Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Worrying About "The Big One"

"A Day in Spring"
-in the wilderness-

A few days ago a series of rather minor earthquakes around Los Angeles set off all sorts of alarms - dire warnings and ominous predictions.  Some experts believe that these little quakes may be signs that the entire area (including the desert where I live) may soon be hit by what has been euphemistically called "The Big One"- a major devastating earthquake that will alter life as we know it in this part of the country. 

Over the past few days, the newspapers and social media have been filled with all sorts of "earthquake" stories.  A major earthquake will topple tall buildings and crush homes. Thousands of people will likely lose their lives. 

A story in our local desert newspaper yesterday featured an earthquake "expert" who warned that the "Big One" could hit Southern California at any time. It will "devastate the Coachella Valley. There will be no infrastructure, no roads, no water to drink."  The "expert" ended his remarks by saying" I am not saying these things to worry anyone." 

When I read those last remarks, I literally laughed out loud - warnings of an eventual, maybe imminent disaster that will kill thousands and destroy all the infrastructure may just cause some people to worry a tad bit.

Lots of people already live with a sense of underlying fear and impending doom - - another terrorist attack? An airplane bombing? A nuclear device set off in a big city center? What will happen at the Boston Marathon this year?  

And now one more worry to add to the list: "worrying about the Big One."

I live out in the desert and so I am reminded daily of those ancient 4th century Christian Desert Mother and Fathers who lived simply in wilderness caves, in community with one another, devoting themselves to be faithful followers of Jesus. These ancient monks (my spiritual ancestors) were committed to leading lives that were "free from anxiety"- "free from care."  In fact they even had a word for the state of being "free from anxiety:"  the Greek word, amerimnia. These ancient monks practiced an ongoing  disciple of "amerimnia" on their spiritual path.

This longing to be "free from care" was not an indication that they wanted to live "without care" for persons or things. Rather they lived simply, open, alive.  They lived everyday lives that were "detached' - free from undo "attachments" to things or power, wealth or status.  Their life of "detachment" also meant that they worked at clearing the cluttered mind of obsessive thoughts - worries about the past, fears of what might happen in the future.

"What will happen if" was never a phrase in the lexicon of their common life. 

In my life in the desert, I seek to emulate the wisdom of my spiritual desert ancestors. I try to practice that discipline of "detachment."  I long to live a life of "amerimnia" - free from care, free from anxiety. 

After reading all those worrisome earthquake stories yesterday, I took my daily walk out into the wilderness. There is perhaps no more beautiful place on earth than the desert in Springtime. A cleansing wind had swept through the valley the night before making the clear blue sky even clearer and the fresh air even fresher. I walked alongside all the budding shrubs and trees on the wilderness trail - all arrayed in their bright yellow flowers. The humming birds, the songbirds, even the playful roadrunners accompanied me on the way. 

As I walked in the wilderness, I remembered what Jesus once said as he taught his disciples not to worry about their lives. He pointed to the birds flying free in the air and to the fields of flowers blooming fresh in the meadows- worry free, free of care- flowing with the energy of abiding Holy Presence. Jesus told his followers to be like the birds of the air and like the flowers that grow in the field. 

We have an earthquake survival kit at our house and we know where and when to go and what to do if an earthquake hits. Other than that, there's really nothing else I can do about the "Big One" if and when it does come to pass. 

I'm not worried. 














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