Are you centered in the universe? Do you feel a part of something beyond yourself? Bruce Epperly continues with his postcards from Claremont, where he's teaching Process Theology this fall. Reflecting on his experiences as he wakes early and engages the world, he finds God's presence in a context that is centered and pluralistic. I invite you to read and enjoy this posting, which comes a day later than normal!
Postcards from Claremont – 3 –
On Awakening Early
I’m notorious among my friends and family for being an early riser. Like Socrates, who after a long night of philosophical reflection and lively celebration rose early for more conversation (see the Symposium), I rise before dawn each day for meditation, prayer, walking, and writing. But, my morning schedule at Claremont even astounds me. I can’t sleep past 4:00 a.m.! My eyes are wide open and mind starts whirring. What new adventures will I have today? What new images or ideas will emerge in the interplay of divine inspiration and human artistry? What student will I meet, learn from, and possibly mentor?
I have a simple monastic life here. No television, no automobile, and no worries. I walk everywhere I go and accomplish four to seven miles of peripatetic adventures each day. But, more importantly, rising early allows me to receive and seize the day. In the language of process thought, I arise ready to initiate novelty to respond to the novelties of Claremont and the ambient world situation.
Claremont is a place to think big – and open the windows of your imagination. A new type of seminary, coming back to life after years of challenge, and an exciting vision of interreligious graduate education can inspire grand thinking. There are times when we expect to little from God and too little from ourselves. We identify “realism” solely with limitation, the bottom line, and the worst-case scenario, and of course we need to be aware of our resources and debits to move ahead in life. There is a “deeper realism” that arises from the vision of divine possibility and human (creaturely) openness to grow. The philosopher Whitehead noted that the limitations are the opportunities. Where else but in the concreteness of experience can lively possibilities emerge? There are five loaves and two fish, a definite limitation, but there is also a generous young boy and an imaginative teacher… and five thousand are fed!
Awakening early, I am bathed in darkness, early morning fragrances, the moon and stars, and the first sounds of the morning. As I saunter with intentionality at 3.3 mile an hour speed through the colleges and the village, the whole world opens to me. I see the horizon of a new morning and all the adventures that will come my way. Each moment is new on my “journey without distance.” Although most of my fall will be spent in a three mile radius of Claremont Theological Seminary, I feel connected to the whole universe and bountiful possibilities here. A noted physicist once stated that in a de-centered universe, every place is at the center. A Christian mystic affirmed that God is a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. (For my meditation on this theme, see my The Center is Everywhere: CelticSpirituality in a Postmodern World, Parsons Porch Books.)
At Claremont, the Seminary and Claremont Lincoln University seek to embody a centered pluralism, honoring the unique streams of thought, practice, and growth of each of the world’s religious traditions and seeking to become an environment for new ideas arising from the synergy of faiths living together. This is our world at its best and the world as it should be: mutual hospitality, diversity that leads to partnerships, and multiplicity that promotes spiritual unity in our vocation as God’s partners in healing the world.
This morning, I slept in to 4:45 a.m.! It is a new morning with new possibilities, classes to teach, texts to ponder, and sights to see. You can discover a universe in a grain of sand, and Claremont for me is that universe – centered and pluralistic – and intricately woven with the ones I love back home in Washington DC.
Bruce Epperly is a theologian, spiritual guide, pastor, and author of twenty two books, including Process Theology: A Guide to the Perplexed, Holy Adventure: 41 Days of Audacious Living, Philippians: An Interactive Bible Study, and The Center is Everywhere: Celtic Spirituality for the Postmodern Age. His most recent text is Emerging Process: Adventurous Theology for a Missional Church. He also writes regularly for the Process and Faith Lectionary and Patheos.com. He is currently serving as Visiting Professor of Process Studies at Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Lincoln University. He may be reached at email@example.com for lectures, workshops, and retreats.