Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Wheel

I went to the monastery on Sunday. I was looking forward to it since it promised to be a beautiful day. When my alarm clock went off at 6:00 AM I sighed since I had also been forced to get up very early on Saturday. Once I got myself together I was fine so off I went down the highway. Being so early on Sunday morning traffic was sparse. It was still dark though daylight wasn't far away. The eastern sky was an orange glow wrapped in pink hues. The silhouettes of the bare tress were sharply emphasized on the horizon. Just before the sun finally crested, the hills seemed on fire. Each month when I make this trip the earth is never in quite the same spot or at the same angle. The light shines differently. Some months it blinds me and other months it seems to simply light my way. When I arrived at the monastery the day had fully arrived. The sun was shining but the air was still cool. Inside a larger than normal group awaited me. We had an engaging conversation. One of the points that stuck with me was the idea that contemplative people find much in common with other contemplative people whether they are from another Christian tradition or even a non Christian tradition. Contemplative people live "in the center" and that is a relatively small place so anyone there is close to everyone else. We are not divided by the teachings or traditions of our respective faiths. The further away you are from the "center", the further you are away from everyone else. An excellent symbol for this is a wheel. The hub of the wheel is the center. If you are not part of the hub, you are not living in the center. When you are not part of the center you are out there on the rim. Now, it's not bad or wrong to be part of the rim. It's all part of the wheel. However, in matters of religion, it is out there on the rim that you are more likely to see how different or far apart you are from others. It is on the rim that we see our different beliefs and doctrines. We may even experience some conflict. It is on the rim of the wheel where we are most likely to have our "in the head" theological and intellectual differences of opinion about faith and religion. "In the center", or hub of the wheel, we are closer and less likely to see our differences because we are held together by our common experience of "The Other". This kind of thinking is experienced whenever I go to the monastery. Even though the monastery is Roman Catholic and following a 1500+ year old tradition of monasticism, the members in my group are Catholics, Baptists, Anglicans, Methodists, and others I may not have identified yet. Our different churches and traditions are on the rim of the wheel. As individuals, however, we strive to live "in the center" and together on the hub.

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