“The world today tends to be cynical about most things. We have a hard time believing in an enchanted world, a sacred or benevolent universe. Why would we if we see only at the surface level? Everywhere we turn, every time we watch the news, we see suffering. We have become skeptical about God’s goodness, humanity’s possibilities, and our planet’s future. We can’t help seeing what is not and are often unable to recognize or appreciate what is. I see this temptation in myself almost every day. I have to pray and wait for a second gaze, a deeper seeing. This is my daily bread.” (https://cac.org/category/daily-meditations/) #RichardRohr
The quote above, from Richard Rohr, was part of my devotional reading this morning. I quickly took the phrase; “Second Gaze” to heart. I hadn’t heard it before but it is a primary wisdom discipline. It is the understanding that if we only see with our physical sight we will miss the goodness, the light, the continuing blossoming of creation all around us. We will also miss the ways in which we can be a part of creation by loving, acts of kindness, a gentleness of spirit and humility to each person and everything we include in the circle of our lives.
Let us look around us today without the cynicism and negativity which often plagues our sight. May we behold and become a part of the ongoing miracle that is life in all its universal glory.
Ah! New Year’s resolutions. A rite of passage for most folks as they walk into the new year filled with the hope and promise of new beginnings, fresh starts.
Several years ago I quit making New Year’s resolutions. I forget what I was reading or whom I was speaking with but it led me to the conclusion that most resolutions are ego, self-focused. A lot of losing weight, less TV, reading more, exercise, quitting smoking, getting more sleep, etc. While none of these are bad or negative in any way it’s hard to see how they improve anything else but ourselves and perhaps other’s opinions of us.
January 1st, after all, is an arbitrary date. It is not different from any other date. The universe doesn’t know it’s a new year, the cosmos didn’t throw a party. Any date can be used to strap on a pair shoes and go walking, choose to eat better, chew gum instead of lighting up a cancer stick, turn off the telly, etc.
If the New Year is to have true, lasting meaning then what we need is self and global awareness. The ability to see the world, its need, our abundance and be empowered to do something about it. A diet for ourselves doesn’t abate world hunger, quitting smoking doesn’t stop smog hanging over cities and global warming, getting more sleep doesn’t help those with no bed or home, exercise won’t put shoes on those with dirt covered feet living in poverty.
Our New Year resolutions are often self-absorbed and myopic because we aren’t globally minded. We live in the richest society ever in history. Most of us don’t want for much. Perhaps this is the year we begin to give some of it away.
This morning my wife and I sat in a small Lutheran church singing familiar Christmas carols, reciting Christmas liturgy, listening to Bible verses telling the coming of the Savior to our world. In the middle of the service. a woman rolled down the aisle a cart with a birthday cake on it. The pastor then called the children up front and talked about Jesus’ birthday and began to light the candles on the cake. To his surprise and the congregants, the candles began to sparkle! A few of them sparkled enough to him to exclaim; “We might have to call the fire department to put these candles out!” It was a humorous response but also portrayed his concern over the flashing, flickering candles. After the children’s’ portion of the service, the same woman rolled out the gleaming cake. No firefighters showed up so I assume she took care of the candles.
As I think about the candles and cake I am reminded that Jesus’ birthday is; “more than.” It’s more than candles, hymns and carols, Bible verses, liturgy, communion, special services and magnificent homilies. The birth of Christ changed the universe, a cosmos of atrophy, mystery, transience and death. A child surprised all of creation. The birth of the Christ-child re-animated a dying world and beyond. We have become so used to the story but it should take us by surprise every Christmas! The impact of his birth is still being felt today. Our lives are not just saved but should be made vivacious and ebullient, sparkling out of control for the world to see, to dare others to take a closer look and maybe catch fire from the flame we celebrate today.
“Struggling with the quest for meaning in painful happenings is endless. We worry less about the meaning of nice things, just glad that they happen.” #LaurenceFreeman
Search for Meaning –
This quote was part of my morning devotions and I’ve reflected on it several times during the day.
Each of us can look back upon a time of, or may be experiencing, a “quest for meaning” in the midst of “painful happenings.” Seasons of loss when what we valued, cared for, loved, was taken from us. In the midst of our lives, when tragedy happens, the search for meaning and fitting the hurt and loss into our paradigm of existence is difficult, if not impossible. We wonder; “why? what did we do? didn’t do? how do we fix it? stop the hurt? save ourselves from being wounded again?” Our minds, emotions, spirit whirl with questions and we drown in the minutiae of confusion and blame.
The second part of the quote states; “We worry less about the meaning of nice things, just glad they happen.” Rarely do we reflect upon the why the blessings of life happen. We tend to take the happy, joyful parts of our life for granted. However, if we stop to think about it the “good” which happens to us can be as bewildering as the “bad.”
By the end of today, votes will be counted, a winner chosen and many people will be experiencing pain and others; joy. Hopefully, we don’t stop with the emotions but look deeper into ourselves and ask; “Why this happiness? Sadness?” We’ve been beaten over the head this political season with one side is “evil” while the other is the “savior.” Truthfully neither is either. We get wrapped up in choosing sides, labeling, and judging others who don’t think or vote like we do.
It’s easy to forget how small we are, how little we matter in the vast history fo space and time. We don’t reflect upon our place in all things which exist and accept that we are but brief, flashes of light, that are barely noticeable in a universe full of brightness and darkness, emptiness and fullness. Meaning is greater than an election and we are more than then our precious few breaths between life and death.
The meaning of life, of existence, is greater than an election and we are more than then our precious few breaths between life and death.