There is only so much you can do...

"There's only so much you can do..." How many times have I heard those
words as an adult and chafed over them?  Organically and culturally I am not a fan of limits - balance, yes - but my addictive realities push me towards more. Like Jim Morrison roared back in the day: We want the world and we want it... NOW!  These days I have come to see that such exuberance has its place - it is one authentic way of being fully alive and engaged in the world - but more and more it seems I am finding such an aggressive and even arrogant presence in creation to be tiring, ugly and crass. Old habits die hard, to be sure, and I can easily get sucked back in to the allure of old manias in the blink of an eye. 

But I am starting to trust a deeper truth: there really is only so much you can do. There's only so much grief you can carry, there's only so much partying you can endure; there's only so much presence and love you can share with others in ministry and there's only so much guilt you can hold on to in the course of a day. The list of "only so much..." could be longer, but you get my point, yes? Matthew's gospel finds Jesus saying: "So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today." Peterson's reworking in The Message adds another layer of truth - especially when joined with Christ's earlier challenge in the Beatitudes:

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

Such is the way of mindfulness - being awake to what is real right now - and letting the rest go. In this morning's reflection, Fr. Richard Rohr writes that the Judeo-Christian path of spirituality seeks to balance knowing with trust: there is light and there is darkness, there is engagement and there is rest, there is joy and there is sorrow.

The Judeo-Christian tradition balances our so-called knowing with trust, patience, allowing, waiting, humility, love and forgiveness, which is very nearly the entire message and surely the core message necessary for any possibility of actual ripening. Otherwise, we all close down, and history freezes up with all of its hurts, memories, and resentments intact. A non-dual way of knowing in the moment gives us a life process and not simply momentary dualistic answers, which always grow old because they are never totally true.

I think I claimed some of this for my own as I watched people care for my dad during the closing days of his life. There were some who came to his bedside filled with anxiety. They wanted to do something - and do more of it, too. But not only were they uncertain what could really be done, their uncertainty was expressed as fretting and noise. There was a profound discomfort with the silence of waiting. Others, including my father's former pastor and some of the nursing staff, did what could be done: they came in to his room when it was possible, they sat in silence or offered simple gifts of tender touch, they waited for a time in the awkward stillness and then they moved on. They knew and seemed to practice a peace born of knowing that in any moment "there is only so much you can do..."

Since arriving back home I've started to realize how attracted and comforted I
am by the notion that in any given moment - or day or even life - there is only so much you can do. I have come to know this as truth playing jazz bass - often less is more - and always the emphasis is on keeping the groove. Let the guitar man play wild ass solos, or the sax man soar to the heights in ways that are outside the box. The bass man needs to keep things grounded and well-planted in the groove. Peterson closes Christ's blessings found at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount like this:

You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for. You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family..

Let's see if I can practice this - at least for today?

(photo credits:  Dianne De Mott)


Peter said…
This is echoed very ably by Dr. Henry Emmons in The Chemistry of Joy, where he articulates the way of Buddhist Mindfulness: live in the moment.

"Play the gig, man!" :)
RJ said…
One of the things that has cursed me most of my life is regret. Being in the moment, however, owns the failures but refuses to be trapped in them, yes? Let it go, play the gig and see what happens next in the most compassionate way. Be well, my man.
ddl said…
Amen. I hope you and Di are doing as well as one can when death visits. Life is lived moment to moment these days and yes, finally, I see that there is only so much one can carry of oneself and others...Our bodies tell us this thru disease and illness when our minds do not or refuse the truth. So, I am trying to live in a way so as not to be overwhelmed and accepting is what it is...
Prayers continue here for you, even if I don't check in as much. Your writings and Di's too are thoughtful and appreciated. Best to you both.

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