I have always been someone in a hurry, and I think we live in particularly urgent times. Seven years after 911, in the wake of our misadventures in Iraq, we have the chaos and wreckage of a disastrous war all around us and the consequences of that war looming before us. Now, I think Americans are entering a “teachable moment”, when we may be open to new wisdom, new lessons about how to live in a troubled world and our need to heal the wounds of war.
Two questions stay with me. The first question is: How do you speak into the center of the circle? In other words, How do we conduct our conversations, how do we speak with each other in a way that honors and deepens our sense of community, our shared identity? How do we use our words in a way that creates shared purpose, a common sense of mission? What if, when I speak to another person, or to a group I am part of, I am speaking to our relationship, and not simply in response to the words of another individual? What difference would that make?
The second question is: What is the wise action that lasts? This is a question that comes back to me over and over again, several times a day over the two months since our retreat. I hear this question as repudiation of my old way of doing things. The question is not simply: What are the things on my “to do” list? Or: What are all the things I’m trying to accomplish to meet my goals? Or: What is on my calendar today, my deadlines, my milestones, my deliverables?
Instead, the question is, What is the wise action that lasts? In other words: What is the choice I can make or the act I can take in this moment that will matter ten years from now? I am becoming more aware of the quality of my actions and less focused on simply getting things done. I believe I’ve actually slowed down a good bit, and that I have been able to bring a meditative spirit and a degree of thoughtfulness into my daily life that wasn’t there before.
I’m sure it must be a personality defect of mine, and evidence that I really ought to be locked up, ensconced in a loony bin, and judged as wacko. But I really cannot help feeling a fundamental sense of hope for the work we do. I don’t think this has much to do with optimism, which is grounded in a simple desire that things ought to be better, against all odds. When things don’t work out well, optimism can easily turn into its opposite, despair. I think what we are motivated by is hope, grounded in faith, an expression of the human spirit and reflecting our divine nature. And I do believe that the capacity for hope is built into the DNA of the species. We keep on going, working on these things that seem to have no immediate payback, because we can’t help it, because it gives us great pleasure, because it’s more fun to believe that humanity has a future and problems can get solved and that someday we can live in a world that makes more sense than this one – not in some faraway heaven but here on earth.