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Monday, February 20, 2017

Cultivate Holy Curiosity

Recently I have had the pleasure of returning to one of my favorite books of all time, Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.  This Pulitzer Prize winning work was initially published in 1974, so it is getting some age on it.  By now it probably can be called a classic.  The first time I read it, I was captivated.  And I experience that every time I read it.  Dillard has an amazing facility with words to express and elaborate a world of nature she sees so much more intricately than I ever have seen.
           
Dillard’s classic is a great example of what I might call, subtle spirituality.  You read her book and God seldom appears clearly and without obstruction.  Rather God dances on the margins of her narrative about experiencing God.  God is behind the scenes.  It seems that God does not reveal as much as peek and peer into our reading of the text.  Dillard teases us with hints of the Divine.  She wants us to read, pause and reflect.  Maybe this is the way the biggest truths of life really come to us.
           
In my recent reading of Dillard, I was in the chapter she entitles, “Spring.”  So much of her writing can seem like some banal description of the stuff in nature.  It is easy to get bored or even dismiss her details as so much stuff about nothing.  I know this tends to be the conclusion of my students.  And in the process, they claim she is hard reading.  They are correct!   But that is where the fun begins.
           
We have to learn to read Annie Dillard.  We have to learn to slow down and soak it in.  I like that word, soak.  It takes time.  It requires a kind of lingering over what we read.  If God is going to peek out from the words we are reading, we cannot go so fast that we will miss the Divine hints.  A trick I have learned over many readings of this book is to pay close attention to the end of the chapter.  There is where Dillard seems to be the most revelatory.  There glimpses of God and of truth seem to be the easiest.
           
In that “Spring” chapter, Dillard finishes with a story with a look at monostyla rotifers!  She made me laugh when she talks about the “tiny career” of these little creatures. (122-3) She gets more serious when she notes, “These are real creatures with real organs leading real lives, one by one.  I can’t pretend they’re not there.  If I have life, sense, energy, will, so does a rotifer.”  And in this moment she sneaks in the Divinity. 
           
She talks about the fact that we humans were created and “set in proud, free motion.”  She assumes the same thing for the rotifer.  Then she asks about the point of it all?  For humans and for rotifers?  And boom, comes a question, which I think is a rhetorical question.  She speculates on the purpose of humans and rotifers: Ad majorem Dei gloriam?  Luckily, I know Latin: “to the greater glory of God?” is how this phrase translates. 
           
Interestingly, she chooses to put this phrase in Latin and to italicize it.  I can guess that to many of our ears (Catholic ears used to hearing much of Mass in Latin) this signifies holy language---the language of the Church.  I suggest this is a rhetorical question because I think she wants us to say, “Of course, we are created to the greater glory of God.”  “And so are rotifers!”  I am ok with that reason for my being.  It certainly is something to live up to.  It is a mighty calling in life.  Sadly, it is too easy to aim much lower and squander life.
           
Dillard is not done with us yet.  She says, “If I did not know about the rotifers and paramecia, and all the bloom of plankton clogging the dying pond, fine; but since I’ve seen it I must somehow deal with it, take it into account.  ‘Never lose a holy curiosity,’ Einstein said…” (123)  I love that short phrase: never lose holy curiosity.  Normally, our culture simply talks about “curiosity.”  I hear this language among innovators and entrepreneurs and, certainly, among scientists in their quest for truth.  But “holy” curiosity?  Holy curiosity is my willingness to join Dillard and Einstein in chasing down new things and new truths. 

It is more.  It is my willingness to be available in those times and places where God may choose to peek out from the normal.  It is to be available when and where God may move from the margins of my world straight into the middle of my awareness so that I may see and claim the truth that I, too, am here ad majorem Dei gloriam---to the greater glory of God. 

If I can come to be clear that I am living my life to that end, I would be humbled and glorified in the same breath.  I hope it’s true.  I want to live into that truth.  And I am grateful for the holy curiosity that propels me to be in quest of that truth for my life. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Human Development---Spiritual Development

Even though I read quite a bit, there is always more to read.  In fact, I am sure I am losing ground on all the new stuff out there.  That is probably true even in the world of religion and spirituality.  I am sure there is more being published---in print and on line---than any one person can read.  Rather than get discouraged, I simply hope to get my hands on some of the good ones.

