As we let go of 2020 and move on into the New Year; I ask us to ponder the question what is guiding us. I am not much for making resolutions because they can often be too far-fetched, overwhelming and unachievable. I would rather be familiar with where I am starting and have a point of reference to lead me on my way. As a camper, hiker and former Boy Scout the Northern Star has always been a guiding point in the night sky to give me that point of reference. It helps me know where I am and helps me determine the direction that I wish to travel. When we have a point of reference like this, everything we see then comes from our perspective based on our reference point. But, depending on where we are standing, this point of reference may be correct or it may be totally wrong. As I travel the world, I have noticed that where we stand makes all the difference.
In similar terms, Archimedes the Greek philosopher and mathematician noticed that if a lever were balanced in the correct place, on the correct fulcrum, it could move proportionally much greater weight than the force applied. Archimedes imagined a fixed point, the fulcrum, in space. If the Earth rested on the short end of a lever, close to the fulcrum, and Archimedes was pulling down on the other extremely long end of the lever, then theoretically his small weight would be multiplied enough to move the world.
How do we determine where the fixed point is placed so that we can be most effective on our life’s journey? We can start by taking a more contemplative stance: steady, centered, poised, and rooted. To be contemplative, we have to have a slight distance from the world—we have to allow time for withdrawal from business as usual, for meditation, for going into what Jesus calls “our private room” (Matthew 6:6). However, in order for this not to become escapism, we have to remain quite close to the world at the same time, loving it, feeling its pain and its joy as our pain and our joy. So the fulcrum, that balancing point, must still be in the real world.
True contemplation is really quite down to earth and practical and does not require life in a monastery. It is, however, an utterly different way of receiving the moment, and therefore all of life. Contemplation is linked to the way we see the world; our perspective. In order to have the capacity to “move the world,” we ironically need some distancing and detachment from the diversionary nature and delusions of mass culture and our own, false self-egos. Contemplation builds on the hard ground of reality—as it is—without ideology, denial, or fantasy.
We need a certain degree of inner experience for true spiritual authority, but we also need some form of outer validation as well. We need to be taken seriously as competent and committed individuals in our actions and not just “inner” people through our words. God offers us quiet, contemplative eyes and ears, but God also calls us to prophetic and critical involvement in the pain and sufferings of our world—both at the same time. This is so obvious in the life and ministry of Jesus and must be an essential part of our Christianity.
And so for me, the cycle of life and prayer continues. We are never quite sure which is feeding which, or whether it is action or contemplation that comes first. They live through one another, and neither of them can exist healthily by themselves. Hopefully we will have both our lever and the prayerful place to stand and from there, we will be able to move our little bit of the world, and it will be moved in a direction that brings kindness and compassion into the greater world.
As we journey forth into this New Year ask yourself; what is guiding my journey this year? Am I standing in the right place or do I have to move to a new position? Is it truth, is it love or maybe just a gut sensation to lead us to do the next right thing. To explore ways to determine what guides you and to dwell in these questions as we begin our walk together in the New Year, please join us for our Zoom Prayer Lab session on Sunday, January 17th at 10:00 am.