Thank you to those who helped host our gathering last Sunday. It allowed me and my family to take a break.
I am extremely grateful that it is part of my job as a minister to take the Commandments seriously and that includes rest. I suspect that the command to stop and take a Sabbath is one of the most radical here in the Silicon Valley. But in my own experience, taking pauses is one of the best ways to live sustainably and also to create inspired work.
Never stopping might appear efficient in the short-term. We are a culture that values action and busyness and at the very least the appearance of productivity. What matters is economic growth that results in increased material value, at almost any cost to human lives or to the livelihood of the natural world.
My smartphone eventually died on our camping trip and then I could focus on the sunsets and the sand dollars. The Mid-Coast of California is marvelous, with huge rocks and rolling green hills.
As the unrelenting wind sent ripples through our tent, I felt oddly small and insignificant- immediately in awe of how fragile human skin and sensibilities really are, in the presence of our rugged and vast creation.
I cherish wildness. It is unapologetic about the fact that it needs nothing of human beings. It roars and rages, whether we or not our hearts beat.
I marched for the climate yesterday and for science last week. These struggles need people of faith and people of conscience and people of all kinds who care. In the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, many of those with the most political and economic power on our planet continue to plan their present and future dynasties on fossil fuels. What will it take for this to change? What will it take for their minds to be opened?
I am wondering what is required for any of us to have our thinking expanded? What needs to happen for us to see the same situation and recognize something different about it?
We are still in Eastertide in the Christian tradition and in that context we have this story where Jesus makes an appearance on a dusty road, but no one, not even his friends recognize that it is him. His followers are clearly still flummoxed after his death. And it is only after they share a meal together that they figure out it is Jesus. He freaks out more people by being a dead person that preaches peace and then the text says “he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.” D Mark Davis points out that the Greek word used for open the mind dienoizein points to the nominal version of the verb dianoia, the noun used earlier, in love God with all your mind.
This same Greek word, dianoia (Greek: διάνοια), was used by Plato for a category of discursive thinking about mathematical and technical subjects. It is the capacity for the process of proceeding to a conclusion through reason rather than intuition. Dianoia, discursive, decisions…based in logic.
This leads me to posit that perhaps when Jesus appeared to his friends and “opened their minds” he was asking them to come to a conclusion through reason. Even when it doesn’t fit your current paradigm, harness the capabilities of the mind.
Reason by definition is the power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic. Maybe one of Jesus’ last teachings was about nurturing the power of the human mind.
This is important because just like then, most of us are quick to invest in our emotional response. We reject what doesn’t fit. Emotional responses are often rooted in fears or judgments about people or situations that may or may not be right.
Responding from reason is something different.
Some expressions of American Christianity have left reason behind a while ago. Otherwise how could continued support of climate change denial be justified?
As people of faith, I believe we must remain committed to reason and the power of the human mind. Whether it is about climate change or human sexuality or internalized racial bias, it is our duty to be moved by logic, it is our call to be open to constantly forming new pathways in our brains and hearts. Our journey of being opened and having our view widened is never done.
What is required for any of us to have our thinking expanded? What needs to happen for us to see the same situation and recognize something different about it?
We must always be open to being moved by new information, as if our very desire to be moved is a prayer in and of itself. Our faith in Love compels to strive for curiosity and thinking about things differently based on what is revealed.
We must reclaim the moral importance of reason, of having our minds opened and changed. It is not a sin to be wrong, but I believe it is sacrilege to know the truth and doing nothing about it.
“The phrase that is typically translated to “love God with all your … mind” has the noun dianoia, which is the nominal version of this verb “open the mind” dienoizein.” D Mark Davis, Left Behind and Loving It, 2015.