My memory may be faulty, but I recollect that some person at Harvard in the early 1700s was the last person who had read all the books in Harvard’s library.  I know first-hand the library system there is amazing.  It is (I believe) the third largest in this country, after the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library.  Even when I think about my little college, I realize there is no way I could read all the volumes.

However, I occasionally come across a book that I say, “I must read that one.”  This happened just recently when I was reading a review of a new book.  The book is by Edward O. Wilson.  I know Wilson’s name; he is a famous naturalist at Harvard.  Basically, he studies bugs---ants in particular.  But he has developed a phenomenal reputation as a world-class thinker and philosopher.  He is not an easy read and he is a real challenge for those of us who have some kind of religious affiliation.  The new book is entitled, The Social Conquest of Earth.  I must read that one.

Somewhere in the book he writes these sentences:  “We have created a Star Wars civilization, with Stone Age emotions, medieval institutions, and god-like technology…We thrash about.  We are terribly confused by the mere fact of our existence, and a danger to ourselves and the rest of life.”  This sounds so like E.O. Wilson!  It is a great couple of sentences and engages me to ponder and digest.

Wilson thinks we need to study bugs of various kinds to understand human development.  This is not too surprising, since I know he believes in evolution.  But it is interesting that he wants to go to the bug-level instead of the usual ape.  But then we get his clue.  Allow me to quote from the reviewer of the book, Kristin Ohlson.  She says, “Wilson ascribes the evolutionary success of humans and social insects to their complex social systems, which are rare in nature.”  He coins a word for these ”insect societies,” namely, “eusociality.”  Now since I know Greek, I know the word “eu” is the word for “good or well.”  So eusociality is nothing more than good or well societies. 

That connects to human development in Wilson’s mind.  He charts the usual evolutionary development as humans wander from the sea, develop a larger brain, etc.  But then, according to Wilson, we come to the crucial developmental phase which charts our creation of eusociality.  Through the words of the reviewer, Wilson notes that “what really took humans over the threshold into eusociality was the emergence of traits that favor a strong ‘nest:’ communication, the ability to read the intentions of others, the ability to divide tasks and cooperate.”

I find this fascinating.  It does not bother me to think that we have much in common with bugs!  Eusociality is an attractive idea.  The opposite would be a-sociality or malsociality---bad or awful sociality.  Murderers, Hitler, and others fit into that category.  So I find the idea hopeful that evolutionarily we are bred for goodness.

That seems in line with what the Genesis creation story told us so many aeons ago.  We were created for goodness.  This is where I would add the spiritual dimension to Wilson’s evolutionary tale of human development.  I fear that human development is not sufficient in itself to bring us fully into eusociality.  In fact, I am convinced there is a religious idea of what eusociality would be called.  I think Jesus called it the “kingdom.”  He came to proclaim the coming Kingdom of God.  Spiritually that was a call to religious eusociality!

Jesus knew well how the Genesis story unfolded.  He knew the original couple began in paradise, but they blew it.  They sinned and were kicked out of the blessed place.  There was some atoning and restoring to be done.  That was the message and ministry of Jesus.  I suspect the same will be true for the evolving eusociality of Wilson’s vision.

In fact, I would be so bold as to suggest that world peace will come when “thy kingdom comes.”  I am not sure we can evolve (or devolve back) into paradise without the grace of that creative God who still loves us and will love us into well being.  We will need the grace to discern the intentions of each other and encourage the best.  We will need communal love to cooperate in kingdom-building.

That’s the promise of human development with the graceful assistance of spiritual development.    

Thursday, February 16, 2017

People are Like Trees

One of my favorite stories in the New Testament is a healing story.  In that story Jesus heals a blind man.  If you work some with New Testament scholarship, you soon will learn that healing blind people generally is an analogy to finding faith.  “Seeing” and “faith” make a good analogous pair.  If I can come to “see” something, then I can be said to have “faith.”  So in this healing story, the blind man comes to have “faith” in Jesus and who Jesus really is.

