Sunday, January 2, 2011

One of the things we do well, as Brothers, is to have meetings. They're as common as meals and prayers, it seems. Not only do we meet about things we really care about, but we regularly meet about things others want us to care about. Meetings are just part of what we do, receiving more or less enthusiasm depending on the topic or occasion.

So it should come as no surprise that we scheduled the second session of our District Chapter (a legislative body of some 40 elected Brothers that convenes every four years) to meet during our Christmas break, from December 27th until December 31st, at the latest. Between plenary sessions and theme group meetings, we were able to indulge our full appetite for meeting. And while enjoying one another's company, as we always do, and having good discussions and deciding important things, we also know when enough is enough. So, somewhat to my surprise (as General Secretary, I did more than the usual running around) we finished our business earlier than expected, at noon on the 30th. Yet despite the change in plans, an hour after we adjourned virtually everyone had left the property and all had returned to their normal busy routines - in holiday mode.

One of the reasons this stood out is because less than 48 hours later I would be taking part in an entirely different kind of meeting. On the 31st, I drove to our camp at the Russian River where a group of us welcomed in the new year with relative peace and simplicity. The following day, without really planning it, I found myself walking slowly through the paths of Armstrong State Park, a wonderful park filled with redwoods. (The picture above is one that I took on one of the paths.) Some of the trees are over 300 feet tall. You can imagine how different this "meeting" was from what had gone on before.

Trees don't move much, and if they do, they do so very, very slowly. Their agenda is different. They get to know their neighbors very well over the years, and they work with them quite efficiently and harmoniously, even symbiotically. Anything less would help neither party. Their mission statement is pretty simple - move straight up toward the light, bring nourishment to all the parts, and keep everything in balance. If something goes wrong.... well, just work around it and move on. Don't make a fuss. The "meeting rules" are different, yet very much the same. That difference, it seems to me, lies in what you pay attention to, and what you do about it.

I found myself slowing down as I walked. Those visitors to the park who regularly passed me on the footpath at a "normal" pace struck me as missing the whole show, even the whole point. None of the the things that surrounded us moved very fast, and by all rights we should respect that a bit more. I'm no tree-hugger, but if you're going to go to a place where trees are the thing, at least look up every once in a while, preferably when your feet have stopped moving.

Eventually, I just stopped and stood and studied and then really stopped. This was very nice, but also much more. The more I began to see and notice, the more there was to see and notice. That went on for a while and things got a bit complicated in a peaceful sort of way. But gradually I realized that at a certain point the meeting rules are out of their league and you have to get beyond them. Finally, you just have to stop and let it all simply wash over you, without sound or fury or fuss. It's then that you can see, smile, sigh, and step forward.

It was a great way to welcome in the new year, ready to step forward.