[We’ve recently been inspired by Martin Buber’s classic on relating to others in fully human, not objectifying, ways. Here is a line that stuck with me:]
Spirit is not in the I but between I and You. It is not like the blood that circulates in you but like the air in which you breathe. Man lives in the spirit when he is able to respond to his You. He is able to do that when he enters into this relation with his whole being. It is solely by virtue of his power to relate that man is able to live in the spirit.
― Martin Buber, I and Thou
As a person of First Nations ancestry I cannot help but wonder if the failure of Caucasian Americans and Canadians to reveal and teach about the horrors their ancestors carried out against North American First Nations Peoples during and after colonial times is a deliberate cover-up or an indication that they hold within their minds a notion that the life of a First Nations person is valueless – not worthy of human considerations. The latter is probably the more plausible, because it is an unchallengeable fact that the crimes against humanity that were committed against our Peoples over the centuries by people of European descent are not viewed with the same abhorrence by Caucasians that such crimes against other races of people are viewed. If such were the case there would be unconditional condemnation of it, and the knowledge would be readily available and taught in schools.
- Daniel N. Paul, We Were Not the Savages: Collision between European and Native American Civilizations (2006)
(These sobering words are a reminder of the changes that we are needing and wanting to make in terms of education. They come from a well-documented history of the treatment of the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet peoples in the Maritimes by European colonizers. This work, along with many others, is part of our library’s new Indigenous Studies Collection, which was in turn part of our Education for Reconciliation project made possible by a grant from Stronger Together.)
We need quiet time in the presence of God. Although we want to make all our time time for God, we will never succeed if we do not reserve a minute, an hour, a morning, a day, a week, a month, or whatever period of time, for God and God alone.
This asks for much discipline and risk taking because we always seem to have something more urgent to do and “just sitting there” and “doing nothing” often disturbs us more than it helps. But there is no way around this. Being useless and silent in the presence of our God belongs to the core of all prayer.
In the beginning we often hear our own unruly inner noises more loudly than God’s voice. This is at times very hard to tolerate. But slowly, very slowly, we discover that the silent time makes us quiet and deepens our awareness of ourselves and God.
Then, very soon, we start missing these moments when we are deprived of them, and before we are fully aware of it an inner momentum has developed that draws us more and more into silence and closer to that still point where God speaks to us.
– Henri J. M. Nouwen, Reaching Out
The two nihilisms, the passive one of religious world-deniers and world-destroyers and the active one of a-religious inventors of arbitrary values, are opposed to each other. The struggle between them isn’t played out just in the hearts of individuals but on the world stage – among religious fundamentalists clutching transcendent meaning with desperate hands and between those fundamentalists and a-religious libertines, flanked by “last men” fighting for the pleasures and comforts of their way of life….
The recursive struggle between these two nihilisms is one of the great antagonisms of our time.
In choosing between meaning and pleasure we always make the wrong choice. Pleasure without meaning is vapid; meaning without pleasure is crushing. In its own way, each is nihilistic without the other. But we don’t need to choose between the two. The unity of meaning and pleasure, which we experience as joy, is given with the God who is Love.
- Miroslav Volf, Fourishing (2015)
[Alumnus, Nate Petersen, is hitting the road, continuing a spiritual pilgrimage that he finds best served by hitchhiking. Recently he was interviewed on “Your Story with Melinda.” Among the nuggets he shared was this:]
When we bask in paradox, it’s an opportunity to continue learning. It’s not the end of the road. There is not that certain period at the end of the sentence. It’s more of a … and then we can continue the sentence and build and learn and grow in this wonderful, spiritual experience of life.
I think that what we’re longing for is to be taught a tradition that can help us to live in that tension.