That’s fine, but that is not my focus for the day.  I am more intrigued with a little glitch in that healing story.  Jesus approaches the guy and touches his eyes.  Then when the man is asked if he can see, he basically says that he can see people, but they look like trees.  At that point, Jesus has to do a touch-up, so that people become people in the healed man’s eyes.

What I want to focus on in this inspirational reflection is not the healing story per se, but on the man’s response to Jesus.  In effect, he says trees are like people.  However, in this reflection I want to reverse the analogy and suggest that people are like trees.  Let me elaborate.

One of the obvious things about the spring season is how the world comes alive.  It happens every spring, and every spring I am amazed and delighted.  I love the surge of new life that seems to ebb and flow every place you look.  We are again in the midst of spring and that moves me again.  Let’s focus on the trees.

All winter the trees stand naked of foliage.  They are as good as dead.  I know we call it dormancy, but it looks dead to me!  It is almost as if the trees stand there, brace themselves and take it---take all that winter can blast their way.  But then the seasonal warming that we know as spring breaks onto the scene.  Imperceptively, the trees begin to come alive.  It is always sneaky, because you cannot see it coming.  You know it will happen, but when it is happening, you cannot see it until part way into the process.

And then in the staging of spring, buds begin to appear.  From the bud comes some really nice flowers.  Particularly, some fruit trees bear gorgeous flowers.  Every spring I fall in love again with trees.  I know the beautiful phase of flowers on the trees does not last long, but it is impressive every time.  I know the green leaves will begin to replace the flowers and I am good with that.  But I love the in-between flowering stage. 

And then the green leaves do set onto the trees.  This prepares the trees for the long haul through spring, a hot summer, and on into the fall season.  And then obviously, the cycle is set to deliver the trees back to the dormancy of winter.  The circle will come around one more time.  But in the springtime, one never zooms that far ahead.

Perhaps it is that cycle I see in trees that make them such good analogies for people.  Let’s take a closer look.  The human life-cycle is much like the tree.  The springtime of the human, as I understand it, goes from infancy through childhood.  To me the baby is much like the initial seasonal surge that spring brings to the tree.  Something is happening, but the results are hard to discern.  So it is with an infant.  A great deal is happening, but it is hard to discern.

As the infant grows on into childhood, the beautiful “flowers” appear where once there was just a bud of a baby.  The flowers are pretty; the baby-turning little kid is cute.  And then the “leaves” of the childhood come full force.  There is amazing development, growth, and vibrancy.  So much happens.  So much promise comes to the scene.  The tree and the child are both ready for the summer season of productivity.

Adolescence brims with potency.  That bleeds on into the fullness of a maturing person.  Spring/summer/fall can be a long season for the leafed tree and for the generativity of the human being.  I think about my own life and realize I am like that “mature” tree in the middle of the fall season.  The productivity begins to flag a bit and the greenness of mid-summer and mid-life begins to fade.

If the tree analogy holds, then I am headed for “ripeness.”  Let’s use this as a time to move this analogy into a spiritual direction.  We can imagine the infancy/childhood phase of spring to be that time when the spiritual seeds are sown.  When we are young, we carry the seminal potential for so much good stuff later on.  On into adolescence and early adulthood, the seeds sprout and grow into the spiritual person we potentially can be.  As we move into full adulthood and towards the autumn of our lives, we can accumulate spiritual knowledge and experience in spiritual living that can make us stalwarts of our “forest” (our community).

Many of you are in that phase now.  Do it as well as you can.  And some of us are already in that autumn or late autumn phase.  Like the trees we hopefully can bear the fruit of accumulated wisdom.  I really hope I can become a sage of the Spirit.  For when I begin to lose my leaves, I want them to be spectacularly beautiful.  Then I will be at peace as I fall into God’s ground to make it richer for the new season.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Make Love Work

I know I often refer to books and even articles I read as I get ideas to ponder in order to write these inspirational essays.  I enjoy the variety of things I read and I value the chance to reflect on them.  I am quite aware that if I did not write these essays, I would probably not take the time to reflect on what I read.  That is not bad, but I also know that I would miss a great deal.

