Patience is another name for peace

It has been a very long pause… long pause in blogging, writing diary and social networking. I started February with a great determination to get back to regular schedule of weekly posts and then it happened. Someone very close to me was facing a difficult situation when unexpectedly becoming a primary caregiver to his newborn baby while the baby’s mother was in the hospital for an extended period.

Suddenly everyone in the family was on a steep learning curve of managing a crisis mode while learning all about baby care – milk formulas, nappies, burping, tummy issues, baths, etc. I remember how “relieved” we felt after the pediatrician had the first monthly check-up and gave a good report. It did not help that all this happened during the Covid-19 pandemic when our “lives as we know it” got severely interrupted and most of normal routines had to stop. It added so many complications that I cannot even begin to describe.

But something else happened. An unexpected twist which I will try to put into words. It seemed that during the quarantine the word on the street or, in this case, the word online was “time”. We have time. We have more time. Finally we have got the time. We have been forced to stop from our rat race and now we have time for what really matters. With all the million suggestions in articles, podcasts, interviews and talks to describe, analyze and define what is it that really matters.

But to me it felt like I had lost the time. More precisely, like I was living outside the time. Like the time stood still. Until I realized that this is probably what living in the moment feels like. I was pushing the baby carriage for long walks in the park, smelling the spring in the air, watching how people keep the distance from each other but still prefer to walk where they can see each other. Besides time to listen to some uplifting and inspiring podcasts, I kept reflecting on how this little helpless baby is teaching me something very important. The baby could not speak but every time she looked at me I heard loudly – slow down! I could not fix the difficult situation that my loved ones were in, but through this sense of slowing down I was also sensing a lot of hope in the midst of confusion and pain.

Today I found the exact words I was looking for. In a beautiful little book titled “Living Gently in a Violent World”, theologian Stanley Hauerwas writes: “Peace takes time. Put even more strongly, peace creates time by its steadfast refusal to force the other to submit in the name of order. Peace is not a static state but an activity which requires constant attention and care. [..] So, peace is the process through which we make time our own rather than be determined by “events”over which, it is alleged, we have no control.”

That is exactly how I felt it and saw it – I was learning in a new way how to make personal and social peace through an activity which required constant attention and care. I mean literal attention and literal care. And I am not talking about mindfulness, meditation or any other spiritual practice to “slow us down”. I am talking about listening intently to the “weakest” and “slowest” members of our community.

I would like to think of myself as a very patient person, but the little daily things routinely remind me that I am not. I walk back and forth, while I wait for the public transportation, to “kill the time”. I listen to a podcast, while on the public transport, to “fill the time”. But God through a little baby was revealing to me how to “still the time”.

Because at the heart of “living more gently in a violent world” is the realization that I have all the time I need.

P.S. I borrowed the phrase of Stanly Hauerwas for the title of this post.  It was simply too good 🙂

Define ‘happy’ and ‘new year’

A Rwandan friend of mine posted a question on Facebook: “what does ‘happy new year’ mean?” He inspired me to write my own response.

It is January 1, 2016… the first day of a new year. We measure time by counting years but I like to think more in terms of ‘seasons’. There is no magic line that gets crossed just because the date changes. Most things carry over into the next year.

What will carry over from 2015? Thinking globally, I will say that most of the events and responses of last year will continue to have ripple effect on our future. I remember a song from 1991 that was relevant to my generation. Yes, Generation X.  The British band Jesus Jones sang:

“A woman on the radio talks about revolution
When it’s already passed her by
Bob Dylan didn’t have this to sing about you
You know it feels good to be alive
I was alive and I waited, waited
I was alive and I waited for this
Right here, right now, there is no other place I wanna be
Right here, right now, watching the world wake up from history
I saw the decade in, when it seemed
The world could change at the blink of an eye
And if anything then there’s your sign
Of the times

I was alive and I waited, waited
I was alive and I waited for this
Right here, right now”

I wonder how many of us still feel this way?! I wonder what kind of song would Jesus Jones write right here and right now? I cannot count how many times I have heard the words “the world has gone crazy” this last year. Mostly from my friends in the so called ‘Western countries’. One of the lines stuck in my mind are the words of a well-known Russian TV host and journalist, Vladimir Pozner, “I get an impression that the world has lost its mind. I want to say: Stop the Planet! I want to get off…”

This is an understandable way to respond. Wanting to withdraw. And many people are choosing to do just that. The other option is to call to arms and try to fix it. Usually by force because ‘people just don’t obey’ or ‘don’t know any better’. There are plenty of people who believe that the end justifies the means and trying to build their visions of  ‘happy new era’ by violent force. (yes, I am speaking of the extremists – ISIS and such)

So, the common options for making the ‘happy future’ is fight or flight. Personally I don’t choose either because I believe in another way. This is what my friend also mentions in his post. And this is also the way I am trying to learn from Jesus whom I consider the greatest example of how to bring a radical change around us.

AndrĂ© TrocmĂ©, a French minister who helped to rescue thousands of Jewish people during the Holocaust, wrote: “Jesus’ refusal to use force was therefore not some extra historical dream of a mystic trying to forget the concrete realities of this world. He did not ignore the human condition. His way was a step-by-step journey through the obstacles, mountain passes, snares, and cliffs of history. Jesus carved a new path into the hardness of human realities, a path he trod first, carrying on his shoulders the way of the cross and all the requirements of the kingdom of God: social justice, radical transformation, commitment to truth, and personal regeneration.”

When I think of next year, I can see lots of these ‘obstacles, mountain passes, snares, and cliffs of history’. Or to use the words of my friend Noel, “I am not going to promise you that this year will lead you on smooth roads, but you will be reminded that you got shock absorption abilities.”

What are our shock absorption devices? What is our definition of ‘happy new year’? What are we going to do make this next year happier for those around us?

The answers will come day by day if we are willing to search for them. And I will have a very happy year if I take each step with more love and more courage…