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Our reflection this week is about rest in action. So much has been written about the need to counter stress by adopting a more calm and mindful approach to life, and I myself have been encouraging much the same, particularly for those who want to live a full and contented life.
But life as we know is more than sitting seraphically on a park bench somewhere watching the world go by. We are constantly called upon to act. The question then is what rules our actions.
As you can see below, on Wednesday evening we start another five week course of Philosophy As a Way of Life. It has as it’s main theme, care. In adopting a meditative lifestyle we are caring for our own well being, and by so doing there is an inevitable knock on effect on our judgements, decisions and on what we create, in short, our actions. Many of the leading Stoics were very much men of action deeply involved, like us, in worldly affairs, and apart from living reflectively they constantly returned to the fundamental Stoic principles:
That it’s not our outer circumstances that rule our lives but our inner attitude. An awareness that we are not alone but part of the whole. A belief in the absolute value of the human person. And a concentration on the present moment to thereby live life afresh.
From these principles there arises actions that are not centered on the promptings of the ego, but a desire of an altogether different sort, the desire to care not just for ourselves but for the world around us, to be truly cosmopolitan, citizens of the cosmos.
With these principles in mind, on this course there will three guest speakers: a leading medical consultant who is taking on the major drug companies in attempts to get them to supply drugs at affordable rates for the Third World, a lawyer who is working on Earth Jurisprudence in order to encourage nations to pass into law measures to protect the environment, and someone with whom I have a particular association, the doctor whose determination in his care for me found a new treatment for leukaemia. All will give short presentations supporting the ideas that we will explore on the course. I am absolutely sure that it will be a fascinating five weeks.
With my best regards, William
REST IN ACTION
Rest and repose are usually considered the preserve of corpses, but repose has its own dynamic, its own vitality. Rest in action allows for possibility, whilst agitation in action for far fewer. When you see a great sportsman or a dancer, a noticeable thing about them is their sense of ease, that despite the fact that there is incredible speed and vigour in all that they do, there is also a sense of complete composure.
When you see a great game of any kind, despite all the elation and despondency, there is great pleasure to be gained from seeing the conjunction of movement and rest. Wimbledon is coming up and there you'll see plenty of just this.
A sportsman is forever trying to find the space. If they are lucky they can find it out there on the field of play, and if they are even luckier they can also find it within themselves. You can see it clearly as a jumper prepares to jump or sprinter as he gets down on the blocks. You can see it as a footballer takes a corner, ready to curl a ball in, or a rugby player as he prepares to take a conversion. There is a sense of inner stillness and complete concentration. Something like this can be seen in almost every sport. Although straining to the ultimate, some sportsmen possess this power even in the midst of action. These are the great ones, and its at the heart of the pleasure we gain from seeing them in full flight. Every action is totally harmonic and utterly economic. In these movements we recognise their intelligence and skill. We describe them as being ‘on form’. Their reactions are ‘lightning sharp’ and yet they have ‘all the time in the world’. Why? Because they are physically at their peak. They have a body that is utterly responsive to the need of the game, and what is more, they are totally in the moment. This is where ‘all the time in the world’ exists. This is the eternal present. A game may have been carefully planned, with all kind of strategies developed to beat the opposition, but it’s the moment that counts. This magical dimension is where everything is lit, where there exists space and all possibility. It’s there where maximum action resides and maximum rest.
We may not be great sportsmen, but there is nothing stopping us learning from their achievements. Whether in preparation or in play, being in the moment is what counts, utterly alert and utterly at rest. Try it.
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