I was introduced to this Merton piece last week and it could not have come at a more appropriate time in my life:
“The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. More than that, it is cooperation in violence. The frenzy of the activist…destroys his own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of his own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.” This was written by Thomas Merton over half a century ago, imagine.
In other words: quality dissipates when spread thin.
The quality of my recent days have been long and the nights short and the weeks are burning up across the calendar humping their way to the end of the year. I’ve overcommitted. Juggling the projects that have come in for work that are welcome, and a relief, having a roommate who brings his own chaos into the Spirit House, being the board member of an organization that just held its second annual fundraiser last night, belonging to a community group that had not one but a total of two full day meetings last week, volunteering at Tin’s school, parenting a young child, and what? What about relationships – friendships pared down to speed dating type conversations, dating that succumbs to a reprioritization of everything, minutes, seconds. What’s left at the end of one violent day – not me. I can assure you.
You’ll find me dazed and confused.
Today, Sunday School was cancelled because of a wedding, so Tin and I had a welcomed respite to go meet a friend and her son in Annunciation park. A beautiful fall day with its slanted sunlight and fall chill that offered just enough chill to desire the warmth of a New Orleans sun. The boys – old friends – had a rare day of no conflict, just utter joy in being together. And I got to catch up with a friend. I need this time, to sit and reflect, to catch up, to enjoy – and how has this time become so rare?
The house bordering my yard was sold to a man who will convert it into apartments – I can check this off my pending list. The gala was absolutely wonderful – Michaela Harrison sang in The Healing Room as if the world stood still (listen to it here), Germaine Bazzle dazzled us in a revelry, her voice many instruments, Asia Rainey spoke her heart to Maya Angelou, while lit up in warm hues of purple and reds on stage.
The violence we do to others is unfathomable but the daily violence we commit on our own self is head shaking tragic. Is opening yourself up to love an act of healing? In the schedule of your day, who gets 86′d and who gets minutes of your time to the exclusion of another? Is work all there is time for? As I parent Tin and train Stella, my job seems more and more about the elimination of play, where’s the joy in it?
In the violence of doing too much, I confess to fear about standing still, about opening completely, about letting my guard down: come inside, come inside, come inside The Healing Room.