Isolation and distancing are cold words that have entered our vocabulary of late, but are they truthful words? In keeping behind our own doors do we really find ourselves to be separate from others? Does the silence of these days speak of how we are apart, or does it rather invite us to discover how true it is that we are not separate from each other?
In many ways, this period of staying at home underlines the truth of our connectedness. Indeed, the only reason we are doing this is because we are connected to each other, because our actions have an impact on others. This time invites us to realise ever more fully what it means to overcome our sense of division, to realise our interdependence. Christianity speaks of communion, Zen Buddhism of non-dualism. The Jesuit Robert Kennedy, in his recently revised book, Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit, quotes a couple of sentences from John Wu’s The Golden Age of Zen:
When all things return to the One, even gold loses its value.
But when the One returns to all things, even the pebbles sparkle.
Kennedy goes on to say that ‘the One is contained whole and entire in each fragment of all things’ and shows how, for the Christian, this is manifested in the Eucharistic presence of Jesus, whose presence is not diminished by being divided at the fraction of the bread. This realisation has profound implications for us at this time. It reminds us that we are present to each other because we are united in the One. It reminds us that our service to the hungry, sick and imprisoned is a service to Christ himself. And it reminds us that when one offers the Eucharistic sacrifice, all are in communion because all are present. Of course we want to be back in the place where our physical closeness expresses our fundamental non-separation, but for now we express our non-separation through our physical distance.
One of the ways we collapse that distance most effectively, or rather, we collapse the illusion of our distance, is by sitting in silent meditation. We can do this simultaneously – why not agree a time with some friends? – and our rapid education in online contact also aids this shared practice. I’ll be offering more such opportunities in due course so please watch this space!