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Theme:
Order, Disorder, Reorder: Part One

Order, Disorder, Reorder: Part One

Saturday, August 15, 2020
Summary: Sunday, August 9—August 14, 2020

To grow toward love, union, salvation, or enlightenment, we must be moved from Order to Disorder, and then ultimately to Reorder. (Sunday)

Law, tradition, and boundaries—what I call Orderseem to be necessary in any spiritual system both to reveal and to limit our basic egocentricity. Such containers make at least some community, family, and marriage possible. (Monday)

This process of moving from innocence to knowledge is never finished. Always there is the realm of innocence, always there is the realm of knowledge. —Rev. Howard Thurman (Tuesday)

For Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955), love is at the physical heart of the universe. He viewed love as the attraction of all things toward all things. We could say that love is the universal ordering principle. (Wednesday)

We can look upon the face of anyone or anything around us and say—as a moral declaration and a spiritual, cosmological, and biological fact: You are a part of me I do not yet know. —Valarie Kaur (Thursday)

The ego believes that disorder or change is always to be avoided, so we hunker down and pretend that our Order is entirely good, should be good for everybody, and is always “true” and even the only truth. (Friday)

 

Practice: Brave Creativity

In 2010, Living School sendee Jonathon Stalls spent 242 days walking across the United States. The journey inspired him to help other people experience “life at 3 miles per hour.” As an artist and social and racial justice advocate, his activism is communicated through community building, contemplative practice, and walking meditation. We invite you, as able, to take some time this weekend to move mindfully through your local area. Jonathon offers these instructions:

Prep:
Bring a notebook, invite goals/pains/dreams with you, and perhaps protect some time for pre-writing (What might you want to open, envision, dream, wake up to as you walk/roll?). . . .

Timing & Location:
[Move] at least 30‒40 minutes. Unhurried. Right where you are, and, if you can, the less distractions or barriers, the better. If you can be in quieter or smoother environments, you will have a greater creative capacity.

Safety & Health:
[Bring a mask with you.] If near people, please wear it when you are 6‒10 feet away. Have water, comfortable shoes/clothing, and sun [protection].

Before You Begin Moving:
Pause and take a few deep breaths. As your lungs expand, envision your veins, brain capacity, heart capacity, and dream capacity expanding with them. Be as open as you can be.

Movement:
As you begin to move, seek the realms of wonder, of space, and of reaching high into what’s possible. Look up at the sky as often as you can. As you move, notice the way branches adapt, bend, and emerge from the sides. They started in one direction . . .  where did they end up? How are they filling in and thriving in the spaces where no branch existed before? Notice the way clouds move, plants rest and blossom, and colors evolve as the sun goes down.

After roughly 20 minutes notice what begins to clear, notice what begins to open around your ideas, dreams, and possible barriers/blocks. Be ready with that notebook! I find that it is super helpful to simply honor what comes up by jotting it down. I can then release it, which will allow for more creative room. Try not to overthink or shut down ideas. This is a time to allow and celebrate imagination. If you aren’t noticing moments of inspiration and creativity, don’t worry . . . this practice can take time to set in. In time (and with practice!) it will open and expand your thinking, living, and BEing in beautiful and revealing ways.

I deeply invite you to use this practice alongside how you (how we) can envision a more human way that honors Human dignity, honors and protects our Planet, and honors our own inner journey. I believe we need brave body-based practices that inspire Radical Creativity (centering human justice, planet care, and inner healing) in this time more than ever.

Close:
Take one or two more deep breaths and commit to movement practice as a way to invite brave creativity around dreams, creative vision, conflict, feeling stuck, stress, and more. Honor and thank your Body and the Earth.

