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‘Inquire within’ for discipline

Start LivingRev. Torey LightcapGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

We are aimlessAnd the target is an empty wallWere out of patienceWith smiles that cut across our face Beck, No ComplaintsIm hard-pressed to find a better description than this one, from an eclectic thirtysomething Angeleno musician, to describe the present American cultural condition. Certainly it isnt something youd put on a business card, but it does seem to capture the feeling of the moment, doesnt it? Id only hasten to add a few words: disconnected, consuming, remaining somehow above it all, believing mainly and superficially in our selves and nothing bigger.This isnt an indictment of anyone or anything in particular, or at least not much of one. It doesnt strike me that we might have a lot of free time to sit around and judge these things. Who we are, after all, is an amalgam of factors too numerous to list history, religion, philosophy, technology, and science being just a few. No, if anything we can hope to name the broad shape of the times so as to simply understand them in a clearer way.Everywhere I look (and whether or not I see things in the contemplative, prayerful way that my personal faith-story would have me to profess), I witness restlessness, a jangling sort of anxiety fueled by increasing cycles of binging on chemicals, food, sex, and news media and thats just the stuff thats legal! As these hallmarks of the zeitgeist are ingested, they in turn feed off of fear and speculation, breeding more of the same. The more the world intrudes, the more we seem to withdraw, the higher we build our walls, the more we self-medicate. More, more, more.The makers of the above-listed suspects are acutely aware of our compulsion toward them, and they respond in kind, jostling for our dollars, eyeballs, and lifestyles.Take the subject of food. According to Broadcasting & Cable Magazine, traditional advertising and licensing revenues at the Food Network that venerable marriage of consumption and television thats such a staple at the Lightcap house are predicted to swell to three-quarters of a billion dollars in the next three-and-a-half years. Ratatouille, a film about good food, has made $143 million as of this writing. And if youre looking to make the stuff yourself, you ought to know that tuition, room, board and books for four years at the Culinary Institute of America will run you around $120,000 (but oh, the board). Anyway, it goes on like this.Again, none of what Ive listed could be said to be patently bad or wrong. It simply expresses our preference for how we respond to the changing world around us. But if you could take any fact cited just above and pair it with, say, the percentage increase in the average body-mass index since 9/11 (if such a figure could be determined), it might begin to mean something more.So, choose. You can withdraw from the world or engage it. The secret to engagement seems to be discipline the movement away from restless, anxious consumption, and toward the peace thats found when one bothers to look inside oneself in an unflinching inventory, and commits to change.Gluttons have no discipline, wrote the author of the ancient Hindu text The Bhagavad-Gita (and he wasnt just talking about food), nor the man who starves himself, nor he who sleeps excessively or suffers wakefulness. When a man disciplines his diet and diversions, his physical actions, his sleeping and waking, discipline destroys his sorrow. When his controlled thought rests without craving objects of desire, he is said to be disciplined.Maybe restlessness and consumption really are signs of these times. Maybe, as indicated above, theyve always been a source of concern. In any case, the need for some kind of discipline is clear, for that is the path, the Gita says, to destroying sorrow. It begins when we do just like the old sign says in the shop window: Inquire Within.The Rev. Torey Lightcap is Priest-In-Charge of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Glenwood Springs, (www.saint-barnabas.info). He and his wife Jacqueline moved to Glenwood with son Gabriel after serving St. James the Apostle Episcopal Church in Conroe, Texas. They are expecting another child in August.


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