Meditations of the Heart (Thurman) Day 12

golden pond and canoeToday’s entry: Rev. Thurman says that God perpetually calls us and urges us to renew both rest and work.  I think what he means is that God wants us to work and bring something to fruition, but also wants us to rest.  I’m not sure where play and pleasure fit in here but; I think they’re important too.

It seems to me that this concept, as laid out by Thurman, encourages workaholism.  If we’re either to work or to rest, and if we believe that work leads to fruition, then more work leads to more fruition, right?  And, that’s good, right? Or is that just an American philosophy?  What about rest?

Thurman does make clear that rest is necessary. Up to this point in his book of meditations, he’s been a strong advocate of having quiet time and enough time to be able to center down into a meditative state.  Here he writes “Even casual reflection would lead one to recognize that a very urgent function of the quiet time is to provide a breather for the spirit, opportunity for catching up, reorganization and re-evaluating the endless activities in which we are involved daily and hourly.”

NOW, he’s sounding like a 21st century fellow.  We are all interested in doing things, going places and doing new things. There are not a lot of people sitting on their decks or (gasp- front porches) shootin’ the breeze or chillin’.  Well, maybe on the weekends. But, I wonder how many people “PLAN” that… they actually book that time. – Cause otherwise they’d be given their precious time to someone else: work, chores, meetings, etc.

I grew up in the sixties and seventies with a dad who’d sit on the porch swing almost every evening.  Folks in our community would drive by and wave hello as he sat pondering and simply being in that space at that time.  I would love to do that, but I don’t think any neighbors would wave hello, much less come over for a brief chat.  It would be nice, though.

Rather, it seems that our jobs (and some of us have more than one), our civic meetings, our kids’ recreation and, house responsibilities keep us shuffling from one thing to the next.  We rest at night, dropping into bed after a full day.  Some of us fall asleep; some of us have wild minds that replay or rehearse events for hours.

To ask for the pace of the ‘good old days’ would be short sided because with that pace comes some of the ignorant behaviors we’ve done well to overcome. But I do agree with Thurman that we need to work and to rest. But, we also need to love, to uphold justice, to tender one another, to play, to encourage, to  argue respectfully, to find pleasure and, to provide pleasure.  I just worry that all the activities are too taxing and we’re not able to find rest within the effort.  It sounds like an oxymoron but I think its the alchemy that will save us.

Meditations of the Heart (Thurman) Day 8

Continuing on the point of needing pray and meditation on a daily basis, Thurman make a case for being “quiet without and still within”.  He explains that what a person (he used the collective term “man”) does is an expression of his intent; a person’s intent is the focusing of their desiring; and a person’s desires are the prayers of their heart.  It seems he may carry some assumption that a person’s desires are well intentioned and become earnest prayers for improvement of one’s character or situation.

Aside from that stretch of assumption, he poses that no one would argue for the necessity of taking time out for being alone, “for withdrawal, for being quiet”, both as seen on the exterior and experienced on the interior.  But, in our fast-paced and ever competitive world, being still often feels foreign and contradictory to a preference for overworking, overthinking, and over-reacting.  Indeed what would the world be like if we would each find a short period to settle down for quiet time each day?

To create a balance in our lives it would be helpful to start by finding a balance to our day.  Most of us have the “effort” part in effect: we go to school or work, we worry or strategize, we get involved with activities, etc. But,  to balance that we need to insert times of repose, rest and reflection.  Parker Palmer expresses this as two poles within our personality.  “I want to learn how to hold the paradoxical poles of my identity together, to embrace the profoundly opposite truths that my sense of self is deeply dependent on others dancing with me and that I still have a sense of self when no one wants to dance.”
Parker J. Palmer, The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life

Here is a fascinating video of amazing stillness within effort. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6rX1AEi57c#t=18