God amid the noise and haste

Fr Ron Rolheiser

Modern life is a tale of constant distractions, but our preoccupation with the ordinary business of our lives can so easily rob us of a relationship with the divine and eternal, as Fr Ron Rolheiser writes.

There’s a story in the Hindu tradition that runs something like this: God and a man are walking down a road. The man asks God: 'What is the world like?' God answers: 'I’d like to tell you, but my throat is parched. I need a cup of cold water. If you can go and get me a cup of cold water, I’ll tell you what the world is like.'

The man heads off to the nearest house to ask for a cup of cold water. He knocks on the door and it is opened by a beautiful young woman. He asks for a cup of cold water. She answers: 'I will gladly get it for you, but it’s just time for the noon meal, why don’t you come in first and eat.' He does.

Thirty years later, they’ve had five children, he’s a respected merchant, she’s a respected member of the community, they’re in their house one evening when a hurricane comes and uproots their house. The man cries out: 'Help me, God!' And a voice comes from the centre of the hurricane says: 'Where’s my cup of cold water?'

This story is not so much a spiritual criticism as it is a fundamental lesson in anthropology and spirituality: To be a human being is to be perpetually distracted. We aren’t persons who live in habitual spiritual awareness who occasionally get distracted.

We’re persons who live in habitual distraction who occasionally become spiritually aware. We tend to be so preoccupied with the ordinary business of living that it takes a hurricane of some sort for God to break through.

C.S. Lewis, commenting on why we tend to turn to God only during a hurricane, once put it this way: God is always speaking to us, but normally we aren’t aware, aren’t listening. Accordingly pain is God’s microphone to a deaf world.

However, none of us want that kind of pain; none of us want some disaster, some health breakdown or some hurricane to shake us up. We prefer a powerful positive event, a miracle or mini-miracle, to happen to us to awaken God’s presence in us because we nurse the false daydream that, if God broke into our lives in some miraculous way, we would then move beyond our distracted spiritual state and get more serious about our spiritual lives.

Read full article: On being perpetually distracted (The Catholic Register)

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