Sunday, September 10, 2006

God knows how to be a scapegoat!

A letter to Pat Berger and the New York City atheists:

I was intrigued by the report on NPR (Weekend Edition Sunday, Sept. 10) that you responded to September 11 by embracing atheism. As you say, on the surface of things, it certainly would seem that such a tragedy could have been averted by a loving God, who would not want his creatures to suffer violent death. And, what could really seal the argument is the fact that the attack was implemented by religious extremists. Doesn’t that prove the point that God and religion are our worst enemy?

It must be evident from my wording that I’m not entirely with you in your conclusion, although I’ve had my moments of yelling at God and cursing some of his followers. I would be more convinced by your position were it not tied to September 11th, because it is not clear to me that this was the worst of tragedies—many saw God in the generosity of people’s response to it—or that it was unavoidable.

Oh, I’m not talking here about the Clinton administration or the FBI or anybody like that. I’m talking more about the policies by government and by the international business community that have exacerbated the growing rift between rich and poor, powerful and powerless in today’s world. It’s not a simple equation by any means. You could start with the First World War and the way the Middle East was carved up without regard to the various peoples living there, leaving the Palestinians, for example, in an ambiguous state. This war led to the Second War, which saw the culmination of a century of persecution of the Jews, and ended with their finding a homeland at long last, but which also saw the beginning of strife between Israelis and Palestinians.

As if the colonialism that reached its zenith after the First World War weren’t enough, the United States, having gotten its new molars in that war, proceeded to become the new colonial power, its companies reaching out to rape the rest of the world. How many thousands have died in our wars in Vietnam and Cambodia, and now, Iraq and Afghanistan?

Would any of this NOT have taken place had we all been atheist, as you would have it be? Somehow, I don’t think so. It looks to me like all those evil traits are present in all of us, much as we’d like to think they weren’t. Would the Palestinians be any less angry if they were not Sunni Muslims? Would the Jews be any less protective of their turf if they were Jews in culture only? Would the Shiites lie down and roll over in Iraq if they suddenly gave up on Allah? Or skip on up to Ireland. Would the IRA have no further beef with the North if its constituents were no longer Catholic?

Unfortunately, some of us still respond to injury with revenge, as did El Qaeda at 9/11. This response is not one sanctioned by the world’s established religions, and Muslims, Jews, and Christians all decry these actions as antithetical to their core beliefs. The Christian “Father, forgive them” could be echoed by the mainline of any of these faiths. Forgiveness, however, is more than you can really expect of someone who’s hurt; more than you’d probably get from the general run of us, even if we were all completely free of religion.

We have to repent for those of our religious numbers who misconstrue the teachings of their leaders to condone violence and vengeance. And it works both ways. Mao Zedong and Stalin, both atheists, had tens of thousands of people killed in the name of Communism. Yet, today one would still have to say that some good was accomplished by the Communist Revolution. A communist of today’s Russia might have to dissociate herself from the sins of those fathers, blaming them on the mentality of the individuals concerned rather than on the validity of the movement itself.

I agree with you, that it is hard to reconcile the existence of evil with the concept of a good God. In fact, it is hard to accept evil, period. We are all tempted to look for scapegoats, and what better scapegoat than God’s Self?

But, to tell you the truth, as one who knows God somewhat, Scapegoat is a role God is quite accustomed to.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Vatican II Catholics can write to Rome too!

