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The On Being Project

When We Lose Our Center: Remembering the Spaces and People That Bring Us Together

Krista is in the final stretch of her book tour for Becoming Wise, and she’ll be ending her journey in Los Angeles on Thursday, April 21st at Wilshire Temple. I’ll be making the trip and would love to see you there. Please say hello!

I’m pleased to introduce you to Sarah Smarsh, a marvelous journalist who writes about socioeconomic class, place, and other boundaries in America. She will be writing a bi-weekly column for us, published every other Tuesday morning. So glad to have her aboard!

St. Rose Catholic Church in Mt. Vernon, Kansas. (Chris Harris)

Sarah’s first commentary touches on something near and dear to many of us, the vernacular of sacred spaces, built places. In this hyper-connected digital world, we lose a sense of the physical spaces crafted for ritual and coming together:

“When we become so abstract in our experience that the physical realm becomes secondary, we dangerously dismiss and detach from our earth, our ecosystems, our fellow humans, ourselves.”

At Hancock Shaker Village, each building is painted a different color to indicate its use: white for a meeting house, a light hue for dwellings, dark red or brown for barns and back buildings. (Rick Payette / Flickr / Some Rights Reserved)

Guest contributor Robert Boucheron, an architect in Charlottesville, Virginia, tugs on this thread a bit more. His entry point is the Shaker community’s built environment and their relationship to simplicity, austerity, and abundance through the buildings they erected and the furniture they made:

“Perhaps this is the Shaker Library, with stalls for cows instead of books. As architecture, it teases us. Silent and perfect, a lovely form for a lowly function, it asks us what is holy.”

(Gisella Klein / Flickr / Some Rights Reserved)

“Rather than allowing our minds to spin stories about our life-long anger or inability to cope with the difficulties of life, we can create space for ourselves to feel without drowning in a given feeling. The creation of that space is the essence of equanimity.”

Sharon Salzberg’s latest column, “A Safe Space in Equanimity,” speaks to the rooms we create for ourselves. Life can be frustrating, and we often react with resistance, or overwhelm. She reminds us that emotional balance doesn’t come from denying feelings, but from allowing them to play out fully.

(Doug Kentner / Flickr / Some Rights Reserved)

We so often highlight acts of hostility and hate, but we have a tougher time amplifying the good that’s around us. Our most engaging post of the week comes from Omid Safi, who appeals to our collective power to undermine hatred and offensive discourse:

“Friends, let us stand next to one another, shoulder to shoulder, mirroring the good and the beautiful. Shine a light on the good. Applaud the good. Become an advocate of the good and the beautiful. Let us hang on to the faith that ultimately light overcomes darkness, and love conquers hate. It is the only thing that ever has, ever will, and does today.”

(Jens Schott Knudsen / Flickr / Some Rights Reserved)

I believe Seth Chalmer speaks to this generosity of seeing the good in others in his guest post, “The Tension of Faith: Why I Appreciate Christians Who Believe I’m Going to Hell”:

“I now see in traditionalist Christians a kind of kindred spirit, however starkly our theologies assuredly diverge. Like me, they carry an ancient teaching, which they dare not presume to rewrite in their own image.”

(Jev55 / Flickr / Some Rights Reserved)

This seeing extends across generations. Parker Palmer invites older generations to celebrate the gifts of the young — their energy, their vision, their hope — and recognize the valuable knowledge contained within in every age:

“Age has taught me that mentoring is not a one-way street. It’s a mutuality in which two people evoke the potentials in each other.”

(Amanda Tipton / Flickr / Some Rights Reserved)

“I want my arms to be so wide, my language so generous, that none of it feels off-limits, either because it fits the stereotype or defies it.”

How do we navigate the fluid dynamics of sex, gender, and identity in our children when we are drawn to the comfort of binaries? Pregnant with her second child, Courtney Martin wonders out loud about her own inclinations and attachments while raising children.
Until next week, please feel free to contact me at [email protected], or via Twitter at @trentgilliss.
May the wind always be at your back.

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