Reference:
Jonathon Stalls, Walking/Movement Practices: {Opening} Brave Creativity, Intrinsic Paths, https://www.intrinsicpaths.com/walking-invitation

For Further Study:
Valarie Kaur, See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love (One World: 2020)

Barbara A. Holmes, Liberation and the Cosmos: Conversations with the Elders (Fortress Press: 2008)

Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent Books: 2019)

Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass: 2011)

Richard Rohr, The Wisdom Pattern (Franciscan Media: 2020)

Howard Thurman, The Inward Journey (Friends United Press: 2007, ©1961)

Image credit: Last Tangle (detail), Leo Valledor, 1976.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: We need a very strong container to hold the contents and contradictions that arrive later in life. —Richard Rohr
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Order, Disorder, Reorder: Part One

A Further Journey
Friday, August 14, 2020

If we are granted this first stage of Order (and not all are), we feel innocent and safe. Everything is basically good, it all means something, and we feel a part of what looks normal and deserved. It is our “first naïveté.” Everything has an explanation, and thus feels like it is straight from God, solid, and forever. This is probably why we are so reluctant to relinquish our innocence; it often feels like a loss of faith.

Most worldviews have encouraged this perspective. We, in the United States, are a “first half of life culture,” largely concerned about surviving successfully. Probably most cultures and individuals across history have been situated in the first half or “Order” stage, because it is all they had time for. We try to do what seems like the task that life first hands us: establishing an identity, a home, relationships, friends, community, security, and building a proper platform for our only life.

But this is only the first task! When we try to stay in this first satisfying explanation of how things are, we tend to avoid any conflict, inconsistencies, suffering, or darkness and therefore opportunities for transformation. The familiar and habitual are so falsely reassuring, we make our homes there permanently. The ego believes that disorder or change is always to be avoided, so we hunker down and pretend that our Order is entirely good, should be good for everybody, and is always “true” and even the only truth. The new is always by definition unfamiliar and untested, so God, life, destiny, suffering have to give us a push—usually a big one—or we will not go. Even many Christians do not like anything that looks like “carrying the cross,” no matter how piously they use the phrase.

Most of us are never told that we can set out from the known and familiar to take on a further journey. Our institutions, including our churches, and our expectations are almost entirely configured to encourage, support, reward, and validate the tasks of the first half of life. We are more struggling to survive than to thrive, more just “getting through” or trying to get to the top than finding out what is really at the top or even at the bottom.

Most of us in the first half of life suspect that all is not fully working, and we are probably right! Many, if not most, will settle for first-stage survival, and never get to “the unified field” of life itself. As Bill Plotkin, a wise guide, puts it, many of us learn to do our “survival dance,” but we never get to our actual “sacred dance.”

References:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass: 2011), xiv‒xviii; and

The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent Books: 2019), 244.

Image credit: Last Tangle (detail), Leo Valledor, 1976.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: We need a very strong container to hold the contents and contradictions that arrive later in life. —Richard Rohr
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Order, Disorder, Reorder: Part One

Awe, Wonder, and Love
Thursday, August 13, 2020

A sense of wonder and awe is the foundation of religion. Too often we associate religion with belonging to a church or professing certain beliefs, but the religious instinct is so much broader than that. Sikh activist and human rights lawyer Valarie Kaur teaches us that awe and wonder can make us available to greater depths of compassion, union, and love.

Wonder is our birthright. It comes easily in childhood—the feeling of watching dust motes dancing in sunlight, or climbing a tree to touch the sky, or falling asleep thinking about where the universe ends. If we are safe and nurtured enough to develop our capacity to wonder, we start to wonder about the people in our lives, too—their thoughts and experiences, their pain and joy, their wants and needs. We begin to sense that they are to themselves as vast and complex as we are to ourselves, their inner world as infinite as our own. In other words, we are seeing them as our equal. We are gaining information about how to love them. Wonder is the wellspring for love. . . .

The call to love beyond our own flesh and blood is ancient. It echoes down to us on the lips of indigenous leaders, spiritual teachers, and social reformers through the centuries. [The founder of Sikhism] Guru Nanak called us to see no stranger, Buddha to practice unending compassion, Abraham to open our tent to all, Jesus to love our neighbors, Muhammad to take in the orphan, [Hindu mystic saint] Mirabai to love without limit. They all expanded the circle of who counts as one of us, and therefore who is worthy of our care and concern. These teachings were rooted in the linguistic, cultural, and spiritual contexts of their time, but they spoke of a common vision of our interconnectedness and interdependence. . . .