I also have become aware that I read a whole different category of work.  This would be the pile of papers and examinations that routinely come my way.  Some of my classes have weekly journal assignments, so there is a steady stream of papers that come my way.  Some days I look forward to the reading material pouring in.  And other days I feel more like, ugh, papers again!

When I step back and think about it, I realize the students are sharing some of their more precious thoughts.  I feel privileged to be able to look into the window of their souls and glimpse their truths, their questions, their doubts and sundry other things.  In effect, I get a chance to see their souls. 

When I recognize this, I also recognize I am sharing a sacred space.  I firmly believe our souls are sacred.  And if I share something of my soul with you, I have shared some sacred space.  That deserves respect.  That merits your care in dealing with my soul.  And of course, the obligation is just as real for me.  So when the students share some of their soul, I owe them respect and care.

I felt that obligation come upon me last evening as I was reading a set of examinations.  The student actually was working on an essay from one of my favorite books, Soul Making, authored by my Episcopal priest friend, Alan Jones.  I felt like the student had grasped the essence of what Jones was saying in one of his chapters on love.  The student commented that “love requires vulnerability and the willingness to trust.”  I couldn’t agree more and commented as such on his paper.

I continued reading through that particular answer.  And then I hit a phrase that made me smile.  It was a good sentence, but I realized I had to read it a particular way in order to understand what the student was trying to say.  In effect the student was talking about how to “make love work.”  If English is your first or primary language, you probably can handle that phrase quite well.

It would be obvious to us that the word, make, is the verb in that phrase.  We are correct.   But if we look closely, the word, work, is also a verb.  Clearly, the point of the phrase is something should work, namely, love.  We “make” love work.  And for us English speakers, “love” is a noun.  “Love” is what we want to work.  So we are good to go and we probably keep on reading.

What occurred to me, however, is actually all three words could be verbs.  In the sentence I also realized that the word, “work” could also be a noun.  We use it as a noun all the time.  How many mornings do we hear people say, “I am going to do my work now?”  Perhaps I am now confusing.  But think about it.  Love and work can be nouns or verbs.  I can love or I can make love.  I can work or I can do my work.

So now go back to the student’s phrase, “make love work.”  Again clearly the verb is the word, “make.”  We may be too quick to assume the word, “love,” is a noun.  What if it were just a phrase with three verbs: make…love…work? Let’s assume that is the essence of soul work or soul making or soul loving.

Perhaps we are endowed with our Creator with that kind of charge.  We are to “make.”  This means we are to be creative.  We are to be imaginative and help God fabricate the kingdom.  I can well imagine God asking us to be co-creators of the kingdom to come.  I am good with this, but my question is how?  How do I do it?

The little phrase has already offered the answer.  We do it by “love.”  The kingdom will come when we learn to love (verb = action).  I like the idea that we all learn to “love in the kingdom to come.”  And if we can’t learn to love, we will never get the kingdom!

But the kingdom to come requires more than simply love.  It requires “work.”  I am fairly convinced that God won’t just give it to us.  We will have to work for it.  Part of the work is the love that we verbally do.  But it also requires things like the work of justice.  We cannot go around treating others unfairly and pretend we also “love” them.  We have to work to heal the injustices, heal the woundedness in ourselves and in others. 

I actually like these three words to be verbs.  Verbs are action.  I am ok with God’s desire that I make---that I love---and that I work.  I am ready, Lord.  Throw me into the Divine game---make me an active verb!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine: Sacred and Secular

One of the things I began to realize as a Quaker boy growing up in the middle of last century was that I was deprived!  When your world is small and provincial, you have very little to compare.  It is easy to assume people are all basically just like you are.  You assume most people live just like you live and have relatively the same amount of money, etc.  I figured I was normal and that was the deal life dealt to most people.  I was ok.

