Becoming Perceptive · Words

Attention and randomness and resilience

Krista Tippett: Here’s something else you wrote: “The outline of our lives, like the candle’s flame, is continuously coaxed in new directions by a variety of random events that, along with our responses to them, determine our fate.” You say that we are driven to see patterns and create patterns where the patterns aren’t there. But it seems to me that you’re also presenting our responses as mattering. There is randomness, and then you talk about that even though that is true, the number of chances taken, the number of opportunities seized does make a difference. It does shift things.

Leonard Mlodinow: …little things make a big difference. And what they really do is they raise opportunities for you. Or they raise challenges. And the course of your life depends on how you react to those opportunities and challenges that the randomness presents to you. If you’re awake and paying attention, you will find that things happen. They might seem good, they might seem bad. But the important thing is how you reacted to it. (emphasis mine)

 

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Words

“It will flame out, like shining from shook foil”

God’s Grandeur
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
“God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins. Public Domain. Read on The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor, July 6, 2019.

Becoming Perceptive · Words

Attention

“To cultivate wisdom you need not read another book, nor watch another Ted talk, nor earn another academic degree, nor visit another monastery, nor travel to the ends of the earth. Be where you are, which is where God is with you. Say “yes” to life on the terms that God is giving you life just now; pay attention to your life (emphasis mine).”

-Br. Curtis Almquist
Society of Saint John the Evangelist, “Brother Give Us a Word Daily Messages,” June 7, 2019

Becoming Perceptive · Faith · Words

Julian of Norwich

“Julian would tell us that we must go into the “ground” of our being in order to “live contemplatively.” Like her, we must develop a daily practice in which we learn to rest and breathe in silence and stillness, becoming aware of the turbulence in our minds, releasing thoughts and letting go of our emotional attachment to those thoughts. We need to become ever more aware of being aware, in order to experience the deep interconnectedness of our own awareness with divine awareness. And then we must rely on divine awareness working in us and through us if we are to make a difference. We cannot do it alone. And we cannot do what others must do for themselves. We can only evaluate, advise, encourage, and empower.”

–from “Julian Norwich and the Process of Transformation,” Veronica Mary Rolf, http://www.dailygood.org/story/2274/julian-norwich-and-the-process-of-transformation-veronica-mary-rolf/

Becoming Perceptive · Words

Yes! No! by Mary Oliver

Yes! No!

by Mary Oliver

Original Language English

How necessary it is to have opinions! I think the spotted trout
lilies are satisfied, standing a few inches above the earth. I
think serenity is not something you just find in the world,
like a plum tree, holding up its white petals.

The violets, along the river, are opening their blue faces, like
small dark lanterns.

The green mosses, being so many, are as good as brawny.

How important it is to walk along, not in haste but slowly,
looking at everything and calling out

Yes! No! The

swan, for all his pomp, his robes of grass and petals, wants
only to be allowed to live on the nameless pond. The catbrier
is without fault. The water thrushes, down among the sloppy
rocks, are going crazy with happiness. Imagination is better
than a sharp instrument. To pay attention, this is our endless
and proper work. (emphasis added by Attention to Life)

— from White Pine: Poems and Prose Poems, by Mary Oliver
Becoming Perceptive · Words

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

WILD GEESE by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Becoming Perceptive · Words

Wabi Sabi

“Nature is the home of miracles. Complex growth, stories of resilience, ephemeral beauty emerging and evaporating. When we take time to stop and look, each one of these gifts reminds us to pay attention to the fleeting beauty of our own lives.”

–from Wabi Sabi: Japanese Wisdom for a Perfectly Imperfect Life, Beth Kempton, 2018

Words

Words that come to me again

I posted this back on June 1, 2014. When I read it again today, I was moved to post it here not remembering that I had done so then. It must resonate still…

For the world and time are the dance of the Lord in emptiness. The silence of the spheres is the music of a wedding feast. The more we persist in misunderstanding the phenomena of life, the more we analyze them out into strange finalities and complex purposes of our own, the more we involve ourselves in sadness, absurdity and despair. But it does not matter much, because no despair of ours can alter the reality of things; or stain the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there. Indeed, we are in the midst of it, and it is in the midst of us, for it beats in our very blood, whether we want it to or not.

