Sunday, July 23, 2017

Mustard Seeds

"Towering Trees"
- Daybreak at the Desert Retreat House -

Many people turn on the daily news and throw their hands up in frustration over the fact that they can do noting about all the pain and suffering. We see pictures of senseless shootings, we hear stories of terrorism and gun violence, we are barraged with endless reports of hateful, never ending political rhetoric and yet it seems as if there is nothing any of us can do about it - some people believe that all we can do is “pray.”

While I don’t think there is anything wrong with “praying” for the suffering of the world, I also believe that we can actually “do” something to heal the suffering and help bring about a world of deeper compassion and greater justice. In fact, every word we speak and every action we perform in our everyday lives either contributes to the suffering or heals it.

We make choices every day. We choose what we eat and drink, we chose how well we take care of our bodies or we choose to neglect them. We choose to sit quietly and meditate or we choose to be so constantly busy that we have no have no time for reflection. We choose to forgive an injury or we chose to lash out in anger. We choose to reconcile or we choose to hold grudges and we choose if and how to respond to an ugly comment in the social media.  In fact, even when we choose not to make a choice we are making choices - when we decide to ignore that homeless person asking for help on the sidewalk, we have made a choice.

We are, after all, an interconnected web of relationship, and so whatever we say or do not only effects our small circle but it inevitable resonates and reverberates far beyond our own individual selves. An act of kindness is infectious and so is a word of anger.

It is a great paradox to me that we can control very little if anything in our lives but we can influence almost everything. Our choices have the power to enhance our humanity and they have the power to diminish it.

I remember coming across an op-ed column a while back in the New York Times:

Everywhere there are tiny, seemingly inconsequential circumstances in life
that, if explored, provide great meaning –everyday chances to be generous and kind.
Spiritual and emotional growth happens in microscopic increments.

The big decisions we make turn out to have much less impact on life as a whole
than the myriad of small seemingly insignificant ones.

I find great wisdom in the observation. The spiritual journey is all about making decisions, it is a practice of a discipline of making good choices – little everyday seemingly insignificant choices that can change the world.

Jesus offered a piece of wisdom about little tiny mustard seeds that, when planted, become large trees:

The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed 
that someone sowed in the field;
it is the smallest of seeds, but when it has grown
 it becomes a towering tree.

The Buddha taught something fairly similar when he said:

Do not underestimate good.
Drop by drop the water pot is filled.
Likewise, one who is wise is filled with good,
gathering it little by little

Every act of kindness, mercy and forgiveness is a little mustard seed planted every day of our lives – little seeds that can grow into great trees. Every act of generosity is a little drop that gathers and eventually can fill the whole pot.

The philosopher and psychologist, William James, once said:

Act as if what you do makes a difference – it does.

1 comment:

  1. Reminds me of St. David of Wales'motto: "Do the little things."