On not doing everything, but for sure doing some thing

The other day I was cleaning out some files and came across a page with this quote from Thomas Merton.  It so reminded me of why I fell in love with his writing, I thought I would share it with you all.  I hope it give you pause to think for a moment or two the way it did (and still does) for me.

The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, it its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. More than that, it is cooperation in violence. The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his work for peace. It destroys his own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of his own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.

From Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, by Thomas Merton (Doubleday & Company. Garden City, NY, 1968, p. 86

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Reflections of Summertime, Balance and the Need for Play

Now that I am retired and have time to think and recently I find myself thinking about the importance of balance, and well, the importance of rest and play. When I was working, success at work was my primary goal for a good long while. Then my partner caught cancer, and doing my best to take care of her was not just my primary goal, it was my only goal. Now I find myself thinking about balance: work and play, self and others, doing and being.

As if to remind me of the importance of balance between work and play, I came across this story in Joan Chittister’s book “Wisdom Distilled from the Daily.”

One day a traveler in the desert came across good Sister Scholastica who was relaxing and enjoying herself with the other sisters. The traveler was shocked, and taunted the sisters saying, “What kind of monastics were they to be out playing like that?!?”

Sister Scholastica asked the traveler if he had a bow and arrow. And the fellow allowed as how he did. The good sister then asked him to shoot an arrow off toward the far distant horizon. He did. And she said, now shoot another. He did. And Sister Scholastica said, “Shoot your bow again. Keep shooting; keep shooting; keep shooting!” Finally the traveler said, “But if I bend my bow so much I will break it.”

And Sister Scholastica said to him, “It is just the same with the work of holiness and with the work for justice. If we stretch ourselves beyond measure, we will break. Sometimes it is necessary to take the time to meet our other needs as well.”

When the traveler heard those words, he was saw their wisdom and repented of his rebuke to Sister Scholastica. And the other sisters were strengthened in their sense of community.

Further in the book, Chittister notes that Talmud Scholars have commented on the importance of rest.  When we rest from our work, we create a time and space to evaluate where we have been, how far we have come, and the quality of what we have done. When we rest we open time and space to contemplate the meaning of life, and the meaning of our own life as we have chosen to live it.

So, yes the work that you are doing IS important. AND it is important to remember that if you overwork a bow it will break, if you overwork yourself, you too will break. So, take a deep breath and go out and play for a while! After all it is summer time and the living should be easy.

Rumi’s Seven Advices

One of my favorite poet/sages is the Sufi scholar I know as Rumi (1207-1273). His full name is Mevlânâ Celâleddin Mehed Rumi. Recently I came across a bit of writing by him knows as the ‘Seven Advices’ and I thought I would share it with you all here:

  1.  In generosity and helping others: be like the river
  2. In compassion and grace: be like the sun.
  3. In concealing others’ faults: be like the night.
  4. In anger and fury: be like the dead.
  5. In modesty and humility: be like the soil.
  6. In tolerance: be like the ocean.
  7. Either appear as you are, or: be as you appear.

Rumi wrote in the thirteenth century, and yet, these bits of advise are well taken today. Imagine a world where generosity and help flowed as freely and as powerfully as a river. Imagine a world where compassion and graciousness shone in all of our lives as brilliantly as the sun on a perfect summer day. Imagine a world where we were eager to hide others faults the way the darkness of a cloudy, starless night hides just about everything. Imagine a world where we put no energy or life into our anger or frustrations. Imagine a world where our modesty and humility were as rich and fertile as the soil of a river delta. Imagine a world where we were all as tolerant and accepting as the ocean is deep. Imagine a world were appearances were not deceiving, but what you saw was what you got, where authenticity reigned.

Imagine!

You may say I’m a dreamer.

But love and joy increase.

I hope someday you’ll join in,

and the world will be in peace.