Yet the fact remains that we are invited to forget ourselves on purpose, cast our awful solemnity to the winds and join in the general dance.

–Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation.

Words

A Prayer by Teilhard de Chardin

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

Words

Good words about nonviolent resistance

From Joan Chittister email series, visionviewpoint at benetvision dot org, on January 20, 2015.

How to do nonviolent resistance

Nonviolent resistance, derived from Mahatma Gandhi and modeled in this country by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s civil-rights movement of the sixties, rests on six clear concepts, none of them cowardly, insipid or weak. They are, rather, a demonstration of the kind of strength no amount of violence can extinguish.

First, nonviolent resistance is pacifism, not passivism. The difference between armed resistance and nonviolent resistance lies simply in the means by which the resistance is waged. Both types of resistance rest on the conviction that evil must be challenged, but nonviolent resistance insists that evil must not be repeated in the effort to defeat it. The strength of nonviolent resistance lies in its determination to do no harm to the other in the course of resisting harm. Gandhi wrote, “If there is blood in the streets, it must be no one’s but our own.”

Second, nonviolent resistance is committed to making friends out of enemies. The goal of nonviolent resistance is to concentrate on issues rather than on belittling, demeaning, destroying the people who hold positions different from our own. Nonviolent resistance calls us to distinguish between enmity and opposition.

Third, nonviolent resistance condemns systems, ideas or policies that oppress but never launches personal attacks against individuals who are the agents of the system itself. If we cannot assume the good will of those who oppose us we must at least not judge their motives. Ideas and systems are bigger than any single person. To attack individuals in order to curb a sinful system only plays into the hands of the system itself by failing to focus attention where attention is necessary.

Fourth, nonviolent resistance absorbs physical attack without striking back physically. Suffragettes went to jail to win the vote and never struck a blow. Women and men faced attack dogs in Selma, Alabama, to win the right to be human beings without themselves becoming barbaric in the process. It was row upon row of Indians falling to their knees under the gratuitous blows of their English masters that sent a chill up the spine of a colonial world. Nonviolent resistance unmasks the inhumanity of oppression and gives all of us another chance to repent and begin again to be thinking, feeling human beings.

Fifth, nonviolent resistance refuses to sow hate for the enemy. Hate gives foundation to hate until hate becomes a cycle that never ends. Nonviolence vows not only to end the oppression but to end the hate as well. “Love your enemy” is not poetry; it is strategy. Those we want to have love us, we will have to love first.

Sixth, nonviolent resistance is based on the faith that in the end justice will come because justice is right and God is good. Two commandments undergird nonviolence and ring in every heart: The first is “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and the second is “Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord. “I will repay.” Love is our responsibility. Justice is God’s.

Each of these principles taxes courage, demands great spirituality and promises opposition equal to the length of the struggle and the depth of the issue.

—from Heart of Flesh: a feminist spirituality for women and men, by Joan Chittister (Eerdmans), reprinted in Joan Chittister: Essential Writings, ed. Mary Lou Kownacki and Mary Hembrow Snyder (Orbis).

Words

Presence and gratitude

You Reading This, Be Ready
by Wllliam Stafford

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. The interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life—

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

As read here in an article by Parker Palmer.

Reflecting · Words

paradox

As read here:

The Angels and the Furies
by May Sarton

1

Have you not wounded yourself
And battered those you love
By sudden motions of evil,
Black rage in the blood
When the soul, premier danseur,
Springs toward a murderous fall?
The furies possess you.

2

Have you not surprised yourself
Sometimes by sudden motions
Or intimations of goodness,
When the soul, premier danseur,
Perfectly poised,
Could shower blessings
With a graceful turn of the head?
The angels are there.

3

The angels, the furies
Are never far away
While we dance, we dance,
Trying to keep a balance
To be perfectly human
(Not perfect, never perfect,
Never an end to growth and peril),
Able to bless and forgive
Ourselves.
This is what is asked of us.

4

It is light that matters,
The light of understanding.
Who has ever reached it
Who has not met the furies again and again?
Who has reached it without
Those sudden acts of grace?