In biblical terms, it is wisdom we need to live together in the world. Wisdom is not gained by knowing what is right. Wisdom is gained by practicing what is right, and noticing what happens when that practice succeeds and when it fails. Wise people do not have to be certain what they believe before they act. They are free to act, trusting that the practice itself will teach them what they need to know. If you are not sure what to think about washing feet, for instance, then the best way to find out is to practice washing a pair or two. If you are not sure what to believe about your neighbour’s faith, then the best way to find out is to practice eating supper together. Reason can only work with the experience available to it. Wisdom atrophies if it is not walked on a regular basis.
– Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World (2009)
[The SSU staff and faculty met yesterday for an afternoon of community discernment. The second paragraph below helped us focus our thoughts for the afternoon.]
Contemplation is an entirely new way of knowing the world that has the power to move us beyond mere ideology and dualistic thinking. Mature religion will always lead us to some form of prayer, meditation, or contemplation to balance out our daily calculating mind. Believe me, it is major surgery, and you must practice it for years to begin to rewire your egocentric responses. Contemplation is work, so much so that most people give up after their first futile attempts. But the goal of contemplation is not success, only the continuing practice itself. The only people who pray well are those who keep praying….
The capacity for nondual seeing that is developed through contemplation allows us to be happy, rooted in God, comfortable with paradox and mystery, and largely immune to mass consciousness and its false promises. This is true wisdom knowing, and it is the job of elders to pass it on to the next generation so we need not start at zero.