“The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.” – David Foster Wallace
[This is apparently the birthday week of the late novelist. Thanks to the Englewood Review of Books for drawing attention to the quote.]
…All of this helped defeat me acedia – mostly because it connected me with other people, and acedia thrives on dis-connection. It suggests that we roll up in a ball, because we’re all alone in the world, and no one cares. Instead I signed up for webinars and concerts, events that I never would have been able to attend in the Before Time. I began gathering on Zoom with friends. I attended church online and found that although worship on Zoom is dreadful it’s better than nothing. All of this served to take my mind off myself and my troubles, and stop acedia’s deadly spiral of self-absorption and despair.
[I felt a pang on reading about the “sound of friends talking in our home,” but I hope that you are all still finding some of these small glories available…]
Joy… is a spiritual engagement with the world based on gratitude. It’s not the big things that make me grateful and bring me joy. It’s more the glory of the small: a touch, a smile, a kind word spoken or received, that first morning hug, the sound of friends talking in our home, the quiet that surrounds prayer, the smell of sacred medicines burning, sunlight on my face, the sound of birds and walking mindfully, each footfall planted humbly on the earth.
When money is the goal, everything that cannot be translated into its terms gets squeezed out. The same happens with war, of course, and with any campaign toward a grand unitary goal. If you have ever been a crusader to save the world, you may have noticed how the little things that make life rich get deprioritized and squeezed out….
Environmentalism is reduced to a numbers game. We as a society are comfortable with that, but I think the shift we must make is deeper. We need to come into a direct, caring, sensuous relationship with this forest, this mountain, this river, this tiny plot of land, and protect them for their own sake rather than for an ulterior end. That is not to deny the dangers of greenhouse gases, but ultimately our salvation must come from recovering a direct relationship to what’s alive in front of us.
- Charles Eisenstein, The Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible
It seems to me that spirit has something to do with the energy of our lives, the life-force that keeps us active and dynamic. Will has more to do with personal intention and how we decide to use our energies. Spirit, for me, has a quality of connecting us with each other, with the world around us, and with the mysterious Source of all. In contrast, will has qualities of independence, of personal freedom, and of decision making.
Sometimes it seems that will moves easily with the natural flow of spirit, and at such times we feel grounded, centered, and responsive to the needs of the world as they are presented to us. This may happen in times of great crisis, when we forget about our personal agendas and strivings and work in true concert with ourselves and others. Or it may happen quietly, with a spontaneous sense of being fully, actively, responsively present to life. At such times, it is indeed as if something in us had said yes. Then, at least for a moment, we are whole.
There are other times when will seems to pull away from spirit, trying to chart its own course. This may happen when we feel self-conscious or when we are judging ourselves harshly. Or it may occur when we are afraid or desirous of something. At such times, we may feel fragmented, contrived, artificial. Our movements and responses may become forced and unnatural, or we may try to avoid the situation by imposing an arbitrary passivity upon ourselves. At such times something deep within us is saying no, something is struggling against the truth of who we really are and what we are really called to do.
- Gerald May, Will and Spirit: A Contemplative Psychology