Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Junk Food

a desert cave

Yesterday I realized that I consume a pretty steady diet of news stories every day - two or three newspapers, NPR, the local TV news; and then of course, there is always CNN. I decided I need to cut back on my news consumption, especially in light of the daily reports coming out of Washington over the past few weeks. When I consume the news nowadays, more and more it feels like I'm eating some pretty unhealthy junk food.

Political sparring has always been a part of national politics, but of late, it's gone way beyond that. Bitter name-calling and personal attacks, ego-posturing, obstinate positioning with no one seemingly willing to enter into a reasoned dialogue. I have literally come to the point where I just cant't read, listen  or watch it anymore.

The" Washington War" of bloated ego is sickening my spirit.  I feel like I am being slowly poisoned by the junk news I consume every day. More than that, I wonder if the entire nation isn't being poisoned  by the images and stories of bitter division being served up every day? 

Out here in the desert where I live, little caves dot the surrounding mountains. Every day as I walk the nearby trails, I can see these caves. They are daily reminders of my 4th century spiritual ancestors who moved to the fringes of church and society to more carefully and more intentionally follow in the path of Jesus. These Desert Mothers and Fathers lived in caves like the ones I see every day, and that's why the caves remind me of them.

Those ancient desert monastics lived simply, they cared deeply for one another, and they were extremely non-judgemental, and radically hospitable - welcoming any and all who came among them. They followed the "way"of Jesus.  

The desert is a vast, fierce place, and it teaches individuals how relatively insignificant we all are. The ego doesn't thrive real well in a desert environment - so it was with those 4th century monastics. They never took themselves too seriously and didn't rely upon the praise of others to feel loved. They lived connected to one another, at one with the sun that shines by day and the stars and moon of nighttime, always aware of the abiding Presence of the Holy one in their midst; and they found deep peace. 

I have been eating a lot of junk food in my daily news consumption. I'm going to shut down the news and go on a diet. As I walk the desert trails and drink in the sight of those caves, I will recall the lives of my spiritual ancestors who lived in caves like these. These are the images my spirit needs to consume.  This is "soul food." 

I can't resist recounting one of my favorite wisdom stories from the Desert Mothers and Fathers. In light of the junk food I've been eating lately, it just seems too good to pass it up:

Two monks lived together for many years without a quarrel. One said to the other, 'Let's have a quarrel with each other, as other men do.' The other answered, 'I don't know how a quarrel happens.'  The first said, Look here, I place a brick between us and say, "That's mine." Then you say, "No, it's mine." That is how you begin a quarrel.

So they put a brick between them. And one of them said, "That's mine." The other said, "No, it's mine." He answered, "yes, it's yours, you can have it, take it away. They were unable to ague with one another.

I really love this story. I think I'll read it over several more times today. I'm feeling better already.


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