for real...

One of the words of wisdom I am just beginning to hear from Jean Vanier is this:  stay focused
on the real relationships that are nearest to you.  He said this in an interview with NPR journalist and author Krista Tippett as she spoke with him for her On Being program. Their full exchange is valuable to us during this epoch of fear and social manipulation.


MR. VANIER:  ... we are in an incredible world of technology, the global world. And yet, with television and even with cell phones and Internet, we can cut away from relationship, you see? To get an e-mail, you don't see the eyes of the person, you don't see the face, you don't see the smile, you don't see the hands, you don't see the tone of voice. And we have to come down to small is beautiful because small is where we really …

MS. TIPPETT: Isn't it funny that global technology may bring us back to small is beautiful.

MR. VANIER: Possibly. Or take us away from it. As I had said, you see, I mean, as you look at that Iraqi child and you were wounded and wanted to do something, yet, you were confronted by your incapacity because the child was not in front of you. If that child was in front of you, you could have taken the child in your arms. So we're going into a world where the imagination, the virtual, the long distance, see things far away appear as close. But you can't touch them. They're close to the imagination, but they're not close to the body. So let's come back to the reality of the small. There, we can … we can touch them, we can be with them. 
MS. TIPPETT: Like the people who live down the street from us.

"There we can touch them, we can be with them" as an authentic expression that small is truly beautiful. One of the wounds we accept without awareness in the rapid fire realm of hyper technology is free-floating anxiety. We see so much tragedy, we hear so much anguish, we are reminded again and again of our insignificance that while our hearts break we know there is nothing we can do to touch and respond.  And the more we engage with the brokenness that is beyond our ability to touch, the more anxious we become, yes? This was not the intent of the blessing of technology, of course, but it has become one of the unintended consequences.  We are increasingly a frightened and manipulated people who feel impotent and alone in a sea of madness, cruelty and despair.

To which Vanier suggests two alternatives: first, give yourself to small, tender acts of love among those you can physically touch; and, second, accept or surrender to the counter cultural inefficiency of discovering the beauty within and among you. The first flows from the foolishness of the Cross - living and being embodied agents of compassion. - regardless of the cost. It is trusting that God's love is greater than our fears. It is living into the faith that Easter emerges from Good Friday and so even hardships are not the end of the story. "We know that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because hope is God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit." Romans 5: 3-5)

The second springs from Gandhi's experience of trusting the power of inward change to ripple throughout creation. " We can do is what Gandhi says, we can't change the world, but I can change. And if I change, and I seek to be more open to people and less frightened of relationship, if I begin to see what is beautiful within them, if I recognize also that there's brokenness because I'm also broken, and that's OK, then there's something that begins to happen." (On Being interview)

We cannot make much of a difference anywhere except right here in relationships of incarnational love and embodied trust.  This is humbling, but also liberating. The peace of Jesus that passes understanding is not a mystery - although it is mystical - for it invites us to rest and abide in love right where we are. Be real right now, be in relationships of kindness right now and leave the rest to God right now. 

Stop trying to protect, to rescue, to judge, to manage the lives around you . . . remember that the lives of others are not your business. They are their business. They are God’s business . . . even your own life is not your business. It also is God’s business. Leave it to God. It is an astonishing thought. It can become a life-transforming thought . . . unclench the fists of your spirit and take it easy . . . What deadens us most to God’s presence within us, I think, is the inner dialogue that we are continuously engaged in with ourselves, the endless chatter of human thought. I suspect that there is nothing more crucial to true spiritual comfort . . . than being able from time to time to stop that chatter. (Frederick Buechner)

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