But then I went to school.   Back then, going to school was usually the window out of one’s provincialism.  I suddenly confronted “difference.”  Of course, I have to smile.  Back then, difference consisted of farm boy having to spend time with very small town “city kids.”  But they were really different.  They seldom wore blue jeans.  They did not have to milk cows nor drive tractors.  They did not know a bull from a heifer!  I was farm-smart, but they did not care.  They had a city, street-kind of sophistication---or so it seemed to me.  I was intrigued by them; they thought I was funny.

I learned more than a,b,c’s in school.  There would be special days that were full of revelation.  St. Valentine’s Day was one such occasion.  Very early, perhaps second grade, we had to make Valentine’s cards for all the other kids in our grade.  I had never heard of St. Valentine.  Again, I felt deprived.  I did not really know what a “saint” was.  As a Quaker, I had never heard of saints; we did not have any saints.  None of our buildings were named “St. Something.”  Once more, it felt like farm-naivete vs. urban sophistication.

I began the process of learning about the sacred.  Valentine---whoever he was---apparently was very special.  Only slowly and in bits and pieces did I begin to learn he was so special with God that he wound up playing a key, witnessing role.  The story goes that he was martyred.  He was killed for the faith.  I figured this meant he was chosen to be part of God’s All-American team!  It did strike me odd that no Quaker had ever made that team!

The other thing I remember about that early St. Valentine’s Day experience was the chocolate.  Everybody got cards and chocolate.  I admit that I rather liked the experience of getting cards---so many cards---from all the others.  Some of them were personalized.  Some girls said I was special!  Some of my little guy friends said nice things.  My heart soared.  And the chocolate was delicious. 

And then Valentine’s Day was over---done for another year.  It was back to routine.  St. Valentine had come and gone.  I don’t remember what happened to the cards and the chocolate disappeared quickly.  All remnants of the sacred had vanished.  And that’s what I thought the sacred would be: hearts, cards, chocolate and, then, nothing.

I have spent a lifetime since the second grade learning about the sacred.  The sacred has become a creator God who deals mysteriously with humans and continues to make meaning out of our messes.  The sacred is the story of Jesus appearing to reveal the power of God’s love.  The sacred is the story of people like you and me becoming witnesses to the ongoing divine love making good things out of people’s messes.

Now that I work for the sacred, i.e. God’s ambassador, I see how easy it is for folks to dismiss the sacred and go for the secular.  Let’s go back to St. Valentine.  He has lost his sacred stature.  Catholics and others are not so sure who he really was and what he really did.  If you look at the feast days for saints, he has disappeared.  As a Quaker, this does not bother me much.  I did not have him anyway!

What’s left are the cards, now the e-cards, chocolate, and hearts all over the place.  Oh I think it is fun; I still like cards.  I am all for love---even if it is only for a day! The Church may have given up on St. Valentine, but Hallmark keeps him as their February cupid.  The secular transforms a martyr into a cute little guy on a heart with a bow and arrow!

St. Valentine’s Day will come and go.  What I want to work to keep is the sacred for every day of the year.  I love the fact that our word, “martyr,” comes from the Greek word, which simply means, “witness.”  Clearly someone who is killed for the faith has paid the ultimate witness; hence, that one is appropriately called a “martyr.”  But all of us can also be “martyrs,” be witnesses to the sacred at work in and through us.

I may give a card or chocolate today.  But I will martyr myself by loving.  I want to witness to God’s immense love and infinite compassion.  I want to join all the others in living as fully as I can from the sacred center, which is that Divine Center in me and you.  In that sense I pray that this day I can be a saint---a holy witness to the Power and Presence of God.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Deep Listening

I have enjoyed reading slowly Krista Tippett’s book, Becoming Wise.  Often I have to read books quite quickly.  I may need some information or just some acquaintance with the material in the book.  But I figure if I am reading something that is supposed to help me become wise, I should take it slowly and actually try to become wise!  I don’t know whether it is working, but I am making the effort.  I realize I did not have a wisdom baseline before I started the book.
  
