Almost everyone I know - including myself - is caught in the continual activity that somewhere was imprinted on us was the way to help better and save the world. Lately, something hasn't been working so well for me in that belief. Slowly itis dawning
on me that though we have made the First World, the developed world, our world, more materialistically secure than at any time in history, that does not extend to the rest of the world, what we so anasthetically call "the developing world." Last night
on ideas, I listened to a TED talk by a young man who had gone to Africa, to Zambia, all gung-ho to "bring aid" to the poor people of Africa, and who realized - too long a story to go into, but look up the Ideasprogram for January 28 on CBC Radio) - that they
didn't need our "aid" - read "money" - they needed us to listen to them and to support what they already know...not the knowledge we think we are bringing them. Nor the money, first of all.
This reflection is not about that, but it is about the way
we have gone about things for so long. It is a very egotistical, we-have-the-answers, know-it-all attitude, which seems deeply ingrained in a Western psyche. Knowing and Doing - seemourmost avid pursuits...and they have served mainly to make us feel good about
ourselves, which is - after all- the main First World life goal.
But something is changing. The arising of a longing for something deeper, something that surrenders our know-it-all-ness to a Life Source so much beyond us...some might call it God or
the Divine - is slowly coming into consciousness. Some of us call it Contemplation, or contemplative presence or contemplative awareness. Its first invitation is to let go of what we think we know, surrender to a larger knowing, surrender and receive.
Here is a quote from Henri Nouwen that says it much better than I:
We cannot change the world by a new plan, project or idea. We cannot even change other people by our convictions, stories, advice and proposals, but we can offer a space
where people are encouraged to disarm themselves, lay aside their occupations and preoccupations and listen with attention and care to the voices speaking in their own center."
I cannot think of any more important work now than offering
that space...first to myself. Only then can I offer it to others.