August 30, 2020 | Message from Dr. Benton
So Close to Home
I’ve been climbing high mountains tryin’ to get home… Greetings Fellowship Community! There have been plenty of “high mountains” to climb recently…the high mountain of hope, surrounded by the wreckage of hatred and lies…of the overarching fear for our health, our well-being as individuals, as communities, as a species, as Earth herself. It is a time when the warmth of home…of familiarity…of stability would be welcome. I was at a staff meeting this week (video conferencing) and experienced a kind of revelation. At the beginning of the meeting we always check in regarding our week both professionally and personally. The first person to share said, “It has been so heavy this week…the fires, corona virus, murder of people of color…” Another person agreed with him but added that she thought what was different about this moment was that it was so close to home…the fires, the murders, the protests, the virus. I realized that she was right…this moment is a moment that is hard to ignore because it hits us “so close to home”. First of all, we are all home (if we have a home). Then of course, we are all potentially affected by the corona virus that would be so personal that it would invade our very bodies. Even beyond that reality, this upheaval is forcing use all to reflect on what we stand for…what is our core identity? Who are we in relation to the planet Earth that is struggling to find balance after so many years of human onslaught. Who are we in our reaction to the escalation of lies and hatred…of injustice out in the open? Who are we at our core? Who are we when we lie in bed at night…contemplating our existence? Are we free and clear of the fear and hatred infecting out species or are we holding on to those fears…those resentments, making them part of our identity? Howard Thurman wrote about this phenomenon in his chapter on hate in Jesus and the Disinherited:
At night, when the lights were out and you were safely tucked away in bed, you reached down into the quiet places of your little heart and lifted out your bundle of hates and resentments growing out of the family situation, and you fingered them gently, one by one. In the darkness you muttered to yourself, “They can keep me from talking about it to them, but they can’t keep me from resenting it. I hate them for what they are doing to me. No one can prevent me there.” Hatred becomes for you a source of validation for your personality. As you consider the family and their attitude toward you, your hatred gives you a sense of significance, which you fling defiantly into the teeth of their estimate of you. Although Thurman was writing about a child, I think this same thing is happening to so many people during this “Great Turning” of our world. Instead of responding to the call of our Mother…of the all-pervading presence of the Holy, we are clinging to the small “injustices” we have experienced in life and cementing our identification with them. Of course I am not making light of injustice, for that is why we are motivated to act…in solidarity and in identification with others who suffer, recognizing our shared plight. But imagine if we were able to stop for a moment and hear our Mother’s call…hear the call of the eternal that is so close…closer than our own breath, we might be able to face the profound significance of our time. Many are able to do this…the Black Lives Matter protesters and so many others working to find solutions to the threats to a peaceful existence for all life on Earth. But for those of us who continue to struggle with coming home…with embracing the current moment and being able to act, I offer as a meditation today, the following consideration of this current moment from Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh:
“The one who doesn’t practice, is running”. Are we running or are we taking the time to “kiss the Earth”? Have we arrived? Are we at home, at least momentarily? Notice that Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us that this “mindfulness” is something that we must experience as a community…both the community within…all the diverse parts of ourselves, as well as others on our journey…our families, friends…this community. It is within this community that we gather the strength and the inspiration to keep going…to hold on…to be part of the transformation of our world. I thought deeply about this after our community Zoom meeting last week. We are, as a group, able to wrestle with the realities of the present moment and find hope. We are able to, as a community, climb that mountain and begin to formulate that vision…that dream of the Beloved Community. Howard Thurman wrote a meditation entitled, “Keep Alive the Dream in the Heart”. He says that this dream is:
…no outward thing. It does not take its rise from the environment in which one moves or functions. It lives in the inward parts, it is deep within, where the issues of life and death are ultimately determined. Keep alive the dream; for as long as [one] has a dream in [the] heart, one cannot lose the significance of living.
Meditation is something we all have access to…no matter where we are…no matter who we are. Meditation can get us to the core of our being…our inward parts where our dreams reside…our home. Instead of getting caught up in worries about the future…regrets of the past, we find that the present moment is really all that we have and as Thich Nhat Hanh says, we should make the most out of it! What does this mean for our current situation? Surrounded by fear, by hate…by the “hounds of hell” that Thurman spoke of. How do we make the most out of this sacred moment…our brink of time? I think this brings us to Thurman’s last chapter in the book, Jesus and the Disinherited entitled Love. Love…that force that enables us to climb that high mountain of hope…the force that gives us the strength to face the present moment with everything we have…with all the resources at hand. It is the force that is for sure “the well that does not run dry”. I am sure of this because of all the evidence around me…the fig tree in my yard…my dog…my granddaughter…my new grandson. They are forces of love…evidence of the primacy of the power of love to counteract the hate of this world. Whenever we turn to love, we are turning toward “home”. Maybe not the home of our own histories, but our own home at this time…the one available to each of us at any moment. French philosopher Teilhard de Chardin wrote:
Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world seek each other so that the world may come to being. Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfill them, for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest in themselves. Love is the most universal, the most tremendous and the most mystical of cosmic forces. Love is the primal and universal psychic energy.
Love is a sacred reserve of energy; it is like the blood of spiritual evolution. It is this love that births our wildest dreams of what can be…of the potential of each life on this planet to become part of this spiritual evolution…this spiritual revolution. I’d like to leave you with a taste of that hope…of that dream of the New World…of the “growing edge” of life. Of this “growing edge” Thurman wrote:
Look well to the growing edge! All around us worlds are dying and new worlds are being born; all around us life is dying and life is being born. The fruit ripens on the tree, the roots are silently at work in the darkness of the earth against a time when there shall be new leaves, fresh blossoms, green fruit. Such is the growing edge! It is the extra breath from the exhausted lung, the one more thing to try when all else has failed, the upward reach of life when weariness closes in upon all endeavor. This is the basis of hope in moments of despair, the incentive to carry on when times are out of joint and men have lost their reason, the source of confidence when worlds crash and dreams whiten into ash. The birth of the child — life’s most dramatic answer to death — this is the growing edge incarnate. Look well to the growing edge…the growing edge of the New World that is coming! May we scale the high mountain of hope to get there!