I would like to think I have built up a little wisdom over the decades of my life, but how is one to know.  People don’t just come up and say, “Boy, you really are wise.”  In fact, I don’t think anyone has ever said, “Wow, you are a little wise!”  Knowledge is a little easier to measure.  You can take a test or something similar and know whether you actually have learned some things.
  
Wisdom often has to do with the things in life that are difficult to measure.  Wisdom has to do with love, faith, compassion and things like that.  I know Mother (Saint) Teresa was wise and, certainly, Gandhi seemed very wise.  Many of us know our grandparents were at least a little wise.  I know my paternal grandfather was wise and he had little education.  So he proves wisdom is not a factor of formal education.
  
The thing I most like about Tippett’s book is all the quotations from people she has interviewed in the process of hosting her radio show.  So many of the folks she talks to are people I know from their writings or from the news about them.  In fact there are some she includes whom I personally know.  That is always a fun read.  I have known people like Parker Palmer, Vincent Harding and others.  When I read her and meet someone I don’t personally know, I always think how cool it would be if I had known her or him.
  
Some of these folks I would love to meet are still living.  One such person is Sister Simone Campbell.  I know she is a member of the Sisters of Social Service.  Campbell is best known for her leading role in the “Nuns on the Bus” project.  This began in 2012 when a bunch of nuns hopped a bus and traveled around the country calling for support of various social justice issues.  Campbell is also known as the Executive Director of NETWORK, an advocacy group working for justice rights and concerns.  I see her as the prophetic conscious of the Church and American society.  She helps us see it the way it should be.
  
I like the snippet about Sister Campbell that Tippett has in her book.  The section I find most intriguing is on deep listening.  I know there is a contemporary movement focused on deep listening, but I don’t want to chase that here.  Common sense tells us what deep listening means.  Rather I am interested in how Tippett portrays Campbell.  Tippett notes, “Deep listening’ is a virtue that anchors every kind of love relationship and it is the compass Sister Simone cites again and again as a creative, openhearted anchor to her life of strong passions and advocacy.”
  
I like the idea of listening as a compass that anchors relationship---especially love relationships.  It seems true to me that love cannot really exist without some modicum of listening.  If I talk all the time---or if there is no talk at all---then surely love is not a part of the relationship.  It helps me see why and how the nun goes about her advocacy work.  This kind of listening anchor enables her to be present in a creative, openhearted way to all people.  It strikes me this could be a recipe for how we do peacemaking.  If we could even approach strangers and enemies like this, new things would be possible.
  
Tippett goes on to talk about Sister Campbell.  The nun “offers these lines of self-appraisal on whether one is being true to deep listening in any situation…”  Campbell asks these questions: “Am I responding in generosity?  Am I responding in selfishness?  Am I responding in a way that builds up people around me, that builds me up, that is respectful of who I am?”  These are powerful questions.  If we all ask ourselves such questions, we would anchor ourselves in love.  We would become peacemakers in our turbulent world.
  
If I want to make this part of my own life, I will need to listen.  I realize I am involved in countless conversations.  All around me people are talking.  Sometimes I listen; the real question is whether I ever practice deep listening?  I fear that often I hear, but I don’t listen.  Too often, I have my own agenda running instead of listening to the other.  I make myself more important than the other and, therefore, completely miss opportunities to be present for the other.
  
I want to ask the nun’s questions.  Am I responding in generosity?  I know what this means.  Am I willing to be this generous?  I hope so.  Am I responding in selfishness?  Sadly, I know all too well what this feels like!  Her third question is huge: am I responding in a way that builds up people around me?  That builds me up?  That is respectful of who I am?  This is where I want to be.  Now it is a matter of acting on it.  Knowing it is not sufficient. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

To See is to Live

The title of this inspirational piece is close to the old saying, “to see is to believe.”  There certainly is some truth to this old saying, but that is not quite what I want to give focus.  Obviously, believing can be very important.  And not believing might be even more important.  For example, the people today who do not believe there is a climate challenge are sadly off base.  I trust the scientists and, sometimes, I trust my own eyes when I am in a place like Shanghai, Los Angeles or almost any big city on a truly smoggy, bad-air day.
           
