I subscribe to the podcast, On Being, hosted by Krista Tippett. In a recent episode, Tippett interviews the journalist and novelist, Pico Iyer, about the “inner world.” It is a beautiful conversation and I recommend listening to the entire podcast.
But, one thing that caught my attention with regard to the necessary space of stillness was its intersection with the very active nature of travel. His observation (exhortation?) is this: “anybody who travels knows that you’re not really doing so in order to move around — you’re travelling in order to be moved.” His point is that traveling is not really about seeing a place, checking off locales on an itinerary to be achieved (Instagrammed, Snapchatted, Tweeted). When we go to another place, we are transformed by it—the culture, the food, the music, the people.
We are moved, however, only when we are still within that place or space. That is, being moved is only possible when we pay attention, stop and look, and really see . . . listen . . . taste . . . know . . . love.
It is the same when we travel the space of home and of work and school, the neighborhood. Iyer continues, it is in stillness that we understand what “spirituality is . . . the story of our passionate affair with what is deepest inside us and with the candle that’s always flickering inside us and sometimes almost seems to go out and sometimes blazes.” And—Iyer confesses he’s “stealing from the Dalai Lama”—the cultivation of the inner world occurs in the context of community. The result, or expression of this intersection is kindness: “the most important thing without which we can’t live is kindness. We need that to survive.”
Kindness, love made real, reminds us “to ground ourselves in the people around us before we start thinking about our texts and our notions of the absolute.” That is, to be kind, to love, is to see God in others—love and kindness make us who we are as spiritual beings. It is only then that doctrine and precepts can help us make some sense of Reality. To be human is to be connected with one another at that deeper level, in the truest sense of who we are as Image-bearers. Silence and solitude is that space for recharging, refueling, growing to understand the truest self. These days, we are so centered on our mobile devices that only approximate connection. I love what Iyer says to this:
“. . . it’s only when we recharge our soul, we can make better use of our devices. Part of my concern about the digital age is that the beauty of it is we can make contact with people on the far corners of the earth. The challenge is we sometimes lose contact with ourselves, especially our deeper selves. And then we’re tempted more to define ourselves in terms of what doesn’t matter and what is not going to last very long, whether it’s our looks, our finances, or our resume. And I don’t think anyone gets the richer if he or she defines herself in those terms. So I think to be human is to try to find the best part of yourself that is, in fact, beyond yourself, much wiser than you are, and have that to share with everyone you care for.”
And, that is my prayer: may we pay attention to the beauty around us—the places in which we move, the people with whom we engage, come to know and be known by. And, in this way, may we grow into who we are most truly, and be transformed by those who travel the road with us!