Blog posted by Barbara Stapleton
What do we do in these times; we see terrible scenes of devastation brought right into our living spaces – war, floods and drought to name a few; anxious thoughts about the future, especially the future of the children! At times like these it can be difficult to find that inner place of light and peace and silence which is there within us and where we can remain peaceful even in the middle of turmoil.
I live in a place where there are two rivers and a large inlet. Sometimes I see a lone kayaker on the river or a person wading way out on the inlet, net in hand, looking for crabs. I imagine each of them intent on what they are doing but at the same time enclosed in a cone of colour and sound and sensation – of water lapping and birds and the feel of the air around them. I think of Robert Gray’s wonderful poem, A Day at Bellingen, when he takes the rowing boat out, rows miles, until ‘the mind is turned down like a gas flame …it lies once more beneath the truth of the body.’
There is always the temptation to turn the mind down by watching the screen or escaping into a book. And that can be alright at times.
Meanwhile the world goes on its unhappy way with the possibility that our long stretch of peace is coming to an end as countries like ours are drawn into a vortex of opposing interests.
My friend, who feels anguished and helpless at the screen sight of people suffering from war and famine, meets with me each week. We light a candle and she imagines a particular place – a village in Yemen, a refugee camp in Sudan – where she sees a better outcome; children playing and parents with enough food to feed them. We spend some time in silent meditation – call it prayer. Does this actually help our world or is it just a way to make us feel better?
I believe that looking at a child or a person suffering, either through a journalist’s witness or even in our imagination, can save us from that temptation to get lost in the quantitive reporting that we hear all the time; so many numbers of people killed; how many dead in this camp versus the other. Humans seen as numbers of casualities shock me but can also numb the heart. The past history and context of the situation is important but can become an abstraction.
Jesus said that the Father knows’ each hair of our head’ and that he knows the fall of a sparrow. That tells me the intimate quality of love and of the enormity of what is happening to each person caught up in these terrible happenings. I need to use my imagination to see them with the eye of the heart.
Imagination, heart-seeing, is powerful. I turn to those wisdom people we have known, the ones I see as the far-seeing ones, call them mystics if you want. They give me hope because they see with an informed heart; the doors of perception open to see beyond the present turmoil and distress. The priest-scientist, Teilhard de Chardin, I believe is one of these people.
Even as a child he was fascinated by the rocks and stones and earth-structure he saw around him and later this led him to his work as a priest-paleontologist, spending years in the vast deserts of China. He had a profound love of earth and matter: the layers and layers of the evolving earth and its creatures and peoples.
At the same time he experienced the presence of a tremendous love at the heart of all creation. He saw us all as evolving in consciousness, becoming as individuals and communities more aware of ourselves and more aware of the presence of love. As I understand from his sometimes dense writings, he also saw the thoughts and aspirations and compassionate love that we all experience, as forming a kind of cone of light around our earth that he named as the noosphere. He believed that this would one day begin to influence more and more of us until perhaps multitudes of us humans will begin to see in a more conscious way and become convinced that there is a better way to solve differences than by the violence of war.
That is our hope and why we continue to pray.