Monday, September 15, 2008


In these times of rabid politics, I sit in the chapel at St. Mary’s Sewanee and hear sermons about our disaffections and apathy about stopping wars in the world. What is new under the sun? I think, all the while praying for peace. In one of my recent books, GRANDMA’S GOOD WAR, I talk about the feelings of patriotism and community solidarity that prevailed during WWII. But, then, I was a child, far removed from the killing fields in Europe and Japan. Now, at this stage of my life, I can’t really relate to the purpose of WWII – I was told that we, in this country, were being vigilant against those who might invade our country. So what is new under the sun?

Strong winds stirred the trees beside the chapel yesterday, and the entire day was infused with a kind of overcast gray, much like the weather preceding a Louisiana hurricane. Over biscuits and coffee, people who had attended the services talked about being afraid of what might happen if a Republican wins the election, some threatening to move to Canada or New Zealand…some said their children had told them they will leave the country if the Republicans presently running for top offices are elected. They fear a military draft and a knee jerk entry into another World War. I listened and shuddered, for the first time thinking that perhaps they were right. Militarism, fundamentalism, exclusivity, prejudice, greed for oil – all of these negatives are part of a rabid politics, and the ideas swirled in my head so that it was difficult for me to just “be in the moment,” as my recent readings tell me to do. I recalled a snippet poem I wrote last summer when I had some prescience of the future:


Not burned to death
or frozen to death,

but warred to death,
the planet excelling in amazing hate,

a desperation to own too many corners
saying too little about love,

Lewis’s explication of agape
falling on ears listening

to a different drummer:
the rumble of cannon.

Rain began to fall heavily outside, and I retreated to my room to practice Centering Prayer taught in a workshop I attended Saturday here at Sewanee. The retreat to my room calmed me. Perhaps you might like to read Thomas Keating’s’ book, OPEN MIND, OPEN HEART. The method of prayer suggested in this book is not a way of pleading with God to bring peace or a means of ignoring the problems of the world. It’s a way of being with the Being that makes us aware that God can do anything. As Keating says: “All true prayer is based on the conviction of the presence of the Spirit in us and of his unfailing and continued inspiration.” And perhaps the prayer is a way of becoming grounded so that we have the disposition and energy to help bring about peace in the world.

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