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Center for Action and Contemplation
Resilience and Growth
Resilience and Growth

Resilience Requires Flexibility 

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

In conversation with CAC Publications Manager Mark Longhurst, author Cole Arthur Riley considered this year’s Daily Meditations theme of radical resilience:  

[Radical resilience] stirs some amount of tension and some amount of encouragement…. When you think about the origins of the word resilience, it’s closer to talking about plastic, something that returns back to its original shape after you bend it. I think humans don’t really work like that. We don’t go back to the way we were before we were broken or bent….   

I’m a recovering cynic, and I used to have so much resistance to language of resilience. It’s only really in the past few years that I’ve had to confront a kind of resilience that isn’t really about returning back to the way you were before, but is much more about reclaiming whatever new shape your form has taken. A resilience that doesn’t really ask us to forget, but that carries the memory of whatever harm or whatever fire we’ve been through. A resilience that carries that memory and still is committed to one’s survival and one’s going on in the world, however that shape looks….

It’s a radical idea. This is another James Baldwin quotation. He’s actually reviewing The Exorcist film and it’s this beautiful review. I recommend everyone read it because he’s talking about much more than The Exorcist; he’s talking about the terrors of the world. He says, “It was very important for me not to pretend as if the terrors of that time left no mark on me. They marked me forever.” [1] I think he’s getting at a kind of resilience that still carries memory, that still says we’re marked, we’ve been through something, but that we’re committed to ultimately surviving this thing. [2] 

CAC teacher and psychotherapist James Finley shares that it’s through the wounded places in us that God’s love reaches us:  

It is in experiencing and accepting how difficult it can be to free ourselves from our hurtful attitudes and ways of treating ourselves and others that we begin to understand that the healing path is not a linear process in which we can force our way beyond our wounded and wounding ways. Rather, it is a path along which we learn to circle back again and again to cultivate within ourselves a more merciful understanding of ourselves as we learn to see, love, and respect the still-confused and wounded aspects of ourselves. Insofar as these wounded and wounding aspects of ourselves recognize that they are seen, loved, and respected in such a merciful way, they can feel safe enough to release the pain they carry into the more healed and whole aspects of ourselves.  

We are now attempting to bear witness to the sweet secret of experiential salvation in which the torn and ragged edges of our wounded and wayward hearts are experienced as… the opening through which the gentle light of God’s merciful love shines into our lives. [3] 

[1] James Baldwin, “The Devil Finds Work,” in Collected Essays (New York: Library of America, 1998), 571. Paraphrased by Cole Arthur Riley. 

[2] Adapted from “An Interview with Cole Arthur Riley on Radical Resilience,” February 15, 2024, YouTube video, 19:28.  

[2] James Finley, The Healing Path: A Memoir and an Invitation (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2023), 161–162. 

Image Credit and Inspiration: Angelo Pantazis, untitled (detail), 2018, photo, Unsplash. Click here to enlarge image. We continue down our pathways, step by step, through both the drying and the greening seasons

Story from Our Community:  

I am anticipating that 2024 is going to be a painfully sad year for me. My husband of almost 25 years has been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and my dog of 18 years is going to be put to sleep soon. My heart is very heavy with the thought of losing them both. I know I will need the strength of the Holy Spirit to get me through the pain of this loss. As I read about the theme of radical resilience, I’m grateful that CAC continues to offer messages of hope and encouragement during this time.  
—Geri L. 

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Radical Resilience

We live in a world on fire. This year the Daily Meditations will explore contemplation as a way to build Radical Resilience so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or burning out. The path ahead may be challenging, but we can walk it together.

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Our theme this year is Radical Resilience. How do we tend our inner flame so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or out? Meditations are emailed every day of the week, including the Weekly Summary on Saturday. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time.
In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.