Is that so?


“When the soul is solidly rooted in… peacefulness, when it is freed of the bonds of every carnal urge, when the unshaking thrust of the heart is toward the one supreme Good, then the words of the apostle will be fulfilled. ‘Pray without ceasing,’ he said (I Thes. 5:17). ‘In every place lift up pure hands, with no anger and no rivalry’ (I Tim 2:8). Sensibility is, so to speak, absorbed by this purity. It is reshaped in the likeness of the spiritual and the angelic so that all its dealings, all its activity will be prayer, utterly pure, utterly without tarnish.”

St. John Cassian

From time to time, things happen which cause great suffering, fear and doubt.  Life brings them and those to whom life does not bring them tend to be sad, shallow, creepy, manipulative, seemingly lucky but generally silly people; whose lives will be enriched with some, with enough suffering.  But the key thing is to know that peacefulness, most days, is a choice.  I know people who are not peaceful people.  They are climbers or ragers, or grabbers or, perhaps, most pathetic, people like me who keep watch for what will next go wrong – sixes on the enneagram and generally very tired people.  But I am increasingly convinced that peace is something we must choose.  It is something we must decide to embrace before it is something which drapes on us like a lovely shawl.

My masters – the men and women (mostly women) who are wise enough to have been my teachers have all, without exception, taught me that how I encounter my thoughts is what makes or breaks each moment.  It is my thoughts I must master, not the church, not the state, not my enemies.  Just my thoughts.

There once was an old man in a village in Japan.  One day his village was in an uproar.  People were at his door yelling and screaming.  One woman, the leader was saying he had made her daughter pregnant and must care for the baby in his shame.  He was scorned.  He was humiliated.  He was ostracized from his community.

He said, “Is that so?” and raised the baby as his own.

Two decades later the daughter admitted to having slept with a local soldier and the village came to the old man’s door to give him the news and apologize.  “Is that so?” he said with his beautiful, kind, adopted daughter next to him, whom he had raised all these years.  She took his hand.  The woman who had accused him so many years before apologized and said that she should never have so accused him, never made him raise the baby.  “Is that so?” he said?  His adopted daughter cared for him till he died a gentle, sweet death.

Our peacefulness comes only from our willingness to greet what is, with some measure of openness to a God who is omniscient and loving.  We never know how things turn out.  But we often, are sure it will be bad, or not enough. And therein lies our suffering and the suffering of our planet.

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