Withdrawing In Order To Be Present

The Choir After Last Service

The Choir After Last Service

I am writing this entry during the day on Sunday afternoon. I am alone and all is quiet as the others have returned to practice for this afternoon's Evensong. The choir has already sung one Eucharist service today. Again, they are doing an excellent job. It is with both a sense of sadness and satisfaction to realize that the service this afternoon is their last one during this choir residency.  Many of the choir will be returning to Houston tomorrow. We will not.

Half the Choir at Practice

Half the Choir at Practice

One of the great benefits of being on a trip like this is that the "news" is not pushed into our faces every waking moment. There is, of course, no way to escape all of it. News did reach us of the horrible attack in Nice, France and of the attempted military coup is Turkey. One person commented, "The world has gone crazy." With the mayhem, violence and hatred it can easily be seen so.

We have friends we made on another trip, going from Prague to Paris. They live here in Edinburgh and we had lunch with them on Friday. Their daughter was with them and she works for the Foreign Service in London. I asked her if she had any neat James Bond gear. She said, "No." I asked what they were going to do in the face of "Brexit." She said, "We have no idea. We weren't prepared for it. We were sure it wouldn't happen."

Just so with so many of the tumultuous events going on in the world today. Would it really come to this? We hoped not. We feared it would.  Now we fear things becoming worse and we hope to make them better. How?

We are polarized between hope and fear. Each side's hope becomes the other side's fear. One side demonizing the other only makes matters worse.

So, what are we to do? 

All of these thoughts, and more, have been in my head and heart as we have been immersed in the beauty of music, ritual, Gothic architecture and history this week.

I have thought how both in the Christian and Buddhist traditions, individuals committed to live enlightened lives so that others might become enlightened would withdraw from the world so that they might return to it as a light for others.

This is precisely what St. Benedict did and what countless Buddhist monks across the ages have done. I have been re-reading Thomas Merton's "New Seeds of Contemplation." I commend it to you. Merton was a monk at a monastery in Kentucky. Yet, the impact he has had on thousands of people has been profound.

I have mentioned to you that the Rev. John MacLuckie, the one who has chanted and preached the services here, is also a Zen Buddhist and an authority on Merton.  He mentioned in his sermon today the need for a balance between the contemplative life and action designed to "make a difference."

I would say that that "action" consists of at least, and contains more than these, two primary things. And we begin addressing these in ourselves.  First, greed. When 1% of the world's population owns as much as 90%, what we find in that 90% is resentment, frustration and anger. For many, a college degree no longer means the promise of a job and a future full life, but it does means a humongous debt in student loans.

Last Day in Edinburgh

Last Day in Edinburgh

Second, ignorance. The horrible acts of violence being done today are being done by people who were once children who had no desire to hate and kill. That is to say, the acts of violence are done by people, human beings, like you and me. Somewhere along the way they came to chose to believe that the way toward the happiness they desired was through violence.
Poverty and homelessness - as well as a host of other problems - are not just problems for the impoverished or for refugees but for us all.

We can contribute to the end of our own ignorance by withdrawing into some sort of practice where we can open our minds in ways that will allow us to create and communicate more loving kindness and compassion into this world in which we live.

I am profoundly grateful for this week of daily worship - silence, ritual, music and more. 
May all beings everywhere be peaceful and at ease.
May all beings everywhere be well.
May all beings everywhere be happy.
It cannot but help our world if each of us commits to spending longer and deeper periods of time in peace, love and joy.