Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Avoid All Movement

"Hope Springs Eternal"
- along a wilderness trail -

I woke up this morning to the horrible news of yet another horrendous terrorist attack, this time in Brussels. The stories and images of devastation, death and destruction were terrifying and disheartening. I also read that the Belgian Prime Minister has issued a warning to his fellow citizens to avoid all movement, as authorities brace for the possibility of additional violence and more attacks throughout the day.

I was particularly struck by the warning to avoid all movement. While I certainly think it’s a good idea to exercise extreme caution and to be extra vigilant today in Brussels, I also wonder if avoiding all movement may not, in fact, be the prevailing mantra for each and every citizen on this planet as we live in this time of terror.

Who knows when the next attack may happen to any of us anywhere and at any time?  So people today are “constantly on edge,” they live with a nagging fear that something bad may happen and so perhaps avoiding all movement is the only option for lots of folks as we live under the cloak of the always abiding chaos of these times.

As I think about it there are probably lots of ways in which “avoiding movement ” may be manifested nowadays. Some people hide themselves away from others and live their lives behind locked doors, others may build walls to keep out foreigners and always be on the lookout for the dangers that may be posed by people who are different. Paradoxically, another way of avoiding all movement is to be constantly running around.

Buddhist monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, puts it this way:

We are always running, running, running.
Even in our sleep we are running.
We run because we are trying to escape from our fear.

More and more today I hear people talk about how “insanely busy” they are – busy at work, busy at school and at home, busy with emails and texts, busy browsing Facebook, even busy when they are on vacation here in the tranquility of the desert, always on the run. I wonder if this constant running is not indeed a way to avoid living in the present moment because who knows what any given moment may bring, who knows when the next attack may happen?

This Christian church is in the midst of celebrating “Holy Week” – a time for remembering the the suffering and death of Jesus during his final week on earth. The truth is that, most Christians won’t come near a church until this week is over and it’s time for Easter. People want to avoid looking at pain and death, suffering and darkness and so they will close their eyes, wait for the week to pass and then show up in church on Easter morning where everything is bright and happy once again. I wonder if this is not just one more way to avoid all movement?

I am reminded of something priest and author, Barbra Brown Taylor, once astutely observed:

To be human is to live by sunlight and moonlight,
with anxiety and with delight,
falling down and rising up.
To want life with only half of these things in it
is to embrace only half of life, shutting the other half away
where it will not interfere with one’s bright fantasies
of the way things ought to be.

Yes of course we are immersed in pain and darkness, perhaps even more so in these times of terror, and we are also children of the light and we live in a world of love and joy. The secret to our happiness is to embrace it all and not to hide away, avoid or run away from any of it, and to know that, in the end, Love will ultimately win.

As he sat locked away in a South African prison cell, Nelson Mandela wrote:

I learned that courage is not the absence of fear,
but the triumph over it.

Perhaps a better mantra for living in our times is not Avoid All Movement but rather, Be Courageous!

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