As I write this blog the midterm elections have not yet have happened. There is always immense tension, often to the point of frenzy, before American elections and never more so than this time around. It’s not hard to understand why. The stakes are indeed immense, and the intensity is fueled by an unprecedented level of fear – on both sides of the political spectrum. The tectonic collision of worldviews which underlies this phenomenon is now reverberating worldwide. There is no way to minimize this, nor should we.
Everywhere I go in my ministry – as a spiritual director and as a congregational consultant on covenant-based conflict resolution – I see and feel the intensity. The question that is asked, often explicitly is: how do we minister in such a world?
Years ago, I read a story about a community of Tibetan Buddhist monks who were rebuilding a monastery that had been destroyed by the Chinese. “How do you do it?” the interviewer inquired. I imagine he was asking how the monks kept their spirits up in the face of all they had endured, but the answer he received was, “We put one brick on top of another.”
“What happens if the Chinese come through and destroy it again?” The interviewer asked.
“When they are gone, we will begin putting one brick on top of another,” he was told.
Ask yourself what serving life by “putting one brick on top of the other” looks like for you. What is the essence of your work – paid or volunteer, at home or beyond? What is the contribution you most want to make?
The more bombarded you are with possibilities for places to put your energy (and I know you are bombarded) the more essential it becomes to discern the core of your focus and bring your energy back to that again and again. I myself have to do this daily.
I understand that the problem with fear is that in the short run it works. Fear motivates people, but it’s a wildfire. No matter what it burns down, you can’t build with it. No one is immune to fear. Any of us can be driven by fear into reactivity. But this only sets up fear-based escalations.
The same strong actions can be taken from a centered place, and they will have far more impact. You will draw people towards your values when they see you model your values, and by that, see you create a life worth living.
No matter what happens this week, stay centered in the values you would wish everyone to embrace. The journalist who interviewed the monks said he marveled at their calm demeanor, good humor and fortitude. He wished his life were as focused and fulfilling as theirs appeared to be. That’s a way of being in the world that inspires the best in people.
No matter what’s happening in the world this week, or any week, stay focused on what matters most in what you offer the world in the service of life. Take heart. Put one brick on top of another.
With You on the Path,