Last Sunday, the church school teacher engaged the children in a children’s sermon about rules. She began by asking them if they had ever played “Hide and Seek”. Most of them had. Then she asked them about the rules for playing “Hide and Seek.” Some said the “seeker” had to count to 100 while others said counting to 50 was the rule. Each child had different ideas about the rule for establishing “out of bounds” and there were varying opinions about what the seeker needed to do if they caught a person before she reached “home free.” The rules for “Hide and Seek” vary from place to place depending on the traditions of a neighborhood or group of kids. Sometimes the rules are pretty simple. At other times they may be more involved and complex in the curious way that rules for games evolve. The church school teacher moved the discussion along by observing that it is confusing for us if the rules for playing a game are not clear or if they keep changing.
She then segued into talking about Micah and the text for the day: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8 NRSV) “Rules” - - principles to live by that do not change depending on the neighborhood tradition or the group of “kids” with whom I am playing. While how I live them out may involve a complexity of thought and action, the principles themselves are straight forward - - fairness -kindness - humility in daily living and interactions.
I continue to return to Christina Feldman’s book The Buddhist Path To Simplicity: Spiritual Practice For Everyday Life and I’m currently re-reading her chapter on Integrity. She writes: The exploration of integrity is the exploration of integrity and freedom. It is integrity of heart that directly contributes to releasing us from the distress of guilt, regret, shame, and fear...Adherence to rules alone can disguise unethical sentiments of moral superiority, self righteousness, or fear. A truly ethical life is born of wisdom and contributes to wisdom, it is born of compassion and embodies compassion....our (spiritual) teachers have been met in the countless experiences of our lives that teach us the ways of generating complexity and confusion, and the ways of cultivating simplicity and peace.
As I listen to and read about the intense energy surrounding the seating of the next judge to the Supreme Court, I can’t help reflecting on the way the complexity of the drama reflects the elements of guilt, shame, fear, regret - - and how the firm and unyielding embrace of a complex order of rules for the process serves to “disguise unethical sentiments of moral superiority, self righteousness or fear” rather than adding to the sum of wisdom and compassion required for a just and sane outcome.
Richard Rohr, of the Center For Action and Contemplation,writes in his daily meditation for today: Human history is in a time of great flux, of great cultural and spiritual change. The psyche doesn’t know what to do with so much information.....In light of today’s information overload, people are looking for a few clear certitudes by which to define themselves.
Kids need clear and unambiguous rules in order to enjoy a satisfying game of hide and seek. In our search for the truth in the midst of the lack of certitudes, in our desire for unambiguous guidelines for how to proceed in our discernment we might do well to sit with Micah a bit and perhaps feel in our bones what “the Lord requires” - - to do justice and act with fairness, to love kindness and act with mercy and compassion, to walk humbly with the Source of Being, and get our immense egos out of the way so that we can more clearly hear what is good and what is required.
The path Micah offers is one of relative simplicity. We each hear “do justice, love kindness, walk humbly.....” with different ears and with different ways of responding, but the challenge offers a way to engender simplicity and peace rather than complexity and confusion in the midst of deeply trying times.