Monday, February 19, 2018

by way of this contact

Recently I've enjoyed the lyrical music of 
The Innocence Mission (Bright As Yellow: 

I've also been perusing Brain Pickings (, which is where I came upon the above quote.  Here are a few unassociated thoughts by Maria Popova, the blogger, which she gave in an interview.  Emphases are mine.

"And I think that’s very much true of knowledge itself. The reason we’re so increasingly intolerant of long articles and why we skim them, why we skip forward even in a short video that reduces a 300-page book into a three-minute animation — even in that we skip forward — is that we’ve been infected with this kind of pathological impatience that makes us want to have the knowledge but not do the work of claiming it. I mean, the true material of knowledge is meaning. And the meaningful is the opposite of the trivial. And the only thing that we should have gleaned by skimming and skipping forward is really trivia. And the only way to glean knowledge is contemplation. And the road to that is time. There’s nothing else. It’s just time. There is no shortcut for the conquest of meaning. And ultimately, it is meaning that we seek to give to our lives."

"Well, there are certain core beliefs, I guess. I think a lot about the relationship between cynicism and hope. Critical thinking without hope is cynicism, but hope without critical thinking is naïveté. I try to live in this place between the two, to try to build a life there. Because finding fault and feeling hopeless about improving our situation produces resignation, of which cynicism is a symptom, a sort of futile self-protection mechanism. But on the other hand, believing blindly that everything will work out just fine also produces a kind of resignation, because we have no motive to apply ourselves toward making things better. I think in order to survive, both as individuals and as a civilization, but especially in order to thrive, we need to bridge critical thinking with hope."

"We never see the world exactly as it is because we are how the world is. I think it was William James who said, “My experience is what I agree to attend to, and only those things which I notice shape my mind.” And so in choosing how we are in the world, we shape our experience of that world, our contribution to it. We shape our world, our inner world, our outer world, which is really the only one we’ll ever know. And to me, that’s the substance of the spiritual journey. It’s not an exasperating idea but an infinitely emboldening one, and it’s taken me many years to come to that without resistance."

It's true that there's much for us to attend to.  Joyful people I know often seem to be able to be interested in a myriad of things.  But, maybe able to do all this without being fragmented by it.  

In The Holy Longing, Ronald Rolheiser defines the human universal of desire as "an unquenchable fire, a restlessness, a longing, a disquiet, a hunger, a loneliness, a gnawing nostalgia.  A dis-ease."  Spirituality is our response to desire.  It's what we do with that madness.

He uses the example of how 3 women channel desire differently: 
Mother Teresa fits Soren Kierkegaard's definition of a holy one: someone who can will the one thing.  She poured out her eros for God and the poor.
Janis Joplin, also possessing a rare energy, willed many things, eventually exacerbating her restlessness and tiredness. Rather than achieving integration, she encountered dissipation.
He compares Princess Diana to most of us who wrestle with choice and commitment, sin and virtue, some of her choices creating greater integration and others that tear at body and soul.

He identifies 3 things that challenge our interiority today:
narcissism (excessive self-preoccupation)
pragmatism (excessive focus on work and achievement)
unbridled restlessness (excessive greed for experience)
and casts them as the source of our heartaches, headaches, and insomnia.  

We all have finite energy and finite time.  As Maria Popova reminds us, we do not lack choice, our mode of being in the world.  Including choosing what to attend to.

Innocence Mission, Brotherhood of Man (

"and he smiles through the limbs"
"though I did not learn her name, amid the subway din, a stranger lit my way"

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