If you aren't reading a regular Catholic weekly such as America, or monthly, magazine, you might have missed the report on the US Bishops' meeting in June, at which the prelates voted their approval of a new missal for US Catholics (the same has been voted in by other Anglophone episcopal conferences).
If you haven't already read it, I am including below the article as written up in America. In short, the prayers of the mass have been retranslated, and the wording is now a little different. Not very different, mind you, but enough so that we will not be able to pray them from memory without stumbling.
You'll have to scramble for your missalette every time the Confiteor comes up. You'll stumble over the words of the Creed. The prayers you've learned to look forward to will no longer be there. The Holy Holy includes the words "God of Hosts" in place of "God of power and might."
Now, I don't know about you, but I grew up with the Latin mass, and loved it. However, when the mass was translated into the vernacular, I rejoiced in the ability to understand what I was saying in the way one only understands a language learned in experiential context. My first experience with the new translations was actually in France, where the Gelineau psalms were being used at mass. I was transfixed.
"God of Hosts," as I understand the America article, is a translation from the Latin. Nothing wrong with that, except for the fact that who has ever had any idea what that kind of host might be? I certainly haven't, so the expression means exactly nothing to me. "God of Power and Might" means a lot, summoning up images of God creating the universe, Jesus calming the storm, God who keeps all in existence.
For 40 years we have been singing beautiful renditions of the Holy, Holy, using the wording "God of Power and Might." What will become of that music once the new wording comes into being? Will we have to throw out all the old masses and start over? Is this a conspiracy by the music publishers, whose sales have dropped off as the people have learned the words? Quite frankly, I can see no one else who will benefit from this.
The vote has been taken by the American bishops, but the new missal has not been approved by Rome. Now is the time for Catholics who cherish the mass as we have known it over all of our adult years to write to Rome and protest this unwise tampering with the prayers of the people. Because that's what they are: the people's prayers. They belong to us--not to some little cadre of nit-picking regressives with too little to do.
Please write to our pope or to the Congregation on the Sacred Liturgy if you feel strongly about this issue.
Below is the text from America.

Bishops Approve New Texts for Order of Mass

In what Bishop Donald W. Trautman called “a truly important moment in liturgy in the United States,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a new English translation of the Order of Mass and adopted several U.S. adaptations during a national meeting on June 15 in Los Angeles. The new translation of the main constant parts of the Mass—penitential rite, Gloria, Creed, eucharistic prayers, eucharistic acclamations, Our Father and other prayers and responses used daily—will likely be introduced in about a year or two if it is approved by the Vatican, said Bishop Trautman, a Scripture scholar who heads the Diocese of Erie, Pa., and is chairman of the U.S.C.C.B.’s Committee on Liturgy. He said he thought the bishops would wait until they have approved—and received Vatican confirmation of—an entire new Roman Missal in English before implementing the new Order of Mass.

Here begins America's commentary on the news release above.

Forty years after the Second Vatican Council, the Mass is about to change again. On June 15, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a new translation of the Order of Mass, which would alter some of the most familiar prayers of English-speaking Catholics. (Other Anglophone bishops’ conferences also approved the changes.) Within a few years, people in the pews will respond to the greeting “The Lord be with you” with the phrase “And with your spirit.” Before receiving Communion they will say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.”

The bishops’ vote is the latest in a decade-long series of decisions about liturgical translations. The saga of the texts prepared by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) is a byzantine one, but the current phase was set in motion by Liturgiam Authenticam, published in 2001 by the Congregation for Divine Worship. That document rejected the widely accepted notion of “dynamic equivalency,” translating documents with a feel for the local usage, in favor of literal word-for-word translations from the Latin. Some of the new translations may lend richness to the Mass. (The phrase “under my roof” recalls the centurion’s words to Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, 8:8.) Most, however, inject archaic language into the liturgy.

The U.S. bishops approved the ICEL document with amendments. “Consubstantial,” for example, was removed from the Nicene Creed in favor of “one in being.” But the Congregation for Divine Worship reserves the right to reject the bishops’ amendments. Whatever the Vatican decides, the familiar words of the Mass will soon become less familiar.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Cross is Holocaust

Holy Saturday morning now. A light rain is falling, as it has been since Ash Wednesday. Good Friday mourned under heavy black clouds. Only Holy Thursday gave us a day of clear skies and sunshine.

Today I prepare to clear out the reminders of passion and desert, and to instill in my home some reminder of the joy of resurrection. I have meditated on the Passion only too dutifully these past weeks, not having been allowed to escape either one. (My doctor finally told me to go back to my granola half way through Lent, but I managed to save $200 on grocieries during the season, despite eating regular meals.) But the point is, we can't escape the Passion. I want to tell a Jewish friend, who concerns himself with the remnant that will always carry on when everything goes to ruin, that whenever there is a remnant that remembers the truth and practices it in the face of opposition and general oublie, that remnant will suffer Holocaust. The Cross is Holocaust. The Christian bears the cross--has no choice but to do sol. The Jew endures Holocaust. The temple may be no more on the mount, and bloody sacrifices be no more, but the Sacrifice goes on in the hearts of the faithful.

