What one pursues when free of obligations indicates to me the source of one's vitalization, inspiration, and purification. This reference is not to be identified with the common forms of relief sought by a person due to stress or fatigue, but rather a communion with a life-source so engaging that it is prayerful.
"Glance at the sun. See the moon and the stars. Gaze at the beauty of the earth's greenings. Now, think." These words from Saint Hildegarde of Bingen captures the essence of leisure for me. At the near center of my self, the layer before the divine spark, I am able to define my deepest comfort and peace. It is there that the God-presence envelopes me through the beauty of nature. At the core, I am Thoreau at Walden Pond, Wordsworth a few miles above Tintern Abbey. Regardless of the season or the time of day, to stand before the earth's natural delights brings me to a tranquil grace and a transforming stillness. It is a time of sensory meditation that refreshes and confirms a spiritual beat to the motion of life and to the essence of my being. The more attentive I am to that environment, the more an experience of prayer it becomes. I emerge from the sojourn in a deep mood of peace and of courage.
In the first quarter of the sixteenth century a work by Roger Bacon entitled Of Travel described the purpose of journeying abroad and offers an interesting and revealing itinerary: " Travel in the younger sort is part of Education; in the elder, a part of Experience. He that travels into a country before he has some entrance into the language goes to school and not to travel. The things to be seen are: the courts of princes, the courts of justice, the churches, the monuments, walls, and fortifications, harbors, antiquities, ruins, and libraries, colleges, shipping and navies, houses and gardens, armories and arsenals, exchanges, warehouses, exercises of horsemanship, fencing, and training of soldiers, comedies of the better sort, treasuries of jewels, robes, and rarities, as well as triumphs, masques, feasts, weddings, and capital executions. It is doubtful that many of these attractions would rate mentioning even in the most eclectic of modern travel manuals. However, it provides timeless insights into the richness of learning and inspiration that awaits the dedicated traveler. Whether viewing the genius or the peculiarity of human civilizations, there is in all of it a response to the mystery of God and of creation.
The tragedy is that not all or, perhaps, even many people grasp the fullness of what is around them. In spite of the inclinations of one's nature, the importance and the power of this gift of leisure cannot be relegated to some gnostic possession, but must be sought as something readily available in the market place of human thought and feeling. One's preoccupation with the mundane ought not dull the senses to an atmosphere excited with the presence of the divine. If we are unique, then let us employ this uniqueness to conceive our particular method of penetrating the defenses that keep us spirituality impotent. As we enter the newness of each dawn, let a commitment to seeking the influence of that soothing grace be our Morning Prayer.
Poets by nature are attuned to their surroundings and offer varied impressions of the life they see. It is to one of these that I turn to find support for my vision.
"Earth is crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit and pluck blackberries."
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
One need not use the Old Testament image of Moses before the Burning Bush to capture the divine potentialities of the observance of the world around us. There need be only the willingness to be open to the manifold possibilities of encountering the Spirit in the running streams and the quiet pools inherent in living every day. Add more of this special understanding of leisure to your life and truly know it in its completeness and in its allure for the first time.
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