“Information is not Wisdom”

Ever since the beginning of Lent back in March, I have been studying the writings of spiritual teachers and mystics, contemporary to ancient.  I have been accompanied by other pilgrims through an internet forum and through email.  Since Easter, most of the original group has lost interest, leaving about 5 or 6 of us.  The conversations have deepened and become more personal as we get to know each other.

This small group of us bring together varied spiritual backgrounds and life experiences and have shared where our understandings come from…books, doctrine, speakers, ancient texts, holy scripture,…  As I learn from my friends, I naturally expand my interest to include their suggested ‘teachers.’  Then, as one writer recommends another, I have expanded the margins of my interest beyond my own spiritual heritage.  I now find myself walking my spiritual path carrying about 12 books and as many websites.

I am a follower of Jesus, a true Christian.  I am a constant seeker of Christ in life and believe Christ is what is sought, the ‘wisdom,’ in all spiritual practice.  Christ guides me so I am able to find guidance in all areas of life.  Each morning, I gather my ‘library’ about me and pick which ‘speaker’ will speak to me today … which teacher will tell me what to do.  Well, that’s what I did, until today.

Lately, I have been struggling with insecurity in discerning my personal path.  The varied sources describe the same journey but with different sign posts, markers, and itineraries.  In truth, for most of my life I have not followed any prescribed path but some of my fellow pilgrims have, and I have wanted to know, “Where am I on the map?  How am I doing?”  In fact, for the past 12 days I have felt I have lost my way, lost sight of the trail, and may have lost my right to be on the path because I had lost faith.  One of my online friends sent me several passages from a teacher he highly regards and between the passages he included simply, “Ask Jesus.”

This morning, I picked up The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo and before reaching today’s meditation (October 7), my finger stuck in the page for September 9.  Making a quick promise to myself to go back to September 9 next, I moved on to October 7,

It is so tempting to want the answers before we begin the journey.  We like to know the way.  We like to have maps.  We like to have guides.  But we are more like a breathing puzzle, a living bag of pieces, and each day shows us what a piece or two is for, where it might go, how it might fit.

So many of my questions were answered by that alone, yet because a promise is a promise, I returned, smiling, to September 9:

If at times you feel numb or distanced from the essence of what you know, perhaps your mind, like the sage’s teacup, is too full.  

Information is not wisdom.  If you cannot speak when your mouth is stuffed with unchewed food, how can you think clearly if your mind is stuffed with undigested information.

Then, without even thinking about it, I took up Thomas Merton:

The purpose of a book of meditations is to teach you to think and not to do your thinking for you.  Consequently, if you pick up such a book and simply read it through, you are wasting your time.  As soon as any thought stimulates your mind or your heart you can put the book down because your meditation has begun.  To think that you are somehow obliged to follow the author of the book to his own particular conclusion would be a great mistake. It may happen that his conclusion does not apply to you.  God may want you to end up somewhere else.  He may have planned to give you quite a different grace than the one the author suggests you might be needing. (emphasis mine.)

 

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So, my two dozen references are just that….references.  Seeds.  Bread crumbs…suggesting the path…not a loaf to be my whole meal.  I will trust.  The lesson is in the living of life.  The next stepping stone will appear beneath my reaching foot and I will know where I am going…when I get there.

And so, as my friend suggested that I ask Jesus, I now do…

Patience and Thinking in Deep Geologic Time

This morning, Mark Nepo reminds me of Lao-Tzu’s wisdom:

I have just three things to teach
simplicity, patience, compassion.
These are your greatest treasures. 

Patience with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.

Nepo elaborates:

Fear wants us to act too soon.  But patience, hard as it is, helps us to outlast our preconceptions.  This is how tired soldiers, all out of ammo, can discover through their inescapable waiting that they have no reason to hurt each other.”  

Given enough time, most of our enemies cease to be enemies, because waiting allows us to see ourselves in them.

Richard Rohr, in this morning’s meditation, puts today’s political tensions in similar perspective:

I know the situation in the world can seem dark today. We are seeing theological regression into fundamentalist religions which believe all issues can be resolved by an appeal to authority (hierarchy or Scripture) and so there is no need for an inner life of prayer. In the United States we have seen the rolling back of a compassionate economic system and the abandonment of our biblical responsibility for the poor, the sick, and refugees. Fear and anger seem to rule our politics and our churches. We see these same things in many parts of the world.

The negative forces are very strong, and the development of consciousness and love sometimes feels very weak. But a “Great Turning” is also happening, as believed and described in many ways by such people as Teilhard de Chardin. There is a deep relationship between the inner revolution of prayer and the transformation of social structures and social consciousness.

The Apostle Paul has a marvelous line: “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20). In so many places, there are signs of the Holy Spirit working at all levels of society. The church might well have done its work as leaven because much of this reform, enlightenment, compassion, and healing is now happening outside the bounds of organized religion. Only God gets the credit.

The toothpaste is out of the tube. There are enough people who know the big picture of Jesus’ thrilling and alluring vision of the reign of God that this Great Turning cannot be stopped. There are enough people going on solid inner journeys that it is not merely ideological or theoretical anymore. This is a positive, nonviolent reformation from the inside, from the bottom up. The big questions are being answered at a peaceful and foundational level, with no need to oppose, deny, or reject. I sense the urgency of the Holy Spirit, with over seven billion humans on the planet. There is so much to love and so much suffering to share in and heal.

So how are we to be patient if so much is wrong?  By keeping today in perspective of a long view of mankind and by tending to our own “solid inner journeys.”  Krista Tippett, also guided by Teilhard, shares in Becoming Wise:  An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, that he foresaw that the “realm of human intelligence, information, and action…like the Internet…would drive the next stage of evolution–an evolution of spirit and consciousness.”

Tippett makes clear, however, that “Teilhard thought in slow, deep, geologic time, and so must we.  A long view of time can replenish our sense of ourselves and the world.  We are in the adolescence of our species, not by any measure in full possession of our powers.  The twenty-first-century globe resembles the understanding we now have of the teenage brain:  dramatically uneven; immensely powerful and creative at times and in places, reckless and destructive in others.”

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Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening is an excellent guide book for one’s “solid inner journey.”

Richard Rohr’s daily meditations are solid gold wisdom found at Meditations@cac.org .

I’ve just started Krista Tippett’s book, Becoming Wise, but it looks to be the exact book I need to be reading right now.

My thanks to Ansel Adams for beautifully depicting visually, the massive stable strength that stands behind all of what we know as life.  Also, my eternal thanks to Lao-Tsu.