The fifth page for February 15, 2009- a bit late....
I apologize for being so tardy in producing this week’s 5th page. I took full advantage of Ontario’s Family Day holiday Monday, and that threw off my whole weekly schedule. I still feel as if I am hustling to catch up. There is a certain irony in this. The background material that did not make into this past week’s sermon is actually a commentary on “busyness”. I have been reading Parker Palmer’s “The Active Life”, which is an exploration of how people who are not monks or nuns, but live in the “regular” world can nurture and sustain a contemplative spirituality.
Palmer uses two of the early chapters to explore the insights of an ancient Chinese poet and philosopher named Chuang Tzu, who lived and worked almost 4 centuries before the time of Jesus. One of his poems, here in a translation by Thomas Merton, is called “Active Life”:
“If an expert does not have some problem to vex him,
he is unhappy!
If a philosopher’s teaching is never attacked, she pines
If critics have no one on whom to exercise their spite,
they are unhappy.
All such people are prisoners in the world of objects.
He who wants followers, seeks political power.
She who wants reputation, holds an office.
The strong man looks for weights to lift.
The brave woman looks for an emergency in which she
can show bravery.
The swordsman wants a battle in which he can swing
People past their prime prefer a dignified retirement,
in which they may seem profound.
People experienced in law seek difficult cases to extend
the application of laws.
Liturgists and musicians like festivals in which they
parade their ceremonious talents.
The benevolent, the dutiful, are always looking for chances to display virtue.
Where would the gardener be if there were no more
What would become of business without a market of
Where would the masses be if there were no pretext
for getting jammed together and making noise?
What would become of labour if there were no superfluous objects to
Produce! Get results! Make money! Make friends!
Or you will die of despair!
Those who are caught in the machinery of power take no joy except in activity and change—the whirring of the machine! Whenever an occasion for action presents itself, they are compelled to act; they cannot help themselves. They are inexorably moved, like the machine of which they are a part. Prisoners in the world of objects, they have no choice but to submit to the demands of matter! They are pressed down and crushed by external forces, fashion, the markets, events, public opinion. Never in whole lifetime do they recover their right mind! The active life! What a pity!”