And the people rises, as Christ rose!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Galileo Affair

Into the present mix of ideas and arguments with regard to Creation, Evolution and Intelligent Design, the observations from Brother Astronomer: Adventures of a Vatican Scientist by Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J., shed much-needed light.
I am going to quote rather extensively from the chapter on Galileo, hoping that the interested reader will take the next step and consider reading the book in its entirety (see below for publisher.)
This quote comes from a chapter entitled, "The Rift of Popular Culture."
"Those worshippers of science who want to beat up on the Church will always have to start with the Galileo affair. They have to...precisely because his trial was a unique event in Church history. Never, before or since, did the Catholic Church try to put a strict-construction interpretation on Biblical statements that might be relevant to natural science.
"In fact, the whole tradition of Church teaching, including Origen, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Augustine, and St. Aquinas,is that the Bible is a book about God, not nature. It's a book that uses human language in a poetic way to describe things that ordinary language cannot contain. And there's the first rub to the science fundamentalists, the science literalists. They don't understand how poetry can express truth, why a metaphor can be stronger than a syllogism.
What is less effective is when religious thinkers try to illustrate and communicate religious ideas about transcendent things by using the language and concepts of the best scientific and historical knowledge to date. Unfortunately, this practice only weakens religious arguments, since it relies on knowledge that will inevitably go out of date as our understanding of the universe grows.
"The "cosmology" of Genesis, for example, is not something that the author of Genesis invented. It was the standard cosmology, attributed to the Babylonians, at the time Genesis was written,(or at least created orally, and one that the author could assume all his listeners were familiar with. Starting with this standard cosmology, the author added the "stuff" about God. But as the millennia passed and our scientific thinking developed, naturally this old cosmology became dated.
In fact, there are several different creation stories within Genesis itself that were obviously added at different times with different levels of cosmology. What's consistent is the idea that however you picture the universe being formed, it was the action of a creator God.
"Yet these outdated images have not always caused an irreconcilable problem. The cosmology of Genesis was ancient and out of date even by the time of the Romans. It is, after all, not the cosmology of Ptolemy, but that of ancient Babylon. No one in first-century Rome still believed in a flat universe surrounded by "the waters" as described in the Psalms. But those Romans, unlike most twentieth-century atheists, were sophisticated enough to be able to read beyond the poetic words to the content they intended to convery. The "God stuff" that was new was still relevant, just in need of a new retelling.
"It was only with the rise of literacy in the 1500s that a lot of people who knew (barely) how to read, but otherwise did not have much of a sophisticated education, started interpreting the Bible for themselves as if it were some sort of "magic book." And the more the Church tried to stop this sloppy theology, the more that the English (and thus anti-Roman) historians--on whom our culture is based--condemned the Church for restricting "freedom of thought."
The anthor goes on to point out that the idea of a 6000-year-old earth, supposedly evident in the Bible, was actually an invention of Bishop Ussher, who misinterpreted Genesis to arrive at this figure.
"But what about the very cause of the trouble that Galileo found himself in?" he goes on. "Didn't the Church teach that the Earth was the center of the universe, and the Sun and everything else revolved around it?
"Actually, that's neither in the Bible nor was it ever official Church teaching at any time--except implicitly during the brief period around the time of Galileo. Indeed, it was never debated at Galileo's trial, according to the official transcript. It was merely assumed, as a convenient stick to go after someone who was both unpopular and politically vulnerable. The prosecution of Galileo by the Church was a terrible crime, but it was not an attempt to define formally and dogmatically something we now know to be untrue."
Brother Consolmagno then points out that Catholic scholars, including members of the clergy, had been involved with scientific study from the time of the early universities. In 1277, the Bishop of Paris asserted, in the face of opposition, that God, in his omnipotence, could have created alternate universes.
Nearly 300 years before Galileo, John Buriden and Nicholas Oresme, "both churchmen," suggested that the earth might be moving through the univrse. Copernicus, 100 years antecedent to Galileo, was encouraged by the Church.
So where did Galileo go wrong? Essentially, he was a popularizer, like such as Carl Sagan, and, as such, he began to rile the masses. He also made the fatal error of ridiculing important members of the clergy. His was a political error, not one of science.
The author refers us to The Galileo Affair by M.A. Finocchiaro, published by the University of California Press. I would also refer the reader to a book review at FWOMP.COM, which presents a slightly different view of the well-written book by Dava Sobel, Galileo's Daughter.
Brother Astronomer was published in 2000 by McGraw-Hill.