What has been an ancient spiritual truth is now increasingly verified by science: We are all indivisibly part of one another. We share a common ancestry with everyone and everything alive on earth. The air we breathe contains atoms that have passed through the lungs of ancestors long dead. Our bodies are composed of the same elements created deep inside the furnaces of long-dead stars. We can look upon the face of anyone or anything around us and say—as a moral declaration and a spiritual, cosmological, and biological fact: You are a part of me I do not yet know.

But you don’t have to be religious in order to open to wonder. You only have to reclaim a sliver of what you once knew as a child. If you remember how to wonder, then you already have what you need to learn how to love.

Reference:
Valarie Kaur, See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love (One World: 2020), 10–11.

Image credit: Last Tangle (detail), Leo Valledor, 1976.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: We need a very strong container to hold the contents and contradictions that arrive later in life. —Richard Rohr
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Order, Disorder, Reorder: Part One

The Cosmic Order
Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Matter is the common, universal, tangible setting, infinitely shifting and varied, in which we live. . . . By matter we are nourished, lifted up, linked to everything else, invaded by life. —Teilhard de Chardin

The physical structure of the universe is love. —Teilhard de Chardin

For Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955), a French Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist, love is at the physical heart of the universe. He viewed love as the attraction of all things toward all things. We could say that love is the universal ordering principle. In this passage from Liberation and the Cosmos, CAC faculty member Dr. Barbara Holmes imagines a conversation between Civil Rights lawyer and educator Barbara Jordan (1936–1996) and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall (1908–1993). It captures the essence of what is good and possible about Order—in both the laws of cosmos and the land.

Marshall: How about this, Barbara? Suppose, just for argument’s sake, that we consider the law to be a reflection of the order of the cosmos? Although there is chaos and synchronicity, there is also the potential for creative genesis.

Jordan: I remember reading the work of Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit priest, mystic, and paleontologist who did a good deal of work on consciousness and the laws of the universe. . . .

The laws of nations give clues as to the state of mind of a populace, and sometimes they provide a history of our processive movement toward our highest good. That’s all of the science that I know. But from what I understand, there are laws of the universe as well as laws of nation-states. Matter and spirit are intertwined so that the “quanta of matter and spirit that once permeated the early universe become fibers of matter influenced by gravity and threads of spirit drawn by love.” [1] . . .

Marshall: Let me say a few cosmological things. While our laws are in place to prevent, proscribe, and punish, the laws of the universe seem to be focused on connection, attraction, and a cosmic holding mechanism. . . . Where was Teilhard when I needed him? The idea that we are connected to a future good, and moving toward something better, would have been a breath of fresh air . . . . Now that I am on this side of the continuum, I’m certain that the trajectory of human life is toward mutuality and care of self and neighbor. [2]

I wish more of us understood and accepted the “laws of the universe,” which include disruption, dynamism and evolution, instead of clinging so tightly to the “law and order” of church and country. Jesus himself indicated that “heavenly” and “human” laws are not on equal footing. He refused to enforce or even bother with what he considered secondary issues like ritual laws, purity codes, and membership requirements. He regarded them as human commandments, which far too often took the place of love (see Matthew 15:3, 69).

References:
[1] Kathleen Duffy, “The Texture of the Evolutionary Cosmos: Matter and Spirit in Teilhard de Chardin,” in Teilhard in the 21st Century: The Emerging Spirit of Earth, ed. Arthur Fabel, Donald St. John (Orbis Books: 2003), 143.

[2] Barbara A. Holmes, Liberation and the Cosmos: Conversations with the Elders (Fortress Press: 2008), 52–53.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent Books: 2019), 68, 73.

