Last Sunday, in full view of the unrelenting violence, the escalating polarization, and in light of the vision offered by the church's lectionary readings of the day (Amos 8.1-12 and Luke 10.38-43), I reflected publicly on our need to remain anchored, rather than agitated in a world awash with worry and fear.
There is a "soul to politics" (Jim Wallis), an "inner life" to our civil involvement (Rebecca Solnit). And when we are tossed about in the flotsam of a swiftly moving current of negativity, fear, and anger, we become part of the problem rather that part of the solution--the work of healing and wholeness that's so necessary (and which, I believe, is the primary vocation of religious people today--our ancient traditions all point to this, despite the pervasion of these traditions by fundamentalism).
Anchored, we can help anchor others. Agitated, we amplify the agitation around us that's fueling the expanding fire of chaos and crisis.
Many have asked me for a bibliography of the two books I mentioned in my sermon on Sunday. And so I've put together a list, not only of those two books, but also of a few others that are a grounding force for me and, I hope, for others. May they help us find ways to live hopefully and healingly in the midst of the daunting challenges before us all.
1. Rebecca Solnit. Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities. A short and brilliant field guide for activists. The introduction and afterward are new to this most recent edition of the book, first published in 2003.
2. Krista Tippett. Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living. Krista hosts a weekly audio journal. She interviews the most interesting persons on the planet and it probably the most curious and engaging interviewer around. This book is her gleanings for a decade or more of interviews.
3. Thomas Merton. The Wisdom of the Desert, introductory essay. This short essay is one of the most important visions for how religious people can find practices that sustain the kind of life needed in tumultuous times. I've returned to the final paragraphs of this essay over and over since I read it years ago. He says, "We must liberate ourselves, in our own way, from involvement in a world that is plunging to disaster." In case you think this is more of the kind of handwringing we hear in fundamentalist circles (both religious and political), it's not. Nor is it another example of religious escapism. Rather, it's a clarity around which he envisions and world-embracing ethic of redemptive involvement.
4. Thich Nhat Hanh. True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart. This trim little book from the Buddhist tradition can keep us grounded, merciful, compassion, and utterly present to what matters most in human relationships.
5. The Cloud of Unknowing with the Book of Privy Counsel. A new translation by Carmen Acevedo Butcher. This is my go-to book for anchoring me in Christian contemplative practice and union with Christ. A fourteenth century invitation to the spiritual life. Butcher's new transitional is crisp, engaging, and conversational. One of the few books I'd want with me if I were stranded on a desert island.