“There is no ability to live with paradox, mystery — which is exactly what contemplation teaches you — to live with contradictions, unresolved ones; in fact, if we don’t teach people that I don’t think we’re preparing you for the only life you’ll ever have… every one of you are facing a half dozen unresolvable contradictions, in yourself, in your marriage, in your children, in your country, in your church… and if you can’t learn how to hold those with patience, and forgiveness, and freedom, and even joy, you’re a pretty bitter person by the time you get to my age.”
― Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM
FIRSTLY, what do we mean by shalom? Then, how does that relate to what Father Rohr is saying? And then, so what?
Without referencing anything I posit that shalom is a state of being. And there is so much in that; of being rather than doing; of sitting still in the heart; of a mind at rest. This is possibly the hardest thing to do in our world — to refrain not simply from activity, but from the gravitations of our thoughts, the surges of our feelings, and to resist distraction through a paradoxical mindfulness that sustains cognitive emptiness. Life simply coming at us and us bearing it.
The Rohr quote is pungent with truth. It describes an existential challenge few approach, let alone seek to master.
Life is a moving feast of unresolvable contradictions. And it is impossible to master any of them because every day is too dynamic, besides the variables we encounter that we cannot predict. Our only solution is to stand apart from life, covet its machinations much less, and learn to be centrist in every area of life.
What I mean is our views, our opinions, cost us dearly. We all judge too much. It’s not to say we cannot be passionate about aspects of life, we just need to decide what we’ll be passionate about — something worthier and sustainable — like the ability to appreciate a range of views and opinions without judging any of them; like being an advocate in nonviolent, non-violating ways.
It brings to bear the great power in the Serenity Prayer… accept the things, and every other person, that we cannot change… have the courage to challenge and change the person we can: us… apply the wisdom that discerns the difference.
The irresolvable contradictions are beautiful, to this extent: God uses them to rein us in. He gets our attention if we have the humility to acknowledge what it does us no good to ignore.
Shalom is a chosen and trained state of being, possible in the fury of chaos, like a clock ticking methodically away even in a thunderstorm.
Shalom is the journey God invites us to join Him on. To accept the limits of change and, where appropriate, to challenge the limits we accept.