jobs.”

With “labor-saving technology”

replace workers at their work

and hold them in contempt

because they have no “jobs.”

Praise “our country” and oppress

the land with poisons, gouges,

blastings, the violent labors and

pleasures of the unresting displaced,

skinning the earth alive.

This is the way, the truth, and the life.

Welcome the refugees set free

from the “nowhere” of rural America,

from the “drudgery” of the household

and the “mind-numbing work”

of shops and farms, into 

the anthills of “liberation”

the endless vistas of “growth,”

of “progress,” the “limitless adventure

of the human spirit” rising

through inward emptiness into

“outer space.” Welcome

the displaced naturally “upwardly

mobile” to their “better world”

as they gather bright-lighted

in “multicultural” masses

in the packed streets. Catch 

those who inevitably

fall from the light-swarm

in meshes of “safety nets,” “benefits,”

“job training,” the army,

the wars, mental hospitals,

jails, graves. Forget

vocation, memory, living

and dying at home. This

is the way, the truth, and the life.

Flourish your weapons of official

war where they are needed

for peace, bring death by chance

but needfully to small houses

where children play at war

or a wedding is taking place

so that the bride and the groom

will not be separately killed,

for you have an enemy

somewhere, who must be killed.

Therefor forgive the unofficial

entrepreneur who brings

your weapons to your 

school, your office, your

neighborhood theater, bringing

death randomly but needfully,

for his enemies are his

as yours are yours. This is

the way, the truth, and the life.

Wendell Berry

Sabbath Poem XIV, 2012

Saturday, October 24, 2020


“It is not by preaching or expounding the sutras (scriptures) that you fulfill the task of awakening others to self-realization; it is rather by the way you walk, the way you stand, the way you sit and the way you see things.” —Thich Nhat Hanh 

(Photo by Paul Davis)

Thursday, October 8, 2020

A Faith that is rooted in the Unknown

The heart of man [sic] can be full of so much pain, even when things are exteriorly “all right”. It becomes all the more difficult because today we are used to thinking that there are explanations for everything. But there is no explanation of most of what goes on in our own hearts, and we cannot account for it all. No use resorting to the kind of mental tranquilizers that even religious explanations sometimes offer. Faith must be deeper than that, rooted in the unknown and in the abyss of darkness that is the ground of our being. No use teasing the darkness to try to make answers grow out of it. But if we learn how to have a deep inner patience, things solve themselves, or God solves them if you prefer: but do not expect to see how. Just learn to wait, and do what you can and help other people. Often it is in helping someone else we find the best way to bear our own trouble.

-- Thomas Merton
from his Christmas letter, 1966


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