I have learned over the years that every one of us has a unique story. Every story is connected to another story. We know ourselves through being rooted in our families, our culture, our nation, and our world. We find ourselves through living and working with others who are different from us. They too have their stories.
It is important in the spiritual life to become and remain aware of our stories and how we act in the world in light of our stories. And so it is important during this winter season of listening to take time to listen to our self, our stories and the stories of others. We need to take time to open the book of our lives and those who have influenced us. This listening, an inner work, often yields a profound appreciation for diversity in human life as well as clearer sense of how to act for the good of all.
Going deeper with this work of listening one is eventually led beyond the differences and the uniqueness of our individual stories to what we share in common with the stories of others. Eventually, if we follow the common threads of our shared stories we arrive at a better understanding of the human journey within our cosmos. Listening for this common story can at times lead us to glimpse the elusive, hidden ground that darts away just as it is seen on the periphery of our explorations. But, in seeking this ‘hidden wholeness’, which the venerable monk Thomas Merton spoke about, we are led to senses of the unity that is present in all things. This unity is often a spiritual intuition, a hint on the horizon of our experience that somehow feeds and propels our unique and diverse personal stories.
Starting from a sense of the hidden unity to our diverse stories we can embrace a diversity of strategies and approaches to social, political, and environmental action. Moreover, using strategies of structural change, historical change, psychological change, or spiritual change, if oriented towards the common good while anchored in the hidden unity, is essential to an engaging spiritual life. There is, then, truth to Paul’s claim that there “are indeed a variety of gifts, but the one spirit.”