Why I am a Catholic

This is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek comment sandwiched in here to more serious topics.

Sitting in my worn dark oak pew, crammed in with other choir members in our sea of burgundy robes, the attraction of this worship never ceases to strike me anew.
We'd been warned this morning, since at choir practice Thursday night our director told us the organist was "under the weather." Well, that was how this morning's Presider put it to the congregation. Kathy told us more in detail, about the freezing of our organist's prostate and other cutting and catheterizing procedures he had indicated she might share with us. Ah, yes! A very graphic and palpable understanding.
So today we enjoyed the gift of a visiting priest, who played our majestic pipe organ beautifully, but mostly by ear and in the Spirit--which meant he blithly ignored the choir harmonies. Leaving out the C# in an altered chord can create quite the clash. But he did play in the same key we were in, and I guess you could just say we had extremely rich harmony today.
This is a church where, during a very meaningful blessing of the catechumens preparing for baptism, the ushers were already on their feet blocking the aisle, and all view of the sanctuary, in anticipation of the offertory, which was bound to occur at some point. All the while, our local madman roamed the aisle, pacing up and down like a caged lion. Babies cried. And every jarring harmony has reminded me of the organist's very fleshy condition.
Yet into this sea of carnality and human weakness, the Scripture readings flash their light of Truth, answering the questions on my heart with blinding clarity.
And, yes, we had to be thankful for the dear priest who shared his gift with us, and filled me with an upwelling of something that could have been hysterical laughter if I'd allowed it out. It also felt like heaven.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

An Intelligent Comment on Intelligent Design

The Doonesbury strip from this morning's paper makes one of the best ever comments on Intelligent Design. I'd cut it out and mulled it over before going to Mass this morning, intending to begin writing in earnest later on today. Good thing I waited, because the gospel gave me exactly the right perspective with which to view the subject of ID. It all has to do with wineskins. You can't put new wine into old wineskins, Jesus told his disciples. In fact, things just don't work when they're put in the wrong framework--because that's how I see the wineskin image, as a frame of reference within which to view certain ideas. Those Jesus spoke to were of a certain mindset, one which prevented them from hearing his message. His ideas needed a new mindset to be understood.

What kind of mindsets am I talking about with reference to ID? Faith and science come to mind, which is why this comic strip seemed so applicable. We've had a split between faith and science ever since the time of Galileo. Galileo himself was a man of deep faith, as were many of the scientists who followed him, right up to the present day. The Jesuits of his day took an interest in astronomy and followed his work with great interest, just as they have continued with their scientific endeavors down through recent centuries. Science doesn't exclude faith, nor does faith, science. They're just two separate modes through which to experience the world. They constitute different realms, but are no more contradictory than are, say, apples and oranges.

But, slice those oranges, dice the apples, add some coconut and a little Triple Sec, and you've got a tasty salad. Don't forget a few toasted almonds, and maybe a little chopped candied ginger. Mmmm! What I'm saying is, those apples and oranges can be very distinct realities, and yet when mixed, can offer something neither one had alone. In fact, I would say the world is more like a fruit salad than it is like either apples or oranges alone, and that includes the realm that both science and faith claim to explore.

However, let's back up to the list of ingredients once more.
Take science, a discipline that attempts to make a guess about how things work and to proceed by using experimentation, observation, and testing, to find out if that guess is right. Further testing can indicate whether the phenomenon observed can be repeated, whether it is consistent. Eventually this method yields an actual scientific theory, which can serve to predict further occurrences or to build on for future experimentation. It's a limited discipline. Scientists are not given to wild speculation and theoretical extravagance. Science proceeds step by step in an orderly fashion, adhering strictly to the Scientfic Method. It begins with the premise that only that which has been observed is known.
Faith, on the other hand, begins with the position that one can trust the unknowable, that the Unknowable reveals itself to us. The Unknowable Known is Law, yet cannot be governed by any other force. It is radically free of control, cannot be captured and tested and made to perform test-tube tricks.

