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Planet Earth hisses with unquenchable fires of greed, rage, pride, lust, gluttony, envy, and sloth. I know, having experienced all of them, the eruption of instincts gone wild. Seldom is there enough. Needs for more pleasuring, more status, and more security eviscerate spirits, jaded and empty like back alley dumpsters. Whatever is trending at the moment catches excitement and maxed-out credit cards.

Such excesses compel hospital chains to construct still more facilities to accommodate technological advances, to woo the sickly with promises of health, to strip insurance plans of substance. Strapped upon Procrustean beds, the numbers must look right.

Such excesses impoverish families of basic necessities, over stimulate sensory receptors that frustrate learning, enervate intimacy, and obliterate traces of uniqueness. Sleep deprived, robot-like trudging from sunup to sundown, body breakdown accelerates aging and leers at change.

Such excesses drain leaders of courage, compel them to adhere to the tried and true, and compose windy legislation that serves no one. On all levels, violence continues eroding the ground we stand upon.

Such excesses have even besmirched church sanctuaries run like corporations to stay afloat, hobbled aging pastors of zest and watered down their homilies—Their sole purpose, to retire when permitted by their bishops or boards.

No wonder that Covid-19 threatens Planet Earth with its sputtering half-life, with its feverish weather cycles. Certainly, we’ve never seen the like. Lest overwhelmed, I resort to my inner world and sink within silence. Therein likes the antidote to this global Bedlam: the purifying flame of Spirit.

With the Psalmist we pray: Send forth thy spirit…and renew the face of the earth. Let the refining fire begin with our willingness to change. We’re not alone.

Sizzling aromas of bratwurst and curried mustard tweaked my appetite following the morning’s sightseeing in Munich, Germany. Cloudless skies warmed hundreds of other tourists seated at circular tables and chairs that filled the Marienplatz, Munich’s Civic Center, first established in 1158 AD. Across from us rose the Neo Gothic New City Hall with its clock tower and Glockenspiel. Soon it would be time for the show.

It was June 1977.

 

 

Around our table conversation was brisk. Only thirty-two years before, this entire area smoked in ruins, the result of Allied blanket bombing that ended World War II. Blueprints and photos of pre-existing buildings guided workmen in the square’s reconstruction, purposely weathered with centuries of wear and tear to look Medieval. In another part of Munich, a bombed brick wall, resembling a jagged tooth, still stood, a reminder of what had happened here. Ambivalent feelings tweaked my stomach as I dipped the bratwurst in mustard.

 

 

Suddenly from above, metallic bells jangled conversations as we leaned back in our chairs and holding hands over our eyes, squinted at the Glockenspiel; on its upper level, animated figures enacted a royal wedding and a jousting tournament; on its lower, three coopers danced a jig signaling the end of the 1517 plague. Then the show was over, the diversion well received.

Still uneasy, I wondered about humankind’s tendency, as well as my own, to bury the scars of evil within recesses of the unconscious, kept in bondage by sloth, and what it takes to face truth, when stripped of defense mechanisms.

Long ago, I was told that nothing is, as it seems. I’m still learning …

 

 

I know the plans I have in mind for you—it is Yahweh who speaks—plans for peace, not disaster, reserving a future full of hope for you. So wrote the prophet Jeremiah to the elders, priests, and prophets exiled by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon in 598 B.C.E.

Such encouragement speaks to today’s exilic experience, filled with psychic and physical suffering, provoked by the global pandemic and nationwide civil unrest. Hankering for the “flesh pots of Egypt” or the old ways appear to be diminishing as the new normal solidifies attitudes and behaviors. Cries of “Justice!” on the streets are beginning to lose their clout. Yet wariness persists among the masked and gloved studying the lay of the land before taking the next step.

Still pinioned by uncertainty, I join others praying for the resolution of this madness. Like chemical spills poisoning saturated zones of water tables, anger seeps into organs and joints, bludgeoning their functions and accelerating more disease and more protests. Such ruckus leaves scant room for inner reflection, for owning prejudices of whatever stripe and letting them go.

Certainly Higher Power wants us to thrive, to live as relational beings in union with Him, and not within self-imposed exile, for that’s what it is.

 

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