In his poem, Hagia Sophia, Thomas Merton, Trappist Monk and author wrote, “There is in all things…a hidden wholeness. There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence that is a foundation of action and joy. It rises up in gentleness and flows out to me from the unseen roots of all created being.”
For many, the quest to understand and discover that hidden wholeness may be the most important task we undertake in our life.
Parker Palmer asserts that most human beings are kept from discovering this wholeness because we lead divided lives. He finds evidence of this malaise when people refuse to invest themselves in their work, when they remain in spirit-stifling relationships, when they harbor a secret desire for personal gain at the expense of others, when they hide their beliefs, or when they conceal their true identity for fear of being criticized or attacked. These people have lost touch with their souls and have disappeared into roles.
Palmer quotes poet Mary Oliver: “This is the first, wildest, and wisest thing I know, that the soul exists, and that it is built entirely out of attention.” It needs to be rooted, connected, and nourished if it is to thrive. Our revved up and distracting culture throws plenty of obstacles in the way of those who want to give focused attention to their souls. Palmer is convinced that human beings need both solitude and community to do the inner work necessary to thrive.