We just have to have FUN!!!!!!! Gail, came for a visit yesterday. She brings Banana Cake, and we have strong coffee with it. It is a very nice ritual that we have and we sit and talk. She is like a large minority of the population that is thoughtful and in this thoughtfulness, being aware can cause some concerns for her. This important group of people are often overlooked because their perspective is a call to introspection, and if I may use the word, conversion. She lives in the town of Decatur, close to downtown Atlanta. It is a beautiful township and over the years I have always enjoyed driving through there. In the past, way back in the 80’s I used to drive once a week for the Monastery to do shopping and a couple times a month I would have to go to one business or another. Back then it was much smaller, but the town today has not ‘yet’ lost its charm. Gail has a very deep affinity with nature. She loves being out in the woods, or in the spaces around Decatur that allow some place to be quiet and breathe. Her concern is that these places in her town are becoming less. She has a favorite place near the railroad in Decatur that she loves to go to when she is out walking (she really, really, loves walking), and is saddened that it may soon be changed into something else. A change that will take away something important from her home turf. Her concern was that all of these little green places are being turned into ‘fun places’. They are going to paint the sidewalks with patches of different colors and have games there, so people can have “FUN”. “We are losing our places where one can go and just be silent and alone for a while in order to get refreshed. Now we have to have fun and games, with no silence to simply be in”. She said this with a great deal of intensity….it is prophetic I believe. I do think gathering places are needed and I do believe we have plenty of those. I also believe that places where people can go and simple rest and be silent and pray if they want to, or just think, or read, or lie in the Sun, may becoming rarer. She speaks for many people I believe. I often wonder if some of the outbreaks of violence are brought about by people who are stretched to the limit and have no place to rest. I do believe that our so-called extroverted culture has a large contingent of people who are compensating Introverts. People learn to fit in, but for an introvert the constant fitting in, doing, is very draining and can lead to frustration, anger and eventually rage. When I was very young, I was quiet and withdrawn. Being part of a large family helped me to learn to be with other people, yet at a cost. One of the good things about being an extrovert is that being around people energies and give life. Being alone, while needed from time to time for an extrovert will lead to becoming tired. The opposite is true for introverts. Being alone gives us energy and with that, we can go out and be with and share with others, yet too much can lead to exhaustion. So every day we pass people, many people who can find no place of rest. Work, chores, the internet and having fun can have over time a detrimental effect on their emotional, mental as well as spiritual lives. Of course, people are unique, so when speaking about introversion and extroversion I am not really being black and white about it. What I am saying is that silence, quiet and a place to just be, even for a longer or shorter periods of time is needed, necessary, and today we may be forgetting that, at least on the popular culture level. Here at our retreat house when some people come, they are surprised that they may simply sleep the whole weekend, or if not that, they have no desire to be with others, but stay in their rooms, read and pray. Many leave refreshed. If it is their first time, they are happy with the discovery that being alone and quiet is healing. I know that many will find that surprising, but just look at what is on TV, or on the radio, or how people relax……they go to places with lots of noise, excitement and yes FUN. We each have to find our own balance. That is also true for those who live in Monasteries. Being alone is not always easy, but when we are allowing ourselves to go inward, we have to make choices on how we respond to what rises to the surfaces. We mature, grow and become happier when we actually do that instead of trying to stay one step ahead of what may be perceived as emptiness, and nothingness, but is in reality ‘Living Water’ that we need to drink in large draughts. Religion, or one’s faith path, can give structure on how we face our deep, complex inner world, which is filled with light and darkness. Learning to listen to ourselves without being pushed around can only happen if we have a solid rock or place to stand from. As a Christian I have my way of doing that, others who like solitude who are not theist, Christian, or follow another faith have their own way of going inward and in that finding healing. It is not easy, but to ignore our inner selves and the call of the transcendent can lead to something much more painful and confusing. What we run from will catch up to us and demand that we deal with it. If we ignore the call, one day we will hit bottom and then have to deal with it, for the only way is up, or to stay stuck or even sink. Our lives are important, our inner lives need attending to, and if any culture tries to keep people away from that so they can be controlled is reaping wind and will harvest the whirlwind.