Epigraphs: The Divine Milieu (Harper and Row: 1965), 106; and Human Energy, trans. J. M. Cohen (Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich: 1969), 72.

Image credit: Last Tangle (detail), Leo Valledor, 1976.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: We need a very strong container to hold the contents and contradictions that arrive later in life. —Richard Rohr
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Order, Disorder, Reorder: Part One

From Innocence to Knowledge
Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Many Christians look to the Garden of Eden as the ultimate example of Order. While we can certainly mourn the suffering, it doesn’t do us any good to regret “the Fall.” It had to happen; failure is part of the deal! If Christ is the Logos, the blueprint for all creation, then God has always had our growth and salvation in mind. In this passage, theologian and mystic Rev. Howard Thurman (1900–1981) explores the creative tension that exists between innocence and knowledge, each honoring the other.

The setting is the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve are the central figures in an idyllic surrounding. All is peaceful. All is innocent. They are told by God that they are free to do anything except one thing. They are forbidden to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge which grows in the midst of the garden [Genesis 2:16–17]. For if they eat of the fruit they shall be driven from the garden and from that day forward they shall be responsible for their own lives. They eat of the fruit; they are driven out of the garden; they become responsible for their own lives. With the coming of knowledge, they have lost their innocence.

The transition from innocence to knowledge is always perilous and fraught with hazard. There is something very comforting and reassuring about innocence. To dwell in innocence is to inhabit a region where storms do not come and where all the breezes are gentle and balmy. It is to live in the calm of the eye of the hurricane. It is to live in a static environment which makes upon the individual no demands other than to be. All else is cared for; is guaranteed.

But when knowledge comes, the whole world is turned upside down. The meaning of things begins to emerge. And more importantly, the relations between things are seen for the first time. Questions are asked and answers are sought. A strange restlessness comes over the spirit and the enormity of error moves over the horizon like a vast shadow. Struggle emerges as the way of life. An appetite is awakened that can never be satisfied. A person becomes conscious of himself; the urge to know, to understand, to find answers, turns inward. Every estimate of others becomes a question of self-estimate, every judgment upon life becomes a self-judgment. The question of the meaning of one’s self becomes one with the meaning of life.

This process of moving from innocence to knowledge is never finished. Always there is the realm of innocence, always there is some area of innocence untouched by knowledge. The more profound the growth of knowledge, the more aware the individual becomes of the dimensions of innocence. Pride in knowledge is always tempered by the dominion of innocence.

Thurman offers here a wonderful description of the first stage of Order and a poetic, accurate account of early forays into Disorder. Surely moving between these two polarities is part of the Divine Dance.

Reference:
Howard Thurman, The Inward Journey (Friends United Press: 2007, ©1961), 16–17.

Image credit: Last Tangle (detail), Leo Valledor, 1976.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: We need a very strong container to hold the contents and contradictions that arrive later in life. —Richard Rohr
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Order, Disorder, Reorder: Part One

Necessary Boundaries
Monday, August 10, 2020

Law, tradition, and boundaries—what I call Orderseem to be necessary in any spiritual system both to reveal and to limit our basic egocentricity. Such containers make at least some community, family, and marriage possible. Boundaries seem to be the only way that human beings can find a place to stand, a place to begin, a place from which to move out. Even those who think they don’t have any boundaries usually do. We discover them when we trespass against them. The human soul flourishes on solid ground, especially in the first years of life.

As Paul belabors in his Letter to the Romans (see especially chapters 2–7), the law is given for the sake of information, education, and transformation, but is not itself enlightenment. Even though allegiance to boundaries, limits, and laws is almost universally confused with religion and even salvation itself, “the law will not save anyone” (Galatians 3:11). Law has to do with the pattern of how transformation happens—and that’s all. The struggle with boundaries and law creates the wrestling ring, but is not, itself, the encounter or the victory.

Human beings seem to need to fight and engage with something before they can take it seriously—and before they can discover what they really need or want. The people who never fight religion, guilt, parents, injustice, friends, marriage partners, and laws usually don’t respect their own power, importance, and freedom. They remain content with the external values of the first “lawful” container, instead of working to discover their own.  

