November 1 – The Next Moment of Love, Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening
“To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his or her work for peace.” Thomas Merton
Merton wisely challenges us not just to slow down, but, at the heart of it, to accept our limitations. We are at best filled with the divine, but we have only two hands and one heart. In a deep and subtle way, the want to do it all is a want to be it all, and though it comes from a desire to do good, it often becomes frenzied because our egos seize our goodness as a way to be revered.
I have done this many times: not wanting to say no, not wanting to miss an opportunity, not wanting to be seen as less than totally compassionate. But wherever I cannot bring my entire being, I am not there. It is like offering to bring too many cups of coffee through a crowd. I always spill something hot on some innocent along the way.
Helen Luke speaks to all this when she talks of the trap of good works. She refers to “those who take refuge from themselves in an unreflective pursuit of good, pouring all their energy into the redemption of society and other people, while blind to their own personal darkness.”
It seems the old adage is a place to start: Do one thing and do it well. Though I would offer it as: Do one thing at a time and do it entirely, and it will lead you to the next moment of love.