W. B. Yeats called it the ever “widening gyre” *. The image was of a falcon and the falconer who calls the bird to its roost. The bird has flown to a distance it can no longer see or hear its master. “The falcon cannot hear the falconer. Things fall apart. The center cannot hold.” The poem refers to the forces of history or culture that take a person and a civilization away from their true self.
Something like this happens in every age of history, its effects appear in our culture today and our young people are most severely affected. We’re losing a sense of our center, our true selves, and what is most disconcerting – – we don’t sense the loss. The forces that separate falcon from falconer are many and complex. To keep it simple we can point to an imbalance of the “inner world” and the “external world”.
The inner world refers to that realization a person has of himself. His center. His likes and dislikes, personality, characteristics and values. We experience it better that we can talk about it. It’s our soul, our center. Who we are. It’s the “me” that turns when I hear my name called.
The “outer world” of course is that environment outside ourselves; events, persons, circumstances in which we act and are acted upon. Some have called it “the daily grind”.
Between these two poles, the center in me and the world out there, my human life happens. I go out of myself to encounter the world and the people it brings. Then I return to the inner world and the conversation begins. “What was that? Why did that happen? Did I do the right thing?” etc.
These two poles of life, the going out and the returning “home”, need to be in balance. What happens to us in the world needs guidance and judgement from within. What happens within is activated and called out by the world around us.
The problem is the world and its pressing issues, the unending chatter of social media, news and entertainment, is overwhelming the “inner person.” There’s no home in ourselves to return to. We are in turmoil. Things fall apart.
In those rare moments when television or internet are turned off, we can grow restless or slightly embarrassed to be “alone with ourselves”.
The sudden quiet catches us off guard and in the silence a weird feeling of being a stranger to ourselves comes over us.
To meet ourselves in such a moment can even frighten us. “Who is this person? It’s ME!!” Oh dear. Me. “What am I going to do with me?”
And so we check our email, text someone, see what’s on TV, phone somebody . . . anything to avoid being with myself.
This estrangement from ourselves has sad consequences for our relationship with God. How can we hear the voice of God if we can’t hear the voice of our own conscience. (that inner voice urging us to “do this.” Or “don’t do that” Or “good job!” Or “shame on you.”)
Remember Jesus telling us “when you talk to God (pray) go to your room. Close the door. And pray to your Father in secret.” Mt. 6:5,6? Why in secret? Because the way God chooses to speak to you is as a friend. And friends give each other their full attention. A friend speaks personally to you like no other, many times quietly, just be- tween the two of you.
In the quiet, over time, we return to ourselves and begin to hear things in our heart once again. I remember one year on retreat at a monastery walking down a country path. Suddenly it happened . . . I heard the wind blowing through the trees. I mean I HEARD THE WIND. I heard it because I was LISTENING.
Later on, if you continue to listen, you can hear the things your heart has wanted to tell God. “Lord, it’s me. I just want to tell you . . .” Many times it’s just being aware of your feeling and giving them to God “who sees.”
So how to end this? Get quiet. Put down the iPhone. Come home to yourself. Re-acquaint yourself to what you’re feeling, thinking, loving, fearing. Then. . . turn to Him. Speak anything (anything!) you want to get off your chest, be grateful for, need help with.
He is there. “Your Father who hears in secret. . . knows what you need.” Mt. 6:8.
That is a promise from Christ. Trust Him.
Prayer for Lent
As we look ahead to our Lenten journey, may our fasting be a hunger for justice and our alms an offering of peace. May our prayers be the reflection of peace and also of humble and grateful hearts. We ask the Holy Spirit to accompany us on this journey of encounter as we spend these 40 days reflecting on what is means to live in solidarity as one global human family. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with the Father forever and ever. Amen