To mix these two opposites might be like combining acid and base--explosive. Intelligent Design attempts to do exactly that, with results that ought not to surprise us. Many the scientist, confronted with the mere suggestion of ID, fulminates in outrage. On the other hand, fundamentalist persons of faith often react in a similar way to suggestions of a universe that developed without a Creator. This should not surprise us. What should, rather, astound us is the fact that there are scientists who calmly see themselves as creatures of that Creator, and that there are persons of faith who can readily accept evolution. This is where we get the salad.

How does this work in reality? When we recognize that the skins are but structures that enable human beings to follow certain trains of knowing. We live with a number of wineskins. As in the metaphor, you can't keep wine without the skin, nor can we have ideas apart from some kind of intellectual structure. But wisdom leads us to recognize that these are but containers, and that reality or truth is far more vast than what we can imprison in any limited vessel.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Chameleon and the Tyrannosaurus Rex

Humankind survived over the hundreds of thousands--at least, that's how it looks now--of years, despite their lack of physical adapatations. We were hairless, soft-bellied, weak-backed, bi-pedal; had limited range of hearing and smell, and only two eyes. We spawned one or two offspring at a time instead of swarms of them, depended on two partners getting together.

Okay, so we share that with other animals. But we've evolved away from having a female yowl at night until suitors come running from miles around to pounce on her and produce an offspring (at perhaps 6 months of age!) Ask any cat-owner of an un-spayed animal, and you find out that lots of offspring does ensure continuation of the species. Add 9 lives to the mix, and you've got an enduring population.

But we had certain other characteristics that enabled us to survive and triumph over our better-abled brothers and sisters in the animal world, to say nothing of the plant kingdom. We walked on two feet, which freed our upper appendages for food gathering. We developed an opposed thumb, which made the hand a much more useful instrument, enabling us to construct tools to help us survive.

What did we construct? Clothing, to protect in northern climes, where we were able to find a niche without too much competition. We made containers for food and water. We found diverse ways to make homes, and could construct large enough dwellings to allow for a variety of activities. We made objects to enable us to worship. And we made weapons.

Notice that this last artifact was different from the others. All of those first accomplishments basicially enabled us to adapt to our surroundings. If the climate was inclement, we could move, we could dress warmly, we could build a better house, we could store food more effectively. If there was danger, we could build protection or we could defend ourselves. As we developed, we found ever more effective ways to adapt.

However, with weapons came more than self-defense, more than killing of game for food. They also enabled us to attack and dominate others. Shock and awe was not about adaptation.

So, essentially we have two ways open to us: adaptation and domination. The question is, which is better for us? Because I write from the standpoint of faith in this blog, I look first to the wisdom of our parents in faith. It is interesting that one of the earliest stories we have from the Hebrew Scriptures is that of Cain and Abel. Cain lived by subjecting animals to his power; Abel survived by raising plants. Already there was a division between use of the land in such a way as to coexist, and one which involved the domination of one creature by another.

With Abraham, later on, we hear very little of warfare. Abraham used his adaptive skills in traveling to a new land, one in which he and his family could flourish and increase. Much could be said about those who followed, the lessons they left in how a people must live in order to adapt to the world and survive intact.

Following in that same tradition, Jesus Christ gave the example of one who turned the other cheek, who offered only peaceful resistance, and his model in this was the one in whose line he was born, David the King.

How effective is peace? Consider the two strains of the people who gave us both David and Jesus. The Jewish nation was struggling at the time Jesus was born. The Romans kept them subjected until around 70 AD, when they finally moved in and took over Jerusalem and Israel. The surviving Jews were the Pharisees and the Christians. Neither stood much of a chance, deprived of their land, persecuted. Both survived against all odds and are together among the most successful members of today's world.

Both Jews and Christians resorted to force at times, but this was not the source of their success. Their success lay in the undeniable strength each derived from a faith that taught them how to live in the world and beyond it.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Why sabbath?

