In light of the news this week in Orlando and other places in the world, it seems appropriate that this week the third chair is added: society. My observation is the first (solitude) and third (society) chairs can be the most challenging. There are those who get squirmy when asked to spend time in solitude and there are just as many who avoid eye contact when asked to participate in society.
Connecting and being aware of the larger society is messy. This is the place of least control. This is the place where one can get hurt. Yet this is the place of the “real”, whether one wishes to acknowledge it or not. Society is the place to practice the reality that life is not about being pain-free, in control, and having life make sense. Society is where surprises and miracles take place in a space much bigger than one’s imagination. It is the place of release into the movement of one’s tiny piece in the great cosmos of the Divine.
Of Thoreau’s three chairs, I think this is the one that surprises people the most. Isn’t going off to the woods all about leaving society and all its messiness and pain behind? Can’t one just shield oneself from the pain of massacres and politics?
Yet the truth is that there is no escape for people of faith. Faith invites each of us into the place of knowing we are ALL connected to the ugly and beauty of life. Solitude allows us to hear that Still Small Voice, community allows us to practice it, and society allows us to live it. When unjust murder happens, when the shadow of humanity comes forward, it touches us. Just as when the beauty of people coming forward to donate blood or give voice to the voiceless touches us. We are connected. We are both the ugly and beauty. From the place of the first two chairs we enter into the pain and hope in the midst of the senseless and find God in our connection. How one participates is up to each individual as they are led by their understanding of the first two chairs.
The invitation is to know that the invitation is happening every moment. This week, place three chairs in some spot of your space. Spend time in each chair. Let the connection to God in yourself, community, and society be your guide.