It’s Acting Like Summer

A conversation waiting to happen.
(photo P Volker)

Yea, what a beautiful day. Getting to the end of September and we so appreciate the sunshine and the clean air of it lately. Rain on the way maybe tomorrow or the next day. Little tiny shoots of green grass are coming up through the brown thatch of summer. The greening has started.

A couple of friends posted the same blogpost by Richard Rohr on Facebook today. I don’t really know the exact date of his post but it must be “of the instant” as it is about things current. At the moment I am too lazy to look it up but it was about holding the center. It was about remembering what is important and keeping centered in these tumultuous times. Check that out.

We know this stuff but it is a great review and another chance to keep it close. But we have talked around this or of this for years now. But as always have we internalized these the important considerations of life? I have come to realize that the Camino philosophy is centered exactly at the nexus of our relationship with God and our relationship with our fellow man. This is where the two timbers of the cross come together. This is where we are. This is our center.

As we have been keeping the flame alive of our Camino experience from maybe years ago we attempt to keep close to this center. That is what we do. This is the place that we can’t stray far from.

So actually it wasn’t a blog post from Rohr but a letter to his mailing list and I copy it for you:

“Some simple but urgent guidance to get us through these next months.
I awoke on Saturday, September 19, with three sources in my mind for guidance: Etty Hillesum (1914 – 1943), the young Jewish woman who suffered much more injustice in the concentration camp than we are suffering now; Psalm 62, which must have been written in a time of a major oppression of the Jewish people; and the Irish Poet, W.B.Yeats (1965 – 1939), who wrote his “Second Coming” during the horrors of the World War I and the Spanish Flu pandemic.
These three sources form the core of my invitation. Read each one slowly as your first practice. Let us begin with Etty:
There is a really deep well inside me. And in it dwells God. Sometimes I am there, too … And that is all we can manage these days and also all that really matters: that we safeguard that little piece of You, God, in ourselves.
—Etty Hillesum, Westerbork transit camp

Note her second-person usage, talking to “You, God” quite directly and personally. There is a Presence with her, even as she is surrounded by so much suffering.
Then, the perennial classic wisdom of the Psalms:
In God alone is my soul at rest.
God is the source of my hope.
In God I find shelter, my rock, and my safety.
Men are but a puff of wind,
Men who think themselves important are a delusion.
Put them on a scale,
They are gone in a puff of wind.
—Psalm 62:5–9

What could it mean to find rest like this in a world such as ours? Every day more and more people are facing the catastrophe of extreme weather. The neurotic news cycle is increasingly driven by a single narcissistic leader whose words and deeds incite hatred, sow discord, and amplify the daily chaos. The pandemic that seems to be returning in waves continues to wreak suffering and disorder with no end in sight, and there is no guarantee of the future in an economy designed to protect the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor and those subsisting at the margins of society.
It’s no wonder the mental and emotional health among a large portion of the American population is in tangible decline! We have wholesale abandoned any sense of truth, objectivity, science or religion in civil conversation; we now recognize we are living with the catastrophic results of several centuries of what philosophers call nihilism or post-modernism (nothing means anything, there are no universal patterns).
We are without doubt in an apocalyptic time (the Latin word apocalypsis refers to an urgent unveiling of an ultimate state of affairs). Yeats’ oft-quoted poem “The Second Coming” then feels like a direct prophecy. See if you do not agree:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Somehow our occupation and vocation as believers in this sad time must be to first restore the Divine Center by holding it and fully occupying it ourselves. If contemplation means anything, it means that we can “safeguard that little piece of You, God,” as Etty Hillesum describes it. What other power do we have now? All else is tearing us apart, inside and out, no matter who wins the election or who is on the Supreme Court. We cannot abide in such a place for any length of time or it will become our prison.
God cannot abide with us in a place of fear.
God cannot abide with us in a place of ill will or hatred.
God cannot abide with us inside a nonstop volley of claim and counterclaim.
God cannot abide with us in an endless flow of online punditry and analysis.
God cannot speak inside of so much angry noise and conscious deceit.
God cannot be found when all sides are so far from “the Falconer.”
God cannot be born except in a womb of Love.
So offer God that womb.
Stand as a sentry at the door of your senses for these coming months, so “the blood-dimmed tide” cannot make its way into your soul.
If you allow it for too long, it will become who you are, and you will no longer have natural access to the “really deep well” that Etty Hillesum returned to so often and that held so much vitality and freedom for her.
If you will allow, I recommend for your spiritual practice for the next four months that you impose a moratorium on exactly how much news you are subject to—hopefully not more than an hour a day of television, social media, internet news, magazine and newspaper commentary, and/or political discussions. It will only tear you apart and pull you into the dualistic world of opinion and counter-opinion, not Divine Truth, which is always found in a bigger place.
Instead, I suggest that you use this time for some form of public service, volunteerism, mystical reading from the masters, prayer—or, preferably, all of the above.
You have much to gain now and nothing to lose. Nothing at all.
And the world—with you as a stable center—has nothing to lose.
And everything to gain.”

