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A WGREN Meditation for the Week of March 30, 2008
your immensity fills the earth and the whole universe,
but the universe itself cannot contain you,
much less the earth,
and still less the world of my thoughts.
- Yves Raguin, SJ
"Paths to Contemplation"
Yves Raguin, a French Jesuit, was a sinologist with a special interest in Chinese spirituality. He lived a life of profound contemplation and died in 1998. Starting in the middle fifties he became a member of the Jesuit Dictionary Project in Taipei and for most of his life directed work on Le Grand Ricci, the great nine-thousand page multilingual dictionary of the Chinese languages. As a result he had intensively explored the world of thoughts and knew its richness and also its limits. He reminds us in this prayer that what is most deeply real lies far beyond the realms of our symbolic representations. Indeed we who are so technologically oriented need reminders that our intellectual constructs cannot even contain the reality of the earth, much less that of the universe, and far less that of the Divine. If we make decisions in our lives based only on our constructed virtual realities, we run the danger of acting out of congruence with what is true and real within us and within our environment. Wisdom seems therefore to be calling us to leave behind, for some time each day, our cell phones, our ipods, our laptops, our televisions, and our radios so that we may connect with the springs of life. One excellent practice is simply to take a short walk in nature. Some of the other contributors of these meditations clearly follow this daily practice. We have been able to read and enjoy the exquisite reflections that have flowed out of their experiences. This week, then, go out and walk! Our daily walk can be a time to open ourselves to all the depth of beauty and energy surrounding us and eventually to experience, the immensity of what another Jesuit called the "grandeur of God."Bill Fuller
Department of Mathematics
Ohio Northern University
A WGREN Meditation for the Week of March 23, 2008
And Spring arose on the garden fair,- Percy Bysshe Shelley, "The Sensitive Plant"
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth's dark breast
rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.
It is time once again to meditate on nature's power to regenerate as well as to fascinate and inspire wonder. It is time to celebrate Spring's grand symphonic return! It is the birds who provide the overture, as the once quiet winter mornings become song-laden. To this choral accompaniment the sun's warmth begins to penetrate the earth to revive the dormant life it harbors, as it also begins to reinvigorate lethargic minds and bodies. The first flowers materialize in stages too small to notice until one morning their petals open and color bursts forth to loosen winter's last grasp upon the land. And in the finale the tree leaves emerge and the earth is a glorious green again!
Through all this we are witness to a cyclical process that is as ageless as it is inevitable. All living beings, whether flora or fauna, attune themselves to this process - it guides and drives their lives. All living beings, that is, other than human beings. Rather than live in nature and be sensitive to its seasonal changes, our aim has been to insulate and isolate ourselves as much as possible. In our isolation though we have become complacent - the natural environment has become little more than a stage set against which we live our lives.
It is time to re-learn nature's essential lesson - that rebirth and regeneration are essential to all life. It is time to be reborn to and to recommit ourselves to the environment nurtures us all. So this spring listen to the birds, feel the sun's warmth, smell flowers! These are the moments that matter.Mark H. Dixon
Department of Philosophy & Religion
Ohio Northern University
A WGREN Meditation for the Week of March 16, 2008
It will come as no surprise that one of the occupational hazards of philosophy is to live in one's head. We do not monopolize this liability, but instead share it with the professions and arts. At some points in life, this mental absorption can offer safe haven. I am sure many have found lives of scholarship or artistic expression as a result of childhood discoveries that books, dance, theater, music, and art opened doors to alternate worlds in which desperately needed qualities could be found. Those of us who live in our heads are often rewarded for our ability to exclude the most persistent distractions in order to focus exclusively on the problem at hand. Sadly, once habituated we may experience difficulties 'surfacing'-sustaining attention in social settings, appreciating subtle cues or tones, or recognizing the beauties that surround us.
One of the principal reasons I take to the woods and meadows is to escape the confines of my own thoughts. When I walk on overcast, wintry days the penetrating winds seem to scour me. Roughly cleaning the slate, so I can pick up my head and consciously attend to what's around me.
But recently, while walking, a young deer and I startled each other. Lifting my eyes suddenly, I noticed first the strong, long back and legs springing from the ground. What is it, I wondered? Then I noticed another, smaller shape running before the larger one. A rabbit being chased by a dog that has joyously slipped its leash? Then I saw the white plume of its tail. It was a young deer hurrying on a squirrel, both trying to avoid the lumbering human. My first thought was a humbling one. "I was only four feet away and I didn't notice them. If this isn't a corrective to excessive pride in my practice, I'm not sure what would be." A quarter mile later I realized I hadn't been the only animal absorbed in my own thoughts and immediate experience. The white plume had, like the words of the sensei returned my wandering attention to the object of meditation. Opening my delighted eyes to the wild beauty immediately before me. I laughed like a child to discover that the master had, moments before, himself been asleep.Kathleen M. Dixon
Department of Philosophy
Bowling Green State University
A WGREN Meditation for the Week of March 9, 2008, 2008
"Here is where the world is being made,- Wendell Berry
No human hand required"
A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979 - 1997
These are the opening lines of a 1981 and untitled poem by Wendell Berry. In spite of some remembered paintings I image this as a creation story - a God without hands - whose story of world-making is in Genesis, or other religions' narrative gifts. God doesn't need hands to make the world (or a universe). - And, yet, if God had hands, certainly the creation is from the totality of God's being (e.g. - more - much more - than hands).
So, dear and imaginative friends, here are three questions (or suggestions of guidance) for quiet - much quiet - reflection:- What do you make, or have you made without your hands?
- What things ("worlds") have you made with your hands (such as paper
airplanes, gardens, dissertations, love letters, meals, fishing lures, etc.)?
- What is the "much" of the ("much more") totality of you that went into the making?
Ada United Methodist Church
A WGREN Meditation for the Week of March 2, 2008, 2008
The text for this week's meditation is the homepage of the Encyclopedia of Life and appears below. The Encyclopedia of Life recently went live and was visited by more than eleven million people on its first day. This website is the embodiment of a "dream" that biologist E. O. Wilson voiced about a year ago. The EOL is an online collaborative encyclopedia that has the goal of documenting the almost two million known species of living beings.
A spiritual practice that many people find rewarding is to read the daily newspaper as a springboard for prayer. Let me suggest that this week would be a good time to apply such a practice to the EOL. Set aside time each day to visit the website and browse through it in a mindful way. Pause wherever the Spirit indicates and contemplate what has drawn your attention. Let yourself enter into what you contemplate. Bring that to God and let prayer naturally unfold. Follow where the prayer leads you. Continue until you experience a shift back to your usual cognitive modes. Note down briefly what you've experienced and at the end of the week read back through your notes. The trends you find may well be directions in which the depth dimension of your being is calling you.
Department of Mathematics
Ohio Northern University