Thursday, February 13, 2014

Spirituality: Smiling as Salvation

In the second half of life, you have begun to live and experience the joy of your inner purpose. The outer purpose and goals matter less and less and have less power over you. You are much more self-possessed and grounded. At one and the same time, you know what you do know (but now deeply and quietly), and you also know what you do not know. This is perhaps what Thomas Merton means by living in the “belly of a paradox.” Many politicians and clergy know what they know, but they don’t know what they don’t know, and that’s what makes them dangerous. Only people who are comfortable not knowing can usually smile. People who are preoccupied with “I know” have little space for smiling.

A creative tension in the second half of life, knowing what you know andknowing what you don’t know, is a necessary one. All you know is that it is foundationally all right, despite the seeming contradictions and conflict. That’s why the holy old man can laugh and the holy old woman can smile. I heard recently that a typical small child smiles three hundred times a day and typical old men smile three times a day in our culture. What has happened between six and sixty? Whatever it is, it tells me that religion is not doing its job very well.