I am trying to hold us inside a very creative tension, because both law and freedom are necessary for spiritual growth, as Paul says in both Romans and Galatians. He learned this from Jesus, who says seven times in a row, “The law says . . . but I say” (Matthew 5:21–48), while also assuring us that he “has not come to throw out the law but to bring it to completion” (5:17). Despite having been directly taught to hold this creative tension, rare is the Christian believer who holds it well.

The psyche cannot live with everything changing every day, everything a matter of opinion, everything relative. There must be a sound container holding us long enough so we can move beyond survival mode. There has to be solid ground, trust, and shared security, or we cannot move outward. There has to be a foundational hope, and for hope to be a shared experience there must be agreed-upon meanings and shared stories that excite and inspire us all. If there are truly stories from the great patterns that are always true, they will catapult us into a universal humanity and pluralistic society. We will both stand on solid ground and, from that solid ground, create common ground. If it does not support our movement outward, then it is not solid ground at all.

References:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass: 2011), 28–29, 35–36; and

The Wisdom Pattern (Franciscan Media: 2020), 115–116, 118.

Image credit: Last Tangle (detail), Leo Valledor, 1976.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: We need a very strong container to hold the contents and contradictions that arrive later in life. —Richard Rohr
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Order, Disorder, Reorder: Part One

The Universal Pattern
Sunday, August 9, 2020

It seems quite clear that we grow by passing beyond some perfect Order, through an often painful and seemingly unnecessary Disorder, to an enlightened Reorder or resurrection. This is the universal pattern that connects and solidifies our relationships with everything around us. This week’s meditations focus on Order, the first in the sequence. We will take a closer look at Disorder and Reorder in the following two weeks.

The trajectory of transformation and growth, as I see the great religious and philosophical traditions charting it, uses many metaphors for this pattern. We could point to the classic “Hero’s Journey” charted by Joseph Campbell; the Four Seasons or Four Directions of most Native religions; the epic accounts of exodus, exile, and Promised Land of the Jewish people, followed by the cross, death, and resurrection narrative of Christianity. Each of these deeply rooted “myths,” in its own way, is saying that growth happens in this full sequence. To grow toward love, union, salvation, or enlightenment, we must be moved from Order to Disorder and then ultimately to Reorder.

A sense of order is the easiest and most natural way to begin; it is a needed first “container.” I cannot think of a culture in human history, before the present postmodern era, that did not value law, tradition, custom, family loyalties, authority, boundaries, and morality of some clear sort. While they aren’t perfect, these containers give us the necessary security, predictability, impulse control, and ego structure that we need, before the chaos of real life shows up. As far as I can see it, healthily conservative people tend to grow up more naturally and more happily than those who receive only freeform, build-it-yourself worldviews.

We need a very strong container to hold the contents and contradictions that arrive later in life. We ironically need a very strong ego structure to let go of our ego. We need to struggle with the rules more than a bit before we throw them out. We only internalize values by butting up against external values for a while. All this builds the strong self that can positively follow Jesus—and “die to itself.” [1]

In our time, many people are questioning and rejecting the institutions, churches, and authority figures that have long provided stability. Looking to the perennial tradition, which has held up over time, can help create a positive “container.” We cannot each start at zero, entirely on our own. Life is far too short, and there are plenty of mistakes we do not need to make—though, of course, there are some that we need to make. We are parts of social and family ecosystems that, when they are rightly structured, keep us from falling. More importantly, these systems show us how to fall and how to learn from that very falling.

References:
[1] Jesus often spoke of the need to die to self; examples include Matthew 10:39; Mark 8:35; Luke 17:33; and John 12:24–25.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent Books: 2019), 243; and

Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass: 2011), 25‒28.

Image credit: Last Tangle (detail), Leo Valledor, 1976.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: We need a very strong container to hold the contents and contradictions that arrive later in life. —Richard Rohr
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