FRIDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY

 

To get a more or less accurate blood-pressure reading one has to take an average from several taken at regular intervals over a few days. In an annual medical check-up recently I discovered that there are frequently sharp spikes and falls even in three consecutive readings just a few minutes apart. I was also interested to learn that it’s normal for blood pressure to be higher in the morning. I would have thought after a good night’s sleep it would be lower but the circadian rhythm of the body clicks on in the last part of your sleep – I suppose to push you out of bed as soon as you wake up.
 
All of which shows that measuring things is not as easy as it sounds; and that there are mysteries in the universe of the human body that lie far beyond our understanding. Just like the cosmos with its vast areas of dark energy and mysterious expansion taking place within the same visible space. We call it dark because we can’t see or analyse it. In the same way we speak of the ‘dark night of the soul’ because, as the great mystics point out, we are blinded by the light of the spirit. Evagrius said that a sign of some progress in meditation is that we come ‘to see the light of one’s own spirit’. Maybe, in the variable patterns of our inner and outer universe, we see it and interpret it as darkness. We cannot look directly at the sun. Yet as the psalm says ‘in God’s light we see light’. We need to have surrendered our separate power of vision and understanding to the divine if we are to see things as they really are.
 
As when we compose a photo before pressing the shutter we zoom in and out in order to get the best shot in what feels like the best median range.. The moment of decision – ‘this is the best one’ – is an intuitive one rather than one based on technical measurements. I think I occasionally take a good photo  but when I think that, it’s a surprise and, of course, others may not see it as I do.
 
The ‘median’ is preferable to the ‘average’. The average is the total divided by the number of entries. The median is the middle value, for which half the numbers are higher and half are smaller. I think I understand what this means and it feels as if it frees us from the tyranny of thinking the truth can be simply caught and measured. It has to be found in the middle. Please tell me if I’m wrong.
 
In any case, intuition works best when the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing. Jesus said this concerning doing ‘good works’ without falling into the trap of doing them for the good feeling it gives us. Other-centredness, altruism, freedom for attachment are needed for goodness to thrive and keep it safe from the ego’s possessiveness.
 
As the 60 kilometre Russian convoy snakes towards Kyiv to lay siege to the capital in a primitive act of inhumanity these are not ideas that many people there will be discussing. But for us at a safe, though not unfeeling distance, perhaps it is important to think how we find and hold to the truth in the centre of reality. As for Lent, holding to the centre releases wisdom and intuition about what is appropriate: when to fast and when to feast as Jesus says in today’s gospel:
 
"...the bridegroom’s attendants would never think of mourning as long as the bridegroom is still with them? But the time will come for the bridegroom to be taken away from them, and then they will fast. (Mt 9:15)"
 
Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2022
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