Realigning body and soul
When I woke up this morning, I noticed two major news stories. The first was that the Nobel Prize in medicine had been awarded to three scientists who had identified a kind of inner clock in plants, animals and humans that keeps our biological rhythms in sync with the earth’s revolutions.
The second was that more than 50 people had been killed, and hundreds injured, at a country music concert in Las Vegas, the largest mass shooting in United States history.
The Nobel Prize winners identified how our inner clock regulates critical functions like behavior, hormone levels, sleep, and so on. Anyone who has experienced jet lag knows how easy it is to feel out of whack when you’ve tried to live contrary to our usual, circadian rhythms. Our well-being (everything from our blood pressure to our susceptibility to diseases) and the well-being of our relationships depend on our staying in sync with the revolutions of the planet. There’s something beautiful about this, about how exquisitely we are made for harmony.
But we are sick. The shooting in Las Vegas is an extreme example, of course, but I suspect that most Americans would agree with one of the country music performers who responded to the event in Las Vegas by saying simply, “This world is sick.” Yes, we are. Something inside us, something exquisitely made for the kind of harmony that comes from prayer, kindness, and generosity, is out of sync. The contentiousness, acrimony and bullying are disrupting our souls the way jet lag and all-nighters mess with our circadian rhythms and make us more susceptible to disease.
Today was my day off, so after reading the news, I got to work on a few projects at home: taking care of some medication for our golden retrievers, doing a little yard work, fixing a toilet, that sort of thing. But throughout the morning, I was getting one email after another, with lots of photographs. Today was the first day for our parish’s new “grocery store,” and volunteers wanted to show me what was happening. In this grocery store, all the food is free. If you need food for yourself or your family, you “shop” for what you want, what your family can eat, no questions asked, and you’re welcome to come back week after week, for as long as you think you need that support.
And from every report, from volunteers and hungry neighbors alike, it was clear that a kind of spiritual realignment or synchronization was taking place in the grocery store, in this atmosphere of hospitality and compassion, and with a renewed sense of dignity for those who are struggling right now. This is how we were made to live.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul says, “Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them…. Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray….Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” (4:4-7, The Message) I love that translation. It makes me think about what I’m putting at the center of my life. Around what is my life revolving? And how is that affecting me and the people around me?
The Nobel Prize winners in medicine discovered that there is something pretty beautiful and amazing at the center of all life, in plants, animals and humans. Biologically, we are made to live a more soulful rhythm of life, to live in harmony with the planet, and we imperil ourselves and others when we ignore that reality. And as people like St. Paul point out, there’s something else exquisitely beautiful at the center of our lives – spiritually, we are made for prayer.
One of the world’s leading teachers of ancient, contemplative practices, Martin Laird, says that human beings are made for contemplation the way a rhododendron is made to flower. And practicing such a regular, contemplative returning to God, our True Center, has a way of settling us down, synchronizing our souls with our Maker, in a way that leads to a natural rhythm of compassion. This is how we were made to live, in sync with our souls, our planet, our God, and one another. And we imperil the world when we ignore that.