When we reflect on the nature of action, we inevitably come to the question, ‘What is real?’ Every action originates in some assessment of reality, no matter how mistaken. Ultimately, action will help to reveal what the reality is, if we pay attention to its outcomes. These are the crucial links between action and contemplation, for the function of contemplation in all its forms is to penetrate illusion and help us to touch reality. Contemplation is difficult for many of us because we have invested so much in illusion. When I look at my own life I am appalled at the illusions I have cultivated simply to get me through the day- illusions about my motives, my abilities, my desires. When I look at the society around me, I see illusions as thick as my own: the illusions that violence solves problems, that both rich and poor deserve their fate, that young people sent to die in wars fought to defend the rich are heroes rather than victims, that murderous drugs are the way beyond despair- just to name a few. These illusions serve a societal function: They keep us in place. Meanwhile, the people who benefit most from the illusions are declaring ‘peace in our time’ and ‘a war on drugs,’ more illusions, but so functional for both perpetrators and victims that they are widely mistaken for reality. But the hopeful fact is that all of us have the contemplative moment, whether or not we seek them, are ready for them, or know what to do when they arrive. In the moments I am thinking of, the foundations of life often seem swept away, so we may find it difficult to experience them as either contemplative or hopeful, especially if we labor under another common illusion, one that pictures contemplation as a direct flight to Nirvana. Contemplation may lead eventually to bliss, but first it will give us the pain of knowing that some of our dearest convictions are shallow, inadequate, wrong. Contemplation first deprives us of familiar comforts. Then it replaces them with an inner emptiness in which new truth, often alien and unsettling truth, can emerge……Parker Palmer
we crack open most profoundly in our deepest pain and disillusionment….we are never sure if this is the best way, but the simple fact is that it does not matter….this is the illusion….the only choice lies in choosing to ignore or embrace….in our emptying, we are revealed…..
The modern attempt to understand the world in which we live occupies the mind, not the whole of the person, and keeps us separate from the world we’re studying. We come to it as though from the outside, making it an ‘it’ rather than an ‘us.’ But religious ways of knowing engage us completely. They draw us in and help us see with a different eye. They lead us to be thankful and appreciative rather than just informed. They teach that the mysteries outside of us are identical with the mystery of who we are….Thomas Moore
God won’t be in life like a bright morning.
We have to go down into the shaft
And through the hard work of mining
bring up the earth’s abundance.
We have to stand hunched over
And in tunnels dig him out.