There is an air conditioner here, but I shut it off. It isn't necessary: the old walls of the convent are thick, and retain the coolness of the night well into the heat of day. It is early morning. I know I am not the first person awake here, as I usually am wherever I go: the sisters are accustomed to early rising.
This is the sisters' long retreat, an annual part of their rule of life. This year, it is completely silent, a great blessing for everyone, including me. From time to time a sister will meet with me for conversation. We have the Eucharist every morning and Compline every night. But mostly it is deeply quiet. One forgets how constant the chatter of ordinary life is, how constant and how tiring, until it is suddenly gone.
Most people are tired and don't know it. Over-stimulated and under-rested, laden with more and more tasks. Just this one more, and this, and this, okay? Okay, we say, and take on another one. Sure, I can do this. Okay. We are afraid to stop, suspecting that momentum is the chief energy source of our going forward. If I stop, I will be unable to begin moving again, with all this weight on my back.
Momentum is an insufficient source of energy for movement. Eventually it dwindles, defeated by friction, wind resistance, gravity -- the givens of life in the world of matter. And in the world of the spirit, as well: if all that propels you is your own motion, you need to stop. If what you do and say has meaning only because you've always done and said it, it's time to ask yourself if you really mean any of it.
Chances are, you do. You probably still stand behind your life's choices, powering them with a love that animates them beyond the simple weight of their continuing.
Or it may be that another choice presents itself for inspection. This is always an unsettling prospect, and often an unwelcome one, but it presents itself anyway, standing there stubbornly until you can summon the courage to look it in the eye. All right, you say, finally. Who are you, and what do you want?
I am with the Community of St. John Baptist in Mendham, NJ. You can see their lovely convent, 100 years old today, at www.csjb.org.