Posts Tagged ‘Newtown’

Slowing Down After Newtown

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time…well, first of all, thank you. I am grateful that you’re willing to hang in and explore dialogue with me.

Second, you know that I periodically go missing when the demands of the book and the full-time job keep me away. The last couple of weeks—in which I’ve prepared for speaking engagements, launched a simple e-newsletter for subscribers to this blog, etc.—have become one of those “periodicallys.” I offer my apologies, even as I try to accept that this appears to be the way my life goes.

However, I did write something for the blog—indirectly—and I want to share it with you. The Public Conversations Project, which has designed and facilitated some of the most remarkable dialogues of the past 20-plus years, published my article on slowing down the rush to decision making in the wake of the Newtown shootings. In a way, it’s a complement to another article I posted here a while back: “A Place for Silence in the Face of Horror.” So please take a look at the Public Conversations Project post. I’d love to hear what you think.

Dialogue, Wisdom, and “Pondering How to Answer”

The mind of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil. —Proverbs 15:28

One marvelous aspect of lectio divina (the slow, reflective, contemplative reading of sacred texts) is that it allows “weak signals” to come to the surface—connections between words, ideas, and glimpses of wisdom we might otherwise miss. I’m currently wading through the Book of Proverbs in lectio-like fashion, and it brought me to the verse above.

What emerged for me was the contrast between pour and ponder.

Pour, at least in this sentence, has an urgency, a volume, even a violence to it. Think of the Gatorade that gets dumped on the head of a winning football coach: it comes out fast, it drenches everything in its wake, one pour and it’s over.

Now think of ponder. It is slow, quiet. When pondering, we turn over ideas leisurely and examine them thoughtfully. The movement is precisely opposite that of pour. The outcome of ponder emerges more slowly, but it may make a deeper impact.

As I reflected on this verse, I couldn’t help but go back to my earlier post on the aftermath of the Newtown shootings. Think of the pouring that took place soon after the tragedy: certainly an outpouring of shock and grief, but then a veritable tidal wave of opinion on every issue that could possibly relate.

Unlike the verse from Proverbs, I’m not thinking in terms of righteous or wicked here. In fact, not all the pouring was unhelpful; some of it, on the contrary, is required reading for the dialogue we must have in the wake of tragedies like this. (I’m thinking particularly of the haunting and honest “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother.”) But I could not avoid the notion that all this pouring crowded out any space for pondering.

So it is with U.S. culture. We are “always on,” with advertising in every conceivable space, 24/7 news, instant access to the chatter of social media on demand. So many public places (doctor’s waiting rooms, bank branches) now come equipped with TVs, which are inevitably on. Everything seems to require background music.

In other words, we are an always-pour culture. We could use more pondering. Many of our personal and social ills can only come to resolution through pondering. Issues from climate change to the fiscal cliff to raising a difficult teenager cannot be solved when the pouring absorbs all our time and attention. They are simply too complex for that.

How can we make space for pondering? The only way I know is on an individual basis. Facebook and CNN aren’t going away just because we need a little space. That calls on us to listen carefully to our inner compass—to sense when we need to enter the fray and when we need to “come away and refresh ourselves.”

What do you think?

A Place for Silence in the Face of Horror

The day after the horrific shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I had to tear myself away from the constant stream of news, updates, and emerging details. It simply became too much to bear. This reaction, in turn, got me thinking about one response to the tragedy about which I had heard almost nothing: silence. In response, I wrote an essay for The Huffington Post, which I now offer to you.

For those who celebrate Christmas, may the season to come be full of love and light. For everyone, I wish you the very best for 2013.