Advent Day 24: Joy Is Within Our Reach …

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.
Epicurus

 

There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence that is a fount of action and joy. It rises up in wordless gentleness and flows out to me from the unseen roots of all created being, welcoming me tenderly, saluting me with indescribable humility. This is at once my own being, my own nature, and the Gift of my Creator’s Thought and Art within me …
— Thomas Merton from A Grateful Heart

 

All things in this creation exist within you, and all things in you exist in creation; there is no border between you and the closest things, and there is no distance between you and the farthest things, and all things, from the lowest to the loftiest, from the smallest to the greatest, are within you as equal things. In one atom are found all the elements of the earth; in one motion of the mind are found the motions of all the laws of existence; in one drop of water are found the secrets of all the endless oceans; in one aspect of you are found all the aspects of existence. Continue reading “Advent Day 24: Joy Is Within Our Reach …”

Advent Day 23: Hospitality …

There must be always remaining in every man’s life some
place for the singing of angels — some place for that
which in itself is breathlessly beautiful and by an
inherent prerogative, throwing all the rest of life into
a new and creative relatedness — something that gathers
up in itself all the freshets of experience from drab and
commonplace areas of living and glows in one bright
light of penetrating beauty and meaning — then passes.
The commonplace is shot through with new glory — old
burdens become lighter, deep and ancient wounds lose much
of their old, old hurting. A crown is placed over our
heads that for the rest of our lives we are trying to
grow tall enough to wear. Despite all the crassness of
life, despite all the hardness of life, despite all of the
harsh discords of life, life is saved
by the singing of angels. Continue reading “Advent Day 23: Hospitality …”

Advent Day 19: Bearing Witness …

Bearing witness is one of the primary ways that human beings hold each other up and help each other grow. Bearing witness is also one of the primary functions of art. No matter what we long for in our imagination, we are just as obliged to affirm the truth of how we mistreat each other and how we lift each other up.

Social media is becoming a modern form of bearing witness that is adding to our communal sense of art. In 2010, it was the viral use of Facebook that helped ignite the Arab Spring, a revolutionary wave of democratic demonstrations and protests leading to civil wars in oppressive societies in North Africa and the Middle East. The ability of citizens to film events in real time has led to an irrefutable bearing witness of excessive force by police throughout America. Continue reading “Advent Day 19: Bearing Witness …”

Advent Day 03: Ritual …

I say that religion isn’t about believing things. It’s ethical alchemy. It’s about behaving in a way that changes you, that gives you intimations of holiness and sacredness.
Karen Amstrong as quoted in Profile at TED (2009)

 

Religions don’t agree on which day is holy, but by and large they do agree that once a week you must check in with your beliefs, your community, and yourself. For Jews, this ritual starts Friday at sundown and lasts until sundown on Saturday. For Muslims, it usually starts with Friday afternoon prayers. For the wide range of denominations of practicing Christians, it’s on Sunday, with the exception of Seventh-day Adventists, who are defined by their observance on Saturday. For Quakers, a sect of Protestants who downplay annual holidays because they see every day as an equal celebration of Christ, silent worship at their weekly meetings is the heartbeat of belief. In Buddhism, the holy day of the week changes with the phases of the moon.

For my great-grandparents the holy day was called Shabbos (the Yiddish word for the Sabbath; Shabbat is Hebrew). Each week, for an entire rotation of the Earth, they did not work or handle money or use electricity: no lamps, no phones, and no riding in cars. Just prayer, synagogue, and family time. It was about rest, reflection, and taking stock of the week, a kind of early TGIF.
There are, as with all things, loopholes even for the orthodox. For example, there are large buildings in places densely populated by observant Jews where the elevators are preprogrammed to stop at every floor during Shabbat. If you’re not pressing any buttons, you’re not breaking the rules, right? This is the subject of much debate. Other exceptions also get made. If you’re extremely ill, it might be okay to ride to synagogue as long as a Gentile drives you. But even when my great-grandfather Benjamin was dying of stomach cancer, he was so devout he still walked to services every week. Continue reading “Advent Day 03: Ritual …”

Illuminating The Darkness Of Difficult Times …

Awake, my dear.
Be kind to your sleeping heart.
Take it out in the vast field of Light
And let it breathe.
— Hafiz from I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy

 

Our personal demons come in many guises. We experience them as shame, as jealousy, as abandonment, as rage. They are anything that makes us so uncomfortable that we continually run away.

We do the big escape … we shove the feelings under and somehow deaden the pain. We can spend our whole lives escaping from the monsters of our minds.

All over the world, people are so caught in running that they forget to take advantage of the beauty around them. We become so accustomed to speeding ahead that we rob ourselves of joy. Continue reading “Illuminating The Darkness Of Difficult Times …”

The Wisdom Of Beauty …

I did not
have to ask my heart what it wanted,
because of all the desires I have ever known just one did I cling to
for it was the essence of
all desire:
to hold beauty in
my soul’s
arms.
— St. John of the Cross from Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West

What’s Important in Life?

Once upon a time, there was an elder who was respected for his piety and virtue. Whenever anyone asked him how he had become so holy, he always answered, “I know what is in the Qur’an.”

So when the old man died, they raced one another to his hut to find out for themselves what was in his Qur’an. “Well, what is it?” they shouted.

The disciple holding the book looked up from it amazed and said with wonder in his voice, “What is in this Qur’an are notes on every page, two pressed flowers and a letter from a friend.”

There are some things in life, whatever its burdens, however it is spent, which if we cultivate them will never die, will be the source of our joy forever, will sustain us through everything.

Continue reading “The Wisdom Of Beauty …”

Invisible Connections (The Beauty of Our Lives) …

Think of yourself as an incandescent power, illuminated and perhaps forever talked to by God and his messengers.
― Brenda Ueland from If You Want To Write

 

The Stream of Life

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day
runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.

It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth
in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves
of leaves and flowers. Continue reading “Invisible Connections (The Beauty of Our Lives) …”