The "Science Times" section in the New York Times never lets me down! Not sure why it's one of the highlights of my week (and sometimes the only part of the paper I have time to read), but it is. Not a week passes without some intriguing piece of research or illuminating discovery - earthly or unearthly. Awhile back there was an article about crickets and grasshoppers and how they were having a pretty difficult time living in urban areas. It seems that the excessive noise level from highway traffic had forced them to change their whole way of communicating with one another - especially their attempts to send love songs to prospective mates. The article was entitled "Love Songs Adapted for the Rush Hour," and the latest research explained that road noises "can mask the grasshoppers' and crickets' signals." The study stated further that this increase in human "noise" is having a steady negative impact not only on crickets and grasshoppers but also on the songs of birds and frogs. Their unique and beautiful ways of interacting are being drowned out by all of our hectic, fast-paced, got-to-get-there way of living. I guess the good news is that these little creatures of God are able to adapt - they still communicate and just have to sing their love songs in a different key. Ahhow the cycle of nature persists in spite of us.
Our cycle of religious life persists in spite of us as well. For Christians the season of Lent began on March 5 with Ash Wednesday. Steeped in our rich Jewish tradition of Moses spending time with the Lord for "forty days and forty nights," (Exodus 34), the Christian calendar exhorts us to spend time on the mountaintop or in the wilderness of our hearts and souls - anywhere spiritually that offers us some modicum of solitude to reflect upon how to strengthen our relationship with God through one another. But where to find solitude in the midst of high-season on the island! Where to sing our love songs of compassion, empathy and care in the midst of the cacophony of traffic, social events, fund raisers, doctors' appointments, and plain old daily living!
Thomas Merton, spiritual writer and Trappist monk who died in 1968, also felt excessively pushed and pulled by our world, its demands, and its accompanying noise - so much so that he felt compelled to retreat into solitude in a monastery setting. However, his "retreat" into solitude was never an escape from life, never a total retreat from the world. Merton knew in his deepest heart that his solitude with God was only a way for him to take precious time to reflect and renew and refresh his soul - in order to GO BACK OUT into the world to do God's work. Following the examples of Moses and Jesus Christ, he wrote, " I need to protect my spirit from the ambushes of busyness and schedules."
Rev. Dr. Ellen Sloan. PHOTO PROVIDED.
The commandment to love our neighbor is our call to do God's work in the world - it's our call to sing love songs to one another. Yes, it may be difficult to warble in the midst of the ambushes of this season, or because someone who's hurt you is so very hard to love. But I encourage you to try and adapt, find some quiet time for your soul during this Lenten season, eek out even ten minutes a day of quietness, and you WILL discover the grace to love your neighbor in a different key.