The Inner Gesture of Dying

An excerpt from a longer piece by Brother David Steindl-Rast, re-posted from his piece “Learning to Die” in Parabola (February 29, 2016).

Most of what I have said simply means: let’s learn to die so that, when our last hour comes and if we are still alert to it, we will be able to die well. But at any rate let’s learn it, and that means let’s learn to give ourselves over and over again to that which takes us; let go of things, or rather give up as a mother gives up. Let go is a little too passive, it comes too close to letting down; giving up is the truly sacrificial gesture. So in many traditions you have this notion that throughout our lives we train for a right dying; and that means to train for flowing with life, for giving ourselves. And this suggests some more symptomatic idioms of taking and giving that show ways we can make the inner gesture of dying: giving thanks instead of taking for granted; giving up rather than taking possession: for-giving as, opposed to taking offense. What we take for granted does not make us happy; what we hold on to deteriorates in our grasp; what we take offense at we make into a hurdle we can’t get past. But in giving thanks, giving up, forgiving, we die here and now and become more fully alive.

There Is No End to Connectedness

Steindl RastFrom Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast in an Onbeing interview with Krista Tippett (January 2016):

I remember, the grace that Buddhists pray before a meal starts with the words, “Innumerable beings brought us this food. We should know how it comes to us.” And when you put that into practice and look at what’s there at your table, on your plate, there is no end to connectedness. In the end, for instance, most people don’t think of it, but in the end, we always eat earth. We eat earth. Not in an abstract way, in a very concrete way. This humus is what we eat, or crystals when we eat salt, it’s pretty obvious that comes out of the earth. That’s earth, directly.

When we eat vegetables, well, the vegetables were nourished by all the nutrients in the earth, and then now we eat them, or the fruits of these plants. If you eat meat or fish, then they were nourished by vegetables, and they were nourished by the earth. Always comes back to earth. But that is only one aspect. Most of it was grown, so people had to work on sowing it, and harvesting it, packaging it, transporting it. There you have already a couple of thousand people whom you will never see, never know by name, never meet, and yet without them, there wouldn’t be anything on your plate. There’s this wonderful cartoon where the family sits at Thanksgiving around the table and says, “Thank you, Jesus.” And then in a cloud comes a farm worker, whose name happens to be Jesus, like the Mexican farm workers.

They and Us

brother-davidReprinted from an interview Rex Weyler and Catherine Ingram did with Brother David Steindl-Rast in New Age, September 1983:

How can people learn to communicate effectively, without anger or aggression?

That is where we have to work with ourselves. Anger in itself is not really wrong, but we cannot allow our anger to carry us away and make us violent. This I find myself a most difficult task: to always think in terms of “we” and not “they and us.” The moment that you divide people with they and us, you’re always on the right side and they are always on the wrong side, and I find that makes communication very, very difficult. Continue reading “They and Us”