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A WGREN Meditation for the Week of May 25, 2008
Millions of people require technologically mediated connections to work and sustain their social networks. This isn't itself a problem. I become concerned, however, when these forms of communication become obsessive. Being out of touch for even a few moments can provoke anxiety. I have noticed that many crave attachment. It's no longer good enough to be only dozens of feet from several televisions. We now carry them in our pockets. We're wired to the Internet, constantly receiving text messages, images, and calls on phones that rarely leave our bodies. People routinely wear small ear pieces and talk animatedly to those not present while stumbling through their other daily tasks. Is obliviousness to those immediately before us no longer counted as discourtesy?
I have always viewed constant accessibility as unsustainably intrusive and perhaps even perilous. My imagination constructs anterooms of hell in which people are assaulted by the cacophony of ring tones and drown in a sea of trivial messages. The fact is that I require silence.
Although I am often alone, I don't feel lonely. A rich solitude nourishes me in the way silence does. Breath deepens and slows, attention becomes sharper and more subtle. I can begin to perceive and appreciate the vastness and complexity of the world.
Silence and solitude allow me to dwell in the woods. Not tethered to a phone or iPod, I can enter the spaces around me, hold them for awhile and then move forward. The wind in the trees and my breath, squirrels angry to be disturbed in their foraging and my moving thoughts. When I dwell in the woods, I am never alone. Bending down to caress the tendrils of new moss, I see the marks of my fellow travelers. Deer moving cautiously, their hoof prints carefully spaced in the damp ground. Leaves disturbed where sharp hooves dug for tender shoots. Dog prints where some ecstatic animal careened around the meadow. Smaller signs of rabbits, here and there. The treads of the rangers' four wheeler. And after a gentle rain even the tiny footfalls of the birds are preserved. This is the social network of the woods. And if you walk there, your boots will leave me a message.Kathleen M. Dixon
Department of Philosophy
Bowling Green State University
A WGREN Meditation for the Week of May 18, 2008
The Opening of Eyes
That day I saw beneath the dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out.
I knew then, as I had before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.
It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.
It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.
- David Whyte
This poem is the favorite of a well-respected and recently deceased seminary professor of mine. It was printed in a collection of his sermons and speeches, as a pillar-of-spirit for one of those sermons. Its images of air, desert, bush, silence, ground, and water suggest an exercise. The poem says we have two kinds of biographies for ourselves, and in the poet's eyes they are of differing value.
One biography is to recount the "passing memory" of life's events, past and yet-to -come. This one reads: This happened . . . & this . . . & then this . . . " Do some of this re-counting of your own biography for as much as you can fit on a page."
The other biography is to say your discoveries - what your eyes have opened to, and what you have fallen in love with. Do this for a page (and take your shoes off while you do it).Wayne Albertson, Pastor
Ada First United Methodist Church
A WGREN Meditation for the Week of May 11, 2008
There is a tree broken by the rages of winter.THE TREE
Did it feel the cold like we humans do?
Did it dread the ice when it knew it was coming?
When it felt the heavy covering of ice, did it know this was the end of endurance for it?
As it felt itself leaning over into its neighbor did it dread the end,
Or did the tree simply accept what happened to it?
It had no way to fight its future.
How are we different from the tree which had to accept what God deeded for it?
Could it have held on with its roots like humans stubbornly do sometimes?
Could it have worried as we humans do?
It could not rush out and prepare for a coming storm like we do.
Does this really accomplish anything?
Does doing this really help our souls?
When the end is near do we accept it like the tree with calm endurance?
Mary F. Neeley
National Audubon Society
A WGREN Meditation for the Week of May 4, 2008
God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone,
but on trees, and flowers, and clouds, and stars.
- attributed to Martin Luther
Even before I was in my teens some natural occurrence such as light playing on the surface of rippled water would capture my attention and draw me into it. I observed the detailed coruscations that wind and sunlight created in the ever-changing ripples. I studied the play of the breeze on the water's surface and "entered into " it, until it became something tangible to me, something also happening on the surface of my own skin. In such an experience I felt a call from the phenomenon to turn all my senses toward it and to experience it directly as it was in itself. I felt an invitation to "enter into" what was vibrantly alive within the phenomenon's sphere of sense experience. I believe that it was a call to establish bonds of empathy with my environment. You may have had similar experiences. Certainly many children and young adults do. For some these experiences continue all their lives. These are the ones for whom all of creation is present as a "Thou."
So what difference would these interior experiences make in a person's or a society's life? What we think of as our free choices are fundamentally conditioned by the nature of the bonds of empathy we experience. For most of us these bonds form the web of our committed relationships with people we love. We can look at how our lives evolve and know that such conditioned decisions have made all the difference. I posit that making our basic choices conditioned by experiencing nature as a "Thou" could also make a profound difference in the flow of our lives. Such choices could lead us into a world far different than our current one, a world that might be perhaps just as technologically advanced but through which the vibrant inner livingness of nature would permeate. Is this not a world to dream about, a world to strive for?Bill Fuller
Department of Mathematics
Ohio Northern University