Daily Riches: Something More Important Than “Getting Things Done” Thomas Merton

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered,
“you are worried and upset about many things,
but few things are needed—or indeed only one.
Mary has chosen what is better,
and it will not be taken away from her.”
(read the full story) Luke 10:41-42 NIV

“We experience in ourselves a new and special kind of truth when we imitate Mary. We [who are monks] who have this particular call recognize that when we are agitated by all kinds of external concerns which do not touch us deeply at all we are less authentic, less real, less ourselves, less what we are supposed to be. We feel less faithful to the will of God than when we remain simply in an attitude of freedom and attentiveness to His word, His love and His will. This gospel text illustrates our experience that we are summoned by the Holy Spirit to make an act of preference. We are called to prefer the apparent uselessness, the apparent unproductiveness, the apparent inactivity of simply sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to him. We are called to prefer this over an apparently more productive, more active, more busy life. We quietly affirm that there is something more important than ‘getting things done.’ Together with this is another implied assumption: that this preference goes against the ideas of the majority of our fellow human beings at any given moment and especially today in the twentieth century. Our act of preference for ‘quiet’ is at the same time an implicit protest and defiance, a protest against and a defiance of the counter-opinion of those who are absolutely convinced that our [monastic] life is useless and who reproach us for it.” Thomas Merton

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Concern to get things done comes naturally to me–even when it makes me less authentic, less myself, less who I am supposed to be. Is it just me?
  • Are you, at least sometimes, able to prefer apparent usefulness, apparent unproductiveness, apparent inactivity–quietly affirming that something else (attentiveness to God) is more urgent than your “to do” list?
  • Many others will reject this invitation. Are you willing to join with Merton in defiance of a driven, busy life?

Abba, in each circumstance, may I wrestle to know and to choose what is best–shaped by your call rather than pressure from within or without.

For More: Contemplation In a World of Action by Thomas Merton.

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Richer by Far: The Death of Jesus as a Cautionary Tale (Eugene Debs, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, John Howard Yoder)

“To do evil, a human being must first of all believe that what he’s doing is good.” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

“When great changes occur in history, when great principles are involved, as a rule the majority are wrong. The minority are right. In every age there have been a few heroic souls who have been in advance of their time, who have been misunderstood, maligned, persecuted, sometimes put to death. Long after their martyrdom monuments were erected to them and garlands were woven for their graves. . . . Twenty centuries ago one appeared upon earth whom we know as the Prince of Peace. He issued a command in which I believe. He said, ‘Love one another.’ . . . He espoused the cause of the suffering poor . . . . It was not long before he aroused the ill-will and the hatred of the usurers, the money-changers, the profiteers, the high priests, the lawyers, the judges, the merchants, the bankers—in a word, the ruling class. They said of him just what the ruling class says of the Socialist today. ‘He is preaching dangerous doctrine. He is inciting the common rabble. He is a menace to peace and order.’ And they had him arraigned, tried, convicted, condemned, and they had his quivering body spiked to the gates of Jerusalem. This has been the tragic history of the race. . . . The men and women who have been in advance, who have had new ideas, new ideals, who have had the courage to attack the established order of things, have all had to pay the same penalty.” Eugene Debs

“Jesus’ cross was the price to pay for being the kind of person he was in the kind of world he was in; the cross that he chose was the price of his representing a new way of life in a world that did not want a new way of life. That is what he called his followers to do.” John Howard Yoder

“The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin
were looking for false evidence against Jesus
so that they could put him to death.”
Mt. 26:59 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Can you imagine doing evil and thinking it good? (I’m asking you to wonder about yourself, not those who oppose you.)
  • Have you ever read the gospel accounts of the murder of Jesus as a cautionary tale about what happens to those who won’t conform?
  • Does state sponsored violence or deadly religiously motivated hate seem to you like a calibrated response to dissent?

Abba, grant me the courage to live like Jesus in a world that scorns him and his way.

For More: “Address to the Jury” by Eugene Debs

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Thanks for reading my blog. Please extend my reach by reposting on your social media platforms. If you like these topics and this approach, you’ll like my book Wisdom From the Margins.

Daily Riches: Disrupting the Dominant Culture With Tenderness (Ed Clark and Pope Francis)

“I sat in the audience as the silence settled over the crowd. Rather than seeing this 80-year-old priest’s message as out-of-date or cliché, rather than pushing back against the value of religious belief writ large, it seemed like the TED audience was actually starving for his words. What struck me most was what he said about our need for a ‘revolution in tenderness’:

And what is tenderness? It is the love that comes close and becomes real. It is a movement that starts from our heart and reaches the eyes, the ears and the hands. Tenderness means to use our eyes to see the other, our ears to hear the other, to listen to the children, the poor, those who are afraid of the future.

At a conference known for its culture of young people celebrating ‘moving fast and breaking things,’ here was an old man talking about slowing down and really seeing people. At a conference where positivity and courage are celebrated, where the future is often painted with an unapologetically optimistic patina, here was a reminder that the world doesn’t feel so hospitable to everyone, that people have deep and understandable fear of what is around the corner—either in their personal lives or in our political sphere. It was truly radical. Tenderness, it strikes me, is an endangered virtue in so many of our professional and public spaces.  …when I’m out in the ‘real world,’ I am conditioned to produce, achieve, and only ask for or offer help if its understood as a mechanism for getting to a goal faster or better, not acknowledging inherent human weakness. …There are so many moments in our fast, furious public lives these days where we miss an opportunity for this kind of brave tenderness, this kind of dignifying gravity. We rush through our neighborhoods, through airports, through workplaces as if trying to bypass the presence of embarrassing emotion, as if none of it matters enough to slow us down, as if—and this is the Pope’s real point—no one matters enough to slow us down. So this week …I’m going to slow down wherever and whenever I feel tenderness—in myself or others—and actually experience it.  …I’m going to, as the TEDsters might say, ‘disrupt’ the dominant culture—not with a new app or a crazy idea—but with the unorthodox assumption that there is room enough for tenderness, here and now, always.”

“therefore if you have any tenderness…”
Philippians 2:1

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Are you striving for tenderness?
  • Can you afford the time to show tenderness? …to receive it?
  • Where can you practice “revolutionary” tenderness?

Abba, help me disrupt the dominant culture.

For More: The Infinite Tenderness Of God by Pope Francis

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