“At the still point of the turning world…
there the dance is…
Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.”
A great example of sabbath is the still point. For some it will be seen in the balance of a ballet dancer, for others it may be a surfer riding a wave, but not surprisingly, for me it is a hovering bird. Many birds of prey have a behavior known as kiting. If you have ever seen a bird hanging motionlessly in the air as if a kite on a string then you have seen it. This is not the same as hovering, which involves lots of motion to maintain position. Instead, kiting takes advantage of the movement of the wind to do the work. There is a perfect equilibrium that a bird can find by “falling” into the wind at the same rate that it is rising and thus attaining a still point. It is an ingenious way of conserving energy while remaining aloft. Many hawks use the rising thermals of warm air to do the lifting when they migrate. After circling higher and higher without exerting any energy flapping, they are then able to slip off that elevator and glide long distances going down until they catch another thermal to lift them. The balance of inactivity against a prevailing force is the way to achieve a still point. Long distance hikers seek this still point in every step they take as a way of conserving energy. To my way of thinking, sabbath is still point.
During the pneuma divina this past week at Darkwood Brew, the idea that emerged for me was that as God rested from the work of creating, God set about the work of balancing. For indeed, God is not inactive now that the creation is complete but it seems to me that God has set in motion myriad forces that though they feel like they buffer and batter us are yet indeed working out a sort of divine balance. Certainly, our experience of the created order too often feels like disorder, but faith compels us to find the still point where we can find rest even in the storm. This week’s killer tornado makes that point all too well, especially for those of us who have experienced the destructive forces of nature. Many tornado survivors here in Brimfield have had anxiety triggered by the Oklahoma tornado and severe weather here in the past couple of days. Even when the storm is distant, finding a way to lean into the wind and find a still point is critical if one is to find peace.
Here again, J. Philip Newell takes us to the nearly forgotten wisdom of Celtic spirituality. He writes, “The emphasis [in the Celtic tradition] is not on set apart times of rest, or so-called ‘holy’ days and ‘holy’ places that are distinct from every day and every place. Rather, it encourages a type of restful awareness in everything that we do. It is about holding a stillness of perspective in the midst of busyness.”
As we close this Darkwood Brew series about our proper relationship to the creation, may you find that still point, that place of balance, as you rediscover your place as a child of God, uniquely positioned within creation.
Rev. Ian Lynch is pastor of First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in Brimfield, MA He blogs about the intersection of spirituality and society at CultureDove.blogspot.com and the intersection of spirituality and ornithology at https://birdparables.blogspot.com