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Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer

by Richard Rohr

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692833,008 (4.38)7
This popular and bestselling book of the renowned Franciscan challenges people to move beyond the comfort of a settled life toward an understanding of themselves that is rooted in their connection to God. Only when they rest in God can they find the certainty and the freedom to become all that they can be. Contemplation has its place at the heart of Christianity, a place that allows people to experience how “everything belongs.”… (more)
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I didn’t get much out of this book the first time except a passive idea that it was a good book, because I was too caught up in my guilt over being part of such a group as the Christians, and distracted by my feeling of obligation to be there among them. I feel the book being growthful for me now, although I might not write that much about it. I will say something about Richard’s call to criticize (be a prophet to) such things as capitalism and the church, although I am not the same personality type as him and I don’t always feel the same needs as him. I feel like I agree with him now not that the market is bad since I don’t think he’s saying that, but that we participate in the market, (although we tend not to believe in it), and it’s one of the few things we are willing to participate in, and so often we ask the market to do things that it isn’t suited to do, at least alone, which is ultimately a disservice to the market, and ourselves. Wrong tool for the job. I’m not exactly talking about the government, which obviously has its own budget. But any entrepreneur actually has this deep belief that Negative Nigel who says they’re delusional is crazy and that they’re not crazy, and how to do that is one of many things we don’t learn from being willing to participate in bad TV, and small-budget economic activity. Who knows; maybe that’s not what Richard means, I don’t know. About his criticism of his religion, I’ll just say that this is