Mercy Global Action: Contemplative Seeing
Michelle Gorman rsm (Americas)
As I ponder the theme of contemplative seeing, I center myself in my solitary “home office” in Sacramento, California from which I have been zooming world-wide since March 17, 2020. From here I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land, the Maidu and Nisenan peoples, and I invite the reader to do likewise from your location. I pause to consider the planet from which I have evolved, and on which we are all spinning together (North and South) at approximately 1,000 mph/1,600 km/h; moving together around the sun at an orbital speed of 67,000 mph/107,000 km/h; and cradled within the Milky Way Galaxy, swooshing in the direction of Andromeda at 1.3 million mph/2.1 million km/h. (1) With all that movement, I endeavor to be still, recalling T.S. Eliot’s enigmatic line, “The light is still at the still point of the turning world.” (2) And now I am realizing, to paraphrase a line from a Jackson Brown song: What I’ve been seeing isn’t what’s been happening at all! (3) Nothing is still, not even me! Perhaps the light is still, and light is necessary for accurate seeing. Or is it? Theodore Roethke begins one of his poems thus: In a dark time the eye begins to see: In a dark time the eye begins to see. (4)
In the daylight, my brain interprets and attempts to make meaning of what my eyes look upon; at night, in the dark, through my spider-webbed, dust covered window, a galaxy light-years away reveals its light to my myopic eyes. I don’t know the details but I am drawn into mystery, and grasp for a moment the hidden wholeness of things. (5) This awareness steadies me during the daytime when I have to face my barely aware complicity in the suffering of the world, especially of my dark brothers and sisters- suffering caused by my smallness of vision and that of my light-skinned ancestors. Perhaps our ancestors should have evolved to sleep during the day when we are enveloped in a womb of limited seeing created by a blue sky and a too-bright sun that shuts out the light of the stars and makes us forget the vast elegant creation within which we are intimately and inextricably connected. Had we evolved to be awake at night, maybe we would wonder more, praise more, love more in a night that offers us a view into infinity, a view of our particular context within the whole. Perhaps we would have had less need to dominate and control. But that is not how we evolved. In a dark time the eye begins to see…
1. Andrew Fraknoi, “How Fast Are You Moving When You Are Sitting Still?” Foothill College & the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 390 Ashton Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94112, # 71, Spring, 2007.
2. T. S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton,” in Four Quartets, HBJ Book, New York and London, 1943.
3. Jackson Brown, “Fountain of Sorrow,” in album Late for the Sky, 1974.
4. Theodore Roethke, “In a Dark Time,” The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke, Doubleday, 1961.
5. Parker J. Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA, 2009.
Spanish translation by the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. Traducción al español por las Hermanas de la Misericordia de las Américas
Michelle Gorman, RSM has ministered in education, vocation ministry, and congregational leadership. Currently, she does spiritual direction and is chaplain at the California State Senate.
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