I admit it. I’ve been feeling both relieved and scared that this presidential election is finally going to be over soon.
Probably like most Americans.
It hit home this weekend just how caught up I’ve been in the barrage of negative electronic media. And the effect it’s had on me.
A friend – a very conservative friend – I hadn’t seen in many years visited on Friday. I’d forgotten just how different our views are. When we sat down to breakfast, she began sharing her opinions and concerns about this election. Her fears and feelings of hopelessness.
I started to feel agitated. Anxious. Aware of my own negative reaction that this conversation was creating.
I felt caught in a frenzy of fear and negativity.
A frenzy that has been swirling among us many long months. Since this presidential race began.
And it’s not just been between the presidential candidates. It’s been all over social media. In the constant Tweets. The back and forth banter of complete strangers belittling one another over who’s right and who’s ignorant. It’s in the news clips that pop onto our Smart phones and laptops. Invade our TV screens. And work their way into our minds.
My friend’s visit simply brought it all to the surface for me, and by Saturday morning, I awoke in a fearful state. Lost in anxious thoughts about what “could happen.”
I had forgotten who I am. Whom I belong to.
I’d lost my grounding. And I knew I needed to spend the day quietly regaining my Center.
Late in the day, a friend showed up unexpectedly with a documentary about Thomas Merton’s life.
As I watched the film, I knew I’d been given what I needed.
As a young man living in New York City, Merton sought refuge in the monastery “…in revolt against the meaningless confusion of a life in which there was so much activity, so much movement, so much useless talk, so much superficial and needless stimulation…,” he could not remember who he was. And this was in 1941!
How much more needless stimulation invades our lives now! How much greater the need to seek silence in order to discover the truth of who we are. The truth beyond this crazy fear and negative rhetoric sweeping the country that threatens to drown us.
The futility of this fear haunts us. It directs our lives into a frenzy of stress-filled thoughts and imaginings.
But Merton reminded me of the gift of silence. How, in the silent emptying of ourselves, we are open to all that is, just as it is. God is present. Fear is useless.
And all things are possible.
Inspired by the film, I picked up one of Merton’s books. The depth of his writings reveal a timeless essence. And his words speak to us exactly where we are:
“…The more we persist in misunderstanding the phenomena of life,
the more we analyze them out into strange finalities and complex purposes of our own,
the more we involve ourselves in sadness, absurdity, and despair.
But it does not matter much,
Because no despair of ours can alter the reality of things,
Or stain the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there.”
(New Seeds of Contemplation)