Friday, July 2, 2010

Intentional Industrial Interbeing

I often give myself a little "attention task of the day". Sometimes it's something like being especially attentive to feelings that may be behind someone's words. It may be going for a walk and watching for bugs. It could be watching clouds and figuring out what they look like. I find that these kinds of "attention tasks" get me out of my rational, logical focus. They are a change of pace; they force me to look differently.

Yesterday, I knew I was going to spend some time on the light-rail. So I set, as my "attention-task" to look out the window and see if I could discern the presence of the Divine. Now I've done this before -- but not from a light-rail seat. Usually its on a walk in nature, and I can hear birds singing, and see flowers, and feel the wind rush. Perfect for "watching for God."

The section of light-rail, however, that I was traveling was anything but scenic. (For those of you Denverites, it was the stretch on the southwest line from Littleton to Denver, pretty much along Santa Fe Drive.) On either side of the light-rail are rail-road tracks, busy street, light industry, junk-yards, apartment buildings, some office building, broken-down houses, etc. In short, a pretty urban landscape. And I began to wonder WHY in the world I had set THAT particular "attention task".

But, being a task-oriented guy, I decided to stick it out. And what began to occur to me was the vast mixture of things I was seeing . . . all of which, in some way or another, contributed to the life of the city -- to my life. There was a dairy (not the one pictured above!), with delivery trucks: milk to my home. There was a construction yard, with equipment to repair roads, FOR the delivery trucks to get the milk to my home. There were sign companies, advertising the dairy, accounting firms to keep their books. Almost everything I saw could be interlinked with something else, a vast web of enterprise that most of us don't see at all. And some of it came down to ME.

And I was reminded of the concept of "inter-being" about which Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh has written so much. Briefly, the concept goes, if I examine anything closely enough, I'll see that eventually the whole world--including me-- is contained in it. And, for someone who confesses that there is a God, I would have to take the concept a bit further and say that God ultimately is present too, in whatever I'm examining. So, in that interconnected web of industry, humans were being served in many different ways-often quite unaware of it all.

I got out of the light-rail car breathing a prayer of thanksgiving.




  1. I really like the concept of interbeing. It reminds me of not only the pervasiveness of god; but a nod to how we should behave (i.e, if you love me who you cannot see what about the man/woman/environment that you see everyday (horrible paraphrase)).
    Also, your experience on the light rail reminded me of what it was like community organizing last summer and the instances when I thought I was going to get support, but didn't and the times someone gave a fantastic testimony. This kid that sold books said it best; god's timing is perfect and divine appointments are apart of the plan!

  2. Mozart --- thanks. Interbeing, to me, is an important concept. It's a positive "take" on the old saw "no good deed goes unpunished, that is that everything's connected somehow. Or the butterfly flapping its wings in China having relationship to a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. It encourages a sense of responsibility, I think.