I got up yesterday with waffles on my mind--the perfect breakfast for a Sunday morning. About the time I was finishing dressing, my daugher called from New York. Since I'd planned to call her, this was perfect timing, and I was delighted to spend time catching up on the grandchildren and family question with her.
Suddenly time was crunching on me. I had an hour left before I needed to leave for mass. But that was time to squeeze in the waffles--right?
I could race around getting waffles made and then wolf them down in time to run out the door panting on my way to choir warm-up, or I could pour myself a bowl of trusty granola with a dollup of berry compote and a swish of soy milk, and sit down to enjoy some of the paper.
This decision prompted reflection on sabbath. What's it all about anyway?
A weekly rest, a time to relax from all the racing of the week--that's what sabbath is. It's not necessarily a time to do all the good you can, although you wouldn't want to neglect doing good on the pretext of practicing sabbath. The old practice of making it a real day of rest--a day to visit family, to spend time on relaxing enterprises, to replenish spiritual resources--made a lot of sense.
Without waxing eloquent about the reasons for this, I want to note what a difference that could make in society--what a difference it may, indeed, HAVE made. Because, what does leisure allow us anyway? It's hard to judge from today's society, when we have a great deal of freedom to do whatever we see fit. In previous generations, life was not so easy. The life of the mind and the practice of the arts were limited to the upper classes, who could pay to have their daily needs taken care of. The poor and lower-middle classes worked from dawn to dusk just keeping bread on the table and clothes on their bodies. School was a luxury.
Go back even farther, to nomadic or agricultural societies. (Having lived among farmers, I have some experience with this.) The land and animals dictate in those circumstances. Work is ongoing, there are few opportunities for other occupations.
In such a society, the sabbath provided a weekly break long enough to accomplish something other than physical labor. It was a mandated time to be used for study, conversation, worship and reflection.
The idea of sabbath--Shabat--came to us from the Jews. Look at what sabbath produced in early Jewish society:
first, one of the first alphabets. With that alphabet, the Jewish scribes were able to produce a collection of historial and literary books that is quite uncommon in the ancient world.

Secondly, it produced a society with strong familial structures, which led to a similarly strong society. If there is any doubt about that, how many ethnic groups today can point to a similar identity as a people after 4000 years of history, 2000 of which were lived without a homeland? Did sabbath contribute to the societal ties? I think it did. When you have a day to spend in family gatherings, you tend to build stronger ties.

Thirdly, setting aside a day of the week on which no work can be done requires that you organize your week to get things done in a timely fashion. This results in better use of time.
I'm sure the benefits of sabbath go far beyond the ones I've mentioned, but these are a few to consider.

Can we still benefit from Sabbath today? As our lives become more and more crammed with options, obligations, observations, we need permission to take time off. It's not the animals and fields that dictate to us now, but rather the competition of today's life.

Having lived in a small town for many years, I have seen how the traditional weekly rhythms can become part of one's life. There, in Delta, most businesses were closed on Sunday. The hardware store and the groceries and one stalwart merchant stayed open. Most of us did not do much shopping on Sunday. It was a day for puttering around the house, going out for a walk or a drive, visiting family, going to church. You couldn't buy alcohol, except in a bar or as 3.2 beer. Now I live in a larger city, where you can count on businesses being open on Sundays. In fact, the parking lots are crammed every day.

Now, you might say, well I enjoy shopping, so why should shopping be prohibited on the sabbath? Why should anything be prohibited? I can speak for my own experience in saying that it is hard for me not to drive myself. I welcomed the closed businesses, which removed one confusing option from me on Sundays. Today I have a tendancy to want to edit web pages on Sundays, when I have a nice block of time. Hey, I like working on web pages. The html is like a puzzle that my mind likes to get around. Web work also tends to become addictive. Invariably it gets to the point where I want to stop, but can't because of some problem that I can't solve and can't stand to leave alone. I end up feeling drained.
What ought I to do on Sundays? Go to the beach, go for a walk or a drive, go to a movie, visit friends, read a book, putter.

I do go to church, and that's one of my favorite parts of the week. Sunday mornings I go for a walk, take a leisurely shower, listen to the NPR puzzle, make a nice breakfast, read the paper. Then I go down to mass at the Basilica. That's the best part of my day. In the evening I watch a few TV programs I like, do a little knitting. These are the Sundays I enjoy most.

Everybody's got to slow down in their own way. But we've all got to slow down. We have to shut out some of the clammor of the world and allow ourselves time for reflection and thinking if we're going to sort out the truth of our lives. It's more important now than ever.