A third way

Fr. Richard Rohr has a daily email reflection. The one from Dec. 27th has stuck with me. It has me thinking, but with no definitive conclusion. I’m just sitting with it. I can hear the arguments that many will have with his reflection – many arguments and criticisms because he is touching on many people’s identity, or rather what they think is their identity. But whether we are liberal or conservative, or something else entirely, should not determine whether Rohr’s reflection is accurate. The truth should.

His reflection is below for you to ponder. I welcome your thoughts on this reflection.

“In my experience, liberalism creates suspicious people more than loving people. They begin and end by asking, “Who has the power here?” instead of “How can I serve here?” For them, life is an issue to be informed about or fixed, but seldom a mystery to participate in—even in its broken state. But if liberals refuse to be part of the dirt of history, conservatives refuse to even see the dirt—particularly in their own group! They hunker down and call their evil “good.” The conservative response to reality is usually: “What is in place already should be trusted. It must be true, because that is the way it is.”

“Neither conservatives nor liberals are willing to carry the burden of living tentatively in a passing and imperfect world. So the contemporary choice offered most of us living in the West is between unstable correctness (liberals) and stable illusion (conservatives)! What a choice! It has little to do with real transformation in either case, because in each case we have manufactured our own false stability.

“There is a third way, and it probably is a way of “kneeling,” but we could also just call it “wisdom,” which is always distinguished from mere intelligence. It demands a transformation of consciousness and a move beyond the dualistic, win/lose mind. Religion has always said that an authentic God encounter is the quickest and truest path to such wisdom. It is the ultimate securing that allows us to creatively deal with the essential impermanence and insecurity of everything else.

“The Gospel accepts the essentially tragic nature of human existence; it is willing to bear the contradictions that are imprinted on all of reality. It will always be the road less traveled. Let’s call it “unstable stability!” But for some reason, it is the only real stability, because it is a truthful map of reality, and it is always the truth that sets us free. It is contact with Reality that finally heals us. And contemplation, quite simply, is meeting reality in its most simple, immediate, and paradoxical forms. It is the resolving of those seeming contradictions that characterizes the mystics, the saints, the prophets, and all those who pray.

“This liberation, this ability to hold the paradoxical nature of reality, liberates us from and for. It is the ultimate agreement to participate in the only world there is. True participation in paradox liberates us from our own control towers and for the compelling and overarching vision of the Reign of God—where there are no liberals or conservatives. Here, the paradoxes—life and death, success and failure, loyalty to what is and risk for what needs to be—do not fight with one another, but lie in an endless embrace. We must penetrate behind them—into the infinite mystery that holds all things together.”

Adapted from Richard Rohr and Friends, Contemplation in Action (Crossroad Publishing: 2006), 24, 26, 27–28, 30. 

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