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Read Letter

The Contemplative Life

My dear Jack, it’s getting to that time of year again when one must look back and ruminate over events past. It’s important not to miss the opportunity to do so, and it can elude one given the impending season of celebration. Christmas and New Year are just around the corner. The window before the holiday is a contemplative opportunity. You’ll need to reflect on a number of things – the very nature of life itself, where you fit into it – the question of purpose. And then the question of vision: Where you are going, where you are coming from, and how far you have gone? These two questions should at least engage your soul as we approach the calendric edge of time.

The difference between us and the beasts, wrote the Psalmist, is the capacity to contemplate – “A man that is held in honour but understands not is like the beasts that perish.” When we don’t contemplate we just wander through life, going through the ablutions of life, and then we die. There must be more to life than babes and booze and parties and what’s-up-men! – is what the Psalmist is saying. Contemplation traverses the arid expanse of acres of life in search of the tree of life and the water of life. It takes us high into a dimension beyond, whose relativistic grandeur shames quotidian life into lame ordinariness. What plans do you have, what future do you envisage, what are you good at, what are you struggling with?

Then there are the challenges of manhood itself. How do you deal with the demands of responsibility? And you need to evaluate your friendships. Who are your TRUE friends? Who can you really count on? And what is the value of each relationship you have? Any value at all? Evaluate. Are these relationships debit transactions, or do they credit your life with worth? Are you carrying deadwoods? It’s an irony of life that friendships without value invariably cost a lot.

You also need to contemplate spirituality. Man is a spirit being. You need to get spiritual. Paul says those who are spiritual can evaluate all things but the unspiritual consider the things of God silliness. You’ve got to think of your relationship with God. How are things between you? At the end of the day there’s only one opinion that counts – God’s. And so that’s the person you ought to seek to please. We are accountable for the things we do in the flesh. That is a first principle. Unfortunately most of the things we pursue in the flesh are inconsequential. They have no eternal value. What if it all ends now? People die young! What if indeed there’s life after life? You must contemplate your life.

But you can’t contemplate in an atmosphere of noise. And the yuletide season is a noisy period. Life itself is incredibly noisy. Our interactions are noisy, our streets are noisy, our thoughts are noisy. There’s so much noise around us – physical, mental, emotional, environmental, spiritual – noises and chatter. You’ve got to learn to detach yourself from these noises, or you can’t contemplate life. They’ll keep intruding. The ablutions of life intrude into the contemplation of life. It’s why we go away, if for just a week, or a few days, to think, to be by ourselves. You need to hear yourself think. If you can’t afford to go away, create quiet moments – moments you can be one with yourself, with your spirit.

Life is a big question mark made up of little questions. Life is full of variables, the combination of which can result in any which way. How do you map your way through the labyrinth of life when you haven’t the foggiest idea about the configuration of life? How do you plan a course for a spiritual geographic called life? It’s x-dimensional. The Jeremiah guy arrived at this same challenge in his contemplation. It became obvious he needed God’s help: “O Lord, I know it is not within the power of man to map his life and plan his course. So you Lord correct me.” Learn to ask God for help. It doesn’t get any more spiritual than that – humility acknowledging grace. No matter the amount of theoretical knowledge you have, life will still bring you practicals only God should sort out.

Also learn to sleep over things. Don’t be hasty of action if the answer is not clear to you. If you sleep over the issue the answer just seems to come. You’ll just know what to do. How does that work however? How come we seem to have clarity and answers overnight? Well, Mr. Elihu Barakel, a friend of the famous Mr. Job says it’s actually God supplying us those answers – (He was a young man by the way. I’m impressed by the fact he found accommodation among older, wiser people) – “When men and women are in deep sleep, fast asleep in their beds God opens their ears and impresses them with warnings to turn them back from something bad they’re planning, from some reckless choice, and keep them from an early grave, from the river of no return.” Reckless choice can lead to an early grave. Therefore be careful about reckless choice in marriage.

Sometimes romantic allusions make us blind to recklessness in the choice of marriage partner. We foolishly romanticise the illusions we created, desperately holding on to them despite the facts before us. Don’t be reckless with decisions. Don’t rush proposals. If you’re not sure sleep over it. Don’t rush a critical decision. Marriage is a critical decision. Your marriage partner must not be a reckless choice. You can’t for example meet someone on Facebook and within a month be planning a wedding with someone you haven’t even met. That the marriage miraculously turns out okay (if it does), does not take away from the fact of recklessness. Anyone can be anyone on social media. Such may work in movies, but it hardly works in real life. Your marriage partner will determine your mental and emotional health, and may decide whether or not you live!

Develop the contemplative life. You can’t access certain wisdom otherwise. Wisdom is the principal thing.

Your mentor, LA.

© Leke Alder |

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