Richard Rohr, September 19, 2020

12 thoughts on “It’s Acting Like Summer”

  1. The last three lines are so simple but so powerful.
    I truly like how sharp Richard Rohr is… he has such a direct and incisive way to speak, and say so eloquently what we struggle to see.

    It is like a sunbreak in our fears…

    Love in times of coronavirus (and fires and elections and deaths of love ones…)

    1. Cris ~ it is interesting that this came in as a message to readers and not as a blog post. We needed to hear from him now, not next week! We so need his words and ideas, I sense so many people at a breaking point. These are crazy times right now and Rohr throws us a life preserver. Sun break loves, Felipé.x

  2. Phil, Wow. Thank you for sharing that. I love Richard Rohr. (Happy to say he endorsed my book, The American Book of Dying.) So much to process here. I need to print today’s blog out and read it over and over. The clarion call at the end hit me between the eyes: stop reading the news in all forms, and meditate and do good for others instead. It may save my sanity, and, I hope, some small part of the world. Thank you, Phil. Thank you, Richard.

    1. Henriette ~ yes dear save your sanity! Rohr sent out this special message for us. I need to read it every morning for the foreseeable future. I haven’t felt these kinds of crosscurrents since the 60’s. Things were crazy then and we survived. Hang in there. Felipé.x

  3. A much briefer one which I read, don’t know who quoted it or if they survived?,was of a man in a line waiting to go into a gulag in Stalin’s times somewhere in the unimaginably vast Soviet Far East.he looked up and said to the gentleman next to him,an Orthodox priest,”how bright and close the stars look”.the preacher man replied,”how bright and close is God”. although the tale fails to relate if God helped him…. probably not?

    1. Kevan ~ maybe God already helped them. They were standing next to each other under the best light show imaginable. It looks like a friendship starting up to me. Have you ever read The Long Walk? Written by a Polish Officer imprisoned by the Russians who with a few others made their escape by walking all the way to India. Little things can be extremely important in these situations. Felipé.

      1. Yes I have read that book.the officer is now dead but his son lives in Cornwall in south west England.quite a trek and crossing the Himalayas very difficult.he came out into India somewhere in what is now Pakistan and was taken to Lahore and then New Delhi for questioning as the English didn’t,at first, believe his tale and thought he could be a Russian spy.eventually he took a job in England working on the railways if I recall.most of Siberia is forest and nobody lives there.i remember flying overnight from Hong Kong to Paris and it took 5 hours to cross Siberia.i could see lights down there but I realized that it wasn’t towns but the full Moon reflecting on lakes.

        1. Kevan ~ so great that you read that! Never ran into anyone who even heard of that book. It was one of the hardest things I ever set out to read, grueling story. What part stood out to you? Felipé.

    1. Michelle ~ hi. Yes, I suppose, these are the times for deep thoughts I guess. This all reminds me of the sixties with amazing crosscurrents that whipsawed us all. But also the rain is here, time to kick back and take a breath from the chores. Hang in there, Felipé.x

  4. And here’s a thought,if you recall on their trip they stole a shotgun from a Russian backwoods man but at some point decided it was a liability, perhaps the ran out of shells for it, and hung it on a tree and left it.i often wonder is it still there?

    1. Kevan ~ yea, I remember that they thought carrying weapons would scare away anyone that might help them. Felipé.

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