A very legitimate question was posited to me a few weeks ago,
“What role does contemplation have with revolution?”
Again, that is a great question. For some reason my mind went to the oft cited quote, “Every revolution needs a clipboard.” Somewhat tongue in cheek, it references that every successful movement needed organization or else it quickly fell through or fell apart.
Disorganized revolutions rarely cause an impact.
In similar fashion, disordered souls rarely impact the world positively.
To me, contemplation is not merely praying, but becoming prayer. It is not simply reflection, it is embodying reflection in our very selves. It is the ability to be fully present to all of this life in a way that respects the deep depths of connectedness. Most associate the word contemplation with thinking heavy on a single thought with eyes closed, and I am not saying that it doesn’t include that, but that is a simplistic approach.
Perhaps putting it like this will help…
Is your entire day punctuated by prayers or do you strive to be in an endless instant of prayer? Are you one to think deeply about things or are you one to live deeply in every moment?
For me, contemplation is the ground, the foundation, of the Christian revolution. It is the liminal space where we place ourselves before God and allow God to fully affront our values and perspectives that we might better align with kingdom ethics.
Christian contemplation is at the same time de-centering and re-centering. It is a matter of living within the Divine’s limitations for us, and learning to live well within those limits.
All of these things are important and enable one to be an effective revolutionary. In fact, it may be helpful to remember that every time the Kingdom of God is being built, somewhere and in some way, a kingdom of man is being dismantled.
That being said, contemplation is about living a reflective life as it happens. It is to constantly learn from each moment, to take each lesson as a lesson that can be used for our betterment and the betterment of the world.
If I were to try and put my understanding of contemplation to a common household example, it would be dusting. Dusting involves actively looking at what has gotten covered with unnecessary things, dusting also means that there is bound to be some dust swirling in the air. It is kind of an endless task that needs to be revisited. Imagine sweeping the floor, it is not a one and done type of event. That is why the saints, mystics and holy people of the church are so delightful. In some sense, they have already caused their own dust swirls and cast aside what isn’t needed.
Successful revolutions need contemplatives who prayerfully live in the moment and actively attend to the dusting of their own souls.
As I understand it, the story of Jesus and the life of faith do two things to us. First, they de-center then they re-center. However, the re-centering is ec-centric (or “out of our selves”). The contemplative is the one who has had their ego dethroned, has taken the sole emphasis of their attention away from themselves (de-center) and now has an outward focus to their life of faith (re-centered around ec-centric). Contemplatives are always asking themselves if they are really living for the other, for the betterment of their neighbors, for the establishment of a thriving environment for their friends and their enemies.
Any revolution that is enacted by a rebel who has not first rebelled against their own ego will make their revolution into a fulfillment of their own desires, no matter how pious they may make it sound.
To me, the contemplative is humble, and always willing to tear down and rebuild themselves that they might be able to best tear down and rebuild the world around them into a world full of goodness, beauty, truth, love, kindness, mercy, justice, grace, understanding, healing, etc. And for that very reason, that is the connection I see between the contemplative and revolutions that better the world.