The title of this inspirational message, however, refers to a one-liner I recently encountered again in a reading of Richard Rohr’s book, Everything Belongs.  Rohr is a favorite author for me and that means I return to his writings from time to time.  His truths speak to me every time I look at one of his books.  I had occasion again to read the second chapter of Rohr’s book and that’s when I bumped into this sentence.  “Spirituality is about seeing.”
           
I could be cute and say that reading that sentence opened my eyes!  I don’t want to be cute, but in some real way that sentence does open our eyes.  I think it is true.  Hopefully, my reflections on that passage makes its truth come to be more obvious and clearer.  It seems certain to me that the passage cannot be read at the literal level.  If spirituality is about seeing---literally speaking---then blind people are literally in trouble.  That would mean they never could see!  At the literal level, that is true.  But at the metaphorical level that obviously is not at all true.
           
When Rohr says that spirituality is about seeing, we necessarily move to the non-literal level.  Early on in elementary school we learn the phrase, “I see.”  Seldom does this refer to literal seeing.  It means we understand the math problem or the science experiment.  It references a move from ignorance to some level of knowledge.  Often we use this phrase to express the insight we just gained.  Notice that word, “in-sight.”
           
To have insight means we are able to “look in” something and see things that may have been hidden.  Insight is a form of knowing and understanding.  It is the springboard to wisdom.  We can never have wisdom without insight.  And spirituality is the process of gaining this kind of insight, knowledge and wisdom into the way we are living our lives.  I realize it is fully possible to live without gaining any insight.  It is possible to live life only at the literal seeing level.  This is where Rohr’s further words are helpful to us.
           
Immediately after the initial sentence about seeing leads to living, he adds, “It’s not about earning or achieving.”  I wince a little when reading this sentence.  So much of American culture is a rewards-based culture.  Work hard and reap the benefits.  Study hard and you will succeed.  Take care of yourself and you will live a long and happy life.  Indeed, there are many more of these kinds of platitudes that govern our lives.  Of course, most of them contain partial truths and are worthy of being heeded.  But life comes with virtually no guarantees.
           
True “seeing” gives us the clues to authentic living.  With this kind of seeing, we are able to live lives of meaning and purpose.  Our lives have a point and are worthwhile.  We don’t feel like we have wasted or been wasted by life.  There is a reason to get out of bed, embrace the day and live fully.  We all know people who manage to pull off this kind of life.  Too often, it only elicits jealousy.  We find reasons to be dismissive of these kinds of folks.  They are lucky or privileged in some ways we aren’t.  We complain about our own fortunes. 
           
Instead of figuring out how we can come to “see,” we may sulk and grump that life sucks.  Complaining usually means I don’t see.  And hearing this likely makes me mad or even more grumpy!  Rohr adds another helpful thought.  Spirituality is about seeing, not earning or achieving.  He nails it for me when he comments, “It is about relationship rather than results or requirements.”  I could nod my head to this notion, but realize it flies in the face of what I heard---either explicitly or implicitly while growing up in the church.
           
I am not sure it is fair, but my memory tells me the spirituality I heard while growing up had a great deal to deal with earning and achieving.  In this the religious message seemed all too like the school message.  Work hard.  Be obedient.  Be a good boy.  Don’t rock the boat.  These kinds of phrases and more tumble out of my mind.  None of them are bad in their own right.  But I am not sure they helped me orient myself in such a way to “see” and to begin to gain some insight.
           
I am confident my growing up years worried too much about believing and not enough about living.  Of course, they wanted me to live rightly.  But this often meant following rules and standards, which often looked too much like cultural norms rather than spiritual truths.  Rohr and people like him helped me get radical.  I did not get radical like some of the others in the 1960s.
           
I wanted to get radical in the deeper meaning of that word: getting to the root of things.  For me that meant getting back to the radical message of Jesus and the women and men of my early Quaker tradition.  They could teach me again about life, not just doctrine.  I am still learning to see that I might live.