March 18 ~ Fourth Week
Dear old and new friends,
The previous Haystack spoke of the millions of miles of space between stars as being empty…but that was an immense understatement! It was made for emphasis since it is estimated that 90% outer space is made up of invisible mysterious dark matter, swirling dark clouds of vortexes of enormous gravitational powers capable of consuming entire stars. I feel that whenever we can create personal empty times, spaces within our lives, they also are jam-packed with mysterious and creative energy.
With this week we have reached the halfway point in our Spring Renaissance. That fact should be a call to disciplined effort to renew ourselves since the last part of any race or project is always the most difficult! Too easily we begin to hurry as the end approaches, often becoming careless instead of intensely focusing becoming renewed in all we do, especially in our loving.
Living as we do in an over-scheduled lifestyle the question we frequently ask of ourselves is, “What time is it?” This Spring Renaissance reflection is an invitation to reform your concept of time that effortlessly becomes a cruel slave driver. In the 1870 Paris revolution the revolutionaries went about the city shooting the hands of public clocks! This strange vandalism of clocks as a demonic device of enslavement was around the beginning of clock-driven manufacturing. Today we can just as easily become slaves to all kinds of clocks; alarm clocks, wristwatches and the time clock at work strictly regulating our entire time and leisure.
An old saying of Judaic mystical Hasidim is, “Where there is a clock, there is no soul!” Reflect on that wisdom the next time you enter private or communal prayer time. In your prayer see if unconsciously there is a timepiece that vampires the soul of your prayers. In churches in the late medieval days it was common for preachers about to deliver a sermon to place an hourglass on the pulpit both for him and those attending. Today’s version of that is slyly glancing at your wrist watch during a long boring sermon.
“I am just wasting my time” is a deceptive and misleading statement for it is impossible for you or me to own or possess time. More accurately, we are loaned time for an indefinite period. The ancient Aztecs of Mexico perceived this reality, and from them we have this most beautiful and thoughtful soul-stirring prayer to God. It might be the nightly prayer a husband and wife recite together, even in a shorter version, which could have powerful implications.
Oh, only for so short a while you
have loaned us to each other,
because we take form in your act of drawing us,
and we take life in your painting us,
and we breathe in your singing us.
But only for so short a while
have you loaned us to each other.
Because even a drawing cut in obsidian fades,
and the green feathers, the crown feathers,
of the Quetzal bird lose their color,
and even the sounds of the waterfall
die out in the dry season.
So, we too, because only for a short while
have you loaned us to each other.
The words of British author Donald Nicholl’s echo this Aztec prayer about the true ownership of time, “Hurrying is actually a form of violence exercised upon God’s time in order to make it ‘my time.’” Rushing through life at an ever-quickening speed has become a common misfortune in our culture that not only desires more and more, but want it faster and faster. Hurrying/rushing is a deadly lethal habit; whether you are hurrying while you are eating, driving, talking or since, it is a habit, when praying. Spring Renaissance is reform and renewal time, so take to task your bad time habits.
The cure for the demonic addiction of hurrying is paradoxically the opposite—slowing down. Efforts at slowing down will be penitential, and you will find it painful to put a strict diet on your daily schedule. Planning ahead will be required to create small islands of time before departures and arrivals as a buffer for the unexpected. When eating and you become aware that you are hurrying, stop for a moment and take a deep breath; then return to eating the meal only now slowly, and as you do savor the food.
Practice seeing the time on any clock or watch as a mysterious and wonderful gift, and view it with reverence ever mindful it is a love gift from your Beloved. Surrounded by a breathtaking world of wonders never “kill” time, enjoy where you are and who you are. If you find you have “time on your hands,” use that surprise gift of unexpected time to enjoy life.
~ For those with old Catholic Lenten Backgrounds ~
If you are really an old (about a thousand years) Catholic then you know why the Easter Bunny brings gifts of eggs. In the Middle Ages fasting and abstaining in Lent was really severe, especially for public penitents who had to not only fast and do penance but also had to walk barefoot all Lent, sleep on the ground or bed of straw and were not allowed to bathe or cut their hair. For everyone else, fasting meant only one meal a day and forbidden was flesh meat, milk, cheese, butter and eggs. When Lent was over the once forbidden eggs became a big treat for Easter that were delivered by the ancient fertility symbol of the rabbit.
Fasting, now a minor part of Lent, is a universal spiritual practice that is ancient and common to other religions such as Islam which commemorates Ramadan, a month long fast that is total from sunrise to sunset. But instead of fasting consider doing the reverse—eating! Spring Renaissance eating is “eating your shadow,” which in the Japanese martial arts means facing your dark side that others do not see, known as “eating bitter.” Also we typically deny the ugly harshness of life and turn our backs on what is unpleasant in ourselves and our society. Instead, turn forward and honestly face the evil or unpleasant realities of human behavior, even if doing so will leave a bitter taste in your mouth.
Face honestly the enormous and criminal disparity of wealth that exists in America. Don’t patriotically close your eyes to a Congress that appears more concerned about political control and votes than being compassionate for the poor and unemployed. And don’t excuse yourself, pretending blindness to the evils of poverty surrounding wherever you live.
And in conclusion reflect that another way to “eat bitter” is not to personally indulge, either privately or publicly, in the “poor suffering me” of self-pity.