Sunday, August 24, 2008

Marching To A Different Cadence

It’s interesting, at least to me, how passing the half-century marker a few years ago caused me to begin looking at life differently, weighing priorities, examining motives, both my own and those of others around me, in my search for a more deeply meaningful life, one where eternal values collide and overtake temporal ones rather than trying to fit my own finite schemes into something much more cosmic than I am. The search has turned out to be quite the journey, a real quest.[1] It is a personal pilgrimage replete with plenty of conflict and friction, particularly in a world that insists that we live by its prescribed standards and travel according to its own laid out routes, a world where coloring outside the lines is quite effectively discouraged by one social means or another.

Cadence is an integral part of life, even when we color outside the lines. A simple cadence of life is something that Benedict’s way of life safeguards. The monk’s day is apportioned to insure ample time for prayer, work, reading and rest – a daily cadence that is quite contrary to the way life is lived by most in the world outside the monastic enclosure. Scheduling time, outside a monastery setting, for the most important things in life that can otherwise go neglected, is something of a challenge in our modern day culture. The tyranny of the urgent too often prevails while the steering currents of the world beat hard against us like an angry wind blowing against a small, struggling vessel on a raging sea.[2]

Life, something precious and short, all too often finds itself catapulted into an impatient harried pace marching on to the tune of the earthly economic powers calling their own style of cadence. Its cadence sets a pace that is measured by profit and possession. Its pace is one that knows no compassion. It is one that gives no consideration to the fact that we have no control over when our vehicles break down, bouts of illness or layoffs that drain our strength and resources, or the reality that the best thing we can possibly give to family and friends is the unconditional gift of ourselves.

We can’t help but to hear the cadence being amplified on societies bullhorns and we are, to a certain unavoidable degree, influenced by its loud noise. We are, after all, fellow citizens of the modern age. But we choose to listen and respond to the softer, gentler one that’s heard with the ears of the heart.[3] It is here, in the regions of the heart, that our affections are purified, our desires changed, our lives reoriented. These changes in our interior region foster a climate where contemplative peace lives and flourishes. They do, at the same time, become a source of unavoidable friction and conflict[4] in an earthly arena where most people don’t hear the softer cadence and don’t understand, or care to understand, why we choose to live the way we do.

[1] Philippians 2:5-8
[2] Ephesians 6:12
[3] RB Prologue 1
[4] 2 Thessalonians 3:2