I have been so busy lately that I have literally had no time to reflect, let alone read and write. I have managed, more or less, to maintain my exercise routine. My hope is for both, mornings when I can read, reflect, write, and exercise.
This means I need about three hours most mornings.
Seriously, who has that kind of time while also working a full time job as a parish priest, being a wife and mom, and having three dogs and two cats? Sigh. So I exercise most days and read and write as I am able. Life is full and good and I am not complaining, I am just honoring the urges within and my inability to satisfy the many diverse directions my life is pulled in.
The philosophy book I am slowly making my way through has moved on from pondering the question of the “ultimate, that which one finds when one reaches the very heart of existence” to the idea of “being” and “becoming.” Ultimate, according the various philosophers who have pondered this question may be something like, “energy,” which can transform itself from nonmaterial to material and back. Or it might be a system that becomes organisms. It might be life itself.
When one considers the ultimate substance of existence through the context of “life itself” then one also ponders the meaning of death. And if life itself begins as a nonmaterial construct of energy that can transform itself into a material being and then back into a nonmaterial being, then death is not possible – the being simply transforms back to the ultimate substance from which the being was created.
Philosophical constructs of being and becoming hold different values which influence how we think about other aspects of life. If one holds the idea of “being” as fundamental than one believes that one is distinct from all others, striving for stability and a degree of permanence. If one holds “becoming” as the fundamental value then one sees life, oneself, as part of a process in the midst of universal motion, subject to change.
On the one hand it seems, according to this book, that nature functions from the perspective of ‘becoming” – changing, adapting, transforming. But we humans function from the perspective of “being” – distinct from others, striving for stability and permanence.
I think of this in light of the “Illuminated Advent Retreat” I am participating in, offered by Jan Richardson. Five days a week for the season of Advent and into Christmas I receive an email with a reflection written by Jan and also instrumental pieces composed for the season written by Garrison Doles on guitar. It is a lovely retreat, and forces me to take a few minutes each day to read, listen, ponder, reflect. I laughed when I read that she, long ago gave up seeking “balance” and instead strives to work with in the rhythm of her life. She writes:
I gave up striving for balance a long time ago. But I do need an underlying rhythm to my days, some beats that help restore me and return me to my life.
Living life as one who is becoming seems to be at the heart of this Advent retreat. Finding a tiny moment to appreciate the sacred in the midst of a hectic schedule may be enough to sustain me. I love to soak myself in her words and allow them to resonate through me during the week:
In our bones, in the beating of our heart, we carry the sacred cadence that brought us into being. Within each one of us is a rhythm that enables us to thrive when we are keeping time to it. Moment by moment, in the doing of daily life, we are either aligned with the fundamental pulse and pace by which we thrive, or we are working against it.
There are times, of course, when it’s not possible to keep the rhythm that our souls and bodies crave; seasons when our commitments require us to live outside our natural groove. In those times, the rhythms we have established in the past echo and reverberate through the present. If we have known the sensation of living in a rhythm that sustains us, it becomes possible to improvise when we enter into times of stress and chaos and weariness, and to find hints and glimpses of the sacred in the press of daily life.
There is a rhythm to my life. It is rich and full. It is not always easy. As a parish priest I have to remember a lot of details, tend to the many needs of people in the congregation, sort through the various ways people are disappointed with some decision even as others are really excited by the same decision, take care of instances of prejudice, guide the leadership, teach, preach…it is a job that never ends. This is also exactly why I love it. The work of a parish priest is one of always becoming. And, of course I also have a personal life – as a wife and mother….Nothing static or stable about my life at all….
In the course of time I am learning to improvise, to be adaptive, to find ways to be healthy in mind, body, and spirit. It may not be about balance, after all, for that infers a kind of stability. Finding rhythm is perhaps a better image. Pulsing through the course of my life, a beating heart, life becoming, living Advent.