We’ve had a lot on our minds recently – one thing or another, one thing after another. It’s hard to feel a degree of control or a sense of peace. In this context I found myself explaining to a Christian gentleman why I meditate. “In the midst of all the craziness inside and outside my mind, I want to find peace and deep quiet joy. Meditation – focus on the consciousness beneath thought and feeling – takes me there. It’s like the prayer practice I used to dismiss as fruitless, that of handing over all one’s troubles to God. It’s really the same practice – finding peace and joy for at least a few moments by letting go momentarily of the struggles and worries to regain myself and my strength. In Christian language, I said, It’s returning to a full state of grace – and knowing you can go there anytime.
It made me think of Chocolat – no, not my addiction, but the movie starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp, which starts with the little French town at church listening to the young priest, beleaguered by the town’s severe magistrate, preaching about sinfulness, inescapable but for the atonement of the divine Christ. By the end of the movie, at Easter Mass, with chocolate playing no small role, the young priest has transcended the magistrate and, in effect, become a unitarian and a universalist, winging it in the pulpit and preaching “I’m not sure what the theme of my homily today ought to be. Do I want to speak of the miracle of our Lord’s divine transformation? Not really, no. I don’t want to talk about His divinity. I’d rather talk about His humanity. I mean – you know – how he lived his life here on Earth. His kindness. His tolerance. Listen, here’s what I think. I think we can’t go around measuring our goodness by what we don’t do. By what we deny ourselves what we resist and who we exclude. I think we’ve got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create, and who we include.”
The movie’s narrator concluded by saying, “It was certainly not the most fiery sermon Pere Henri would ever preach nor the most eloquent. But the parishioners felt a new sensation that day. A lightening of the spirit. A freedom from the old tranquilite.”
The lightening of the spirit, the freedom from stultification and petrification, the generous appreciative flow of creativity – that’s the state of grace we can learn to be in with a bit of practice – and my hope for you and me.