Meditations by Ian White Maher. Explorations into encountering the sacred in every day living, falling passionately in love with God, and transforming the world
Dec. 5, 2017
If we want to become seekers of liberation we must dive into the practices that bring us back into communion. In addition to our personal disciplines of meditation and prayer we would be wise to explore spiritual companioning—the path of walking with others—as essential to our liberation. What would our houses of worship look like if, instead of treating them like sanctuaries where we hide out from the world, we used them to see ourselves as companions for other people seeking collective liberation where my salvation is dependent on your salvation? Conflict does not become death but a path into greater life, because in it we learn how to hold the wholeness of creation. As my friend and I forgave each other, as we hugged one another, as we said the words “I love you,” we came back into communion. We did more than just leave our suffering behind. We committed ourselves to a practice of living the path out of isolation, out of separateness and into the salvation. How different would our world be if, instead of individual salvation, our churches and temples promised salvation through the hard and messy work of intimacy. Living in community is complex. I also believe it is one of the greatest acts of resistance we can do in a world full of alienation.
Nov. 29, 2017
A day later I remembered the famous verse from the Bhagavad Gita. We only have a right to our workWe do not have a right to the fruitsThe fruits should not be the motivation for your actionsAnd do not shirk your work (Chapter 2 Verse 47) This gave me comfort. I do not have a right to any particular outcome. All I can do is offer my work to the best of my ability. It is the work that is valuable, not the special feelings or the dramatic spiritual encounters I desired so much. No ancestor spoke to me. No epiphany occurred. There are no great stories to share with you about my trip to Stone Mountain. Nothing sexy. But neither do I have regrets. My life is my work and I am blessed by that simple truth. Next year, I will return to pray for the ancestors, not for any prize but because that is what I am called to do. Maybe some of you will come with me. We may never see the end of white supremacy in our lifetimes, but we do our work anyway. For the work gives the world hope, and in the hope lies the holy.
Nov. 21, 2017
The transition from Michelle and Barack to Donald and Melania has been more than just a change of individuals. I miss the affection they modeled for us so well. As lovers they inspired me. For eight years we lived with a couple who loved each other, completed each other, desired each other, and now we have something very different, something very ugly. And we often understand God through the process of mimesis , through mimicry, through symbol. The First Family models for us a way of being in relationship with each other and also, perhaps, with something more transcendent, with God. We have shifted from an affectionate, playful model to a coercive, commodity model. We have watched Eros die. And we are angry about it.
Nov. 15, 2017
On November 25th, 1915, a small, group men, robbed and hooded, climbed Stone Mountain in Georgia, to resuscitate the Ku Klux Klan. In the darkness of that cold night, the terrorist nightriders of the fallen Confederacy were brought back to life like some Frankenstein monster. The Klan has lived within us ever since, like a shadow in the American psyche. This year as I watched torches carried again into public, I heard the voices of our ancestors reified in the world through the open-throated screams of angry men. I watched in horror, wanting to separate myself, wanting to be anything but family. But we are family, related through the great delusion of race. We are white, together. This fabricated identity that we collectively just agree is real, when it is not. The ancestors of terror prayed to the God of separation. I cannot, also, pray to this God if I want to find relief. If I want to find liberation. But I am not entirely sure how to reclaim me, which means reclaiming us, from night creation was torn open, from the night evil was chosen. I want to sing songs of love and union, songs of praise and gratitude. But first I must sing songs of atonement. But where are these sacred hymns of recovery and redemption? Where are the prayers of reparation? How do I prostrate myself and ask for Grace to take the terrors from my body, from our bodies? How do I help these ancestors down from the mountain? I feel like I am fumbling in the dark for relief.
Nov. 7, 2017
Marcus Aurelius famously said, “That which is not good for the beehive cannot be good for the bees.” (Sometimes this is rephrased as, “What is good for the bee is good for the hive,” which is not at all what Marcus Aurelius was saying but not a surprising reduction within the cultural dynamic that wants to put the individual first.) Human beings are relational, not because of our behavior or our programming, but because we all share the same source. In our overvaluation of the individual we must reject the commonality of our source. We have masked selfishness and even exploitation with the cry, “These are my rights. They were given to me by God.” And by splintering Creation into tiny, owned fragments we lost the ability to witness the whole. In this crisis moment, and on this historic anniversary, we are in need of another spiritual reformation. The beehive is in terrible shape because we have chosen to live by the idea that whatever the bee wants to do is what is most important. And that is simply not true.
Dec. 10, 2016
Our spiritual origins rest in this silent mystery. We cannot know God until we are ready to say yes to the dark. It is in the dark soil that the seed first begins to sprout. It is in the dark womb that the child is created. And it is in the dark mystery that our souls release our ideas of God, our ideas of ourselves in relationship to God so that we might just be.
Dec. 3, 2016
The God of my youth was a tortured figure forced to walk a high wire over dangerous beasts of prey who snapped their jaws below waiting for the tortured God to make mistake and fall into their pit. This God was a mockery, a buffoon, a clown I stuck high up on that wire. At the time, I did not live with a God of my own, but with the pale referents of the God of other people, with the shadows of their love and distrust. I lived entirely within the experience of others. I had no idea how to look for myself. I didn’t even know that was possible.
Nov. 24, 2016
I could hear my spiritual director lean into the phone as she asked, And how many people do you think Gabriel visited before Mary said ‘Yes’? Such an idea had never even crossed my mind. The story of Mary, for me anyway, always held a quality of predetermination, like she was chosen for this particular role. It had never dawned on me that there might have been others who had been invited to that sacred relationship, others who, for whatever reason, said no. Of course, my spiritual director wasn’t really asking about Mary, but rather she was asking about my sense of call and what would happen if I said no. The story of Mary is one of the great calls in religious history. Out of her womb is born one of the great spiritual teachers, God to many. I had always understood this story as leading to an inevitable outcome. Of course Mary was going to say yes. But is that really true? As someone who does not believe in fate, as someone who believes we must have free will in our spiritual lives if they are to have meaning, it seems that people must not only have the option to ignore their sacred calling, but often do. We must have the opportunity to say no if we are really going to say yes.
Nov. 18, 2016
I don’t know if every spiritual experience requires suffering, but I would guess that it does, at least on some level. For the ego to collapse, for us to leave behind the story of who we think we are in order to step into the beloved darkness where there are no boundaries we have to say goodbye to something we have known, maybe even something we have treasured. And in every goodbye there is grief. But there is also solace that comes when we are ready to be honest with who we are, with our brokenness, because in it we find the healing in other people. This is the meaning of a spiritual community. As bad as we might believe we are individually no one is going to turn away, rather there is a turning towards one another. You are suffering. Mmm, I, too, know suffering.
Nov. 10, 2016
I don’t believe in fate nor in an interfering God. But I do believe that creation is always calling out to us, always inviting us into a deeper relationship, which is made visible in the world by a greater desire for health, and empathy, and connection. The call that comes through us is as much an enticement as anything. A beckoning into a larger experience of companionship, into that experience Thomas Berry speaks of, where we understand ourselves as a communion of subjects rather than a collection of objects. This experience of greater companionship winds its way into belief statements we call morality, but not with any particular agenda. The encounter with interconnection simply leaves us responsible, binds our lives to the lives of others we might previously have denied, awakens us the inability to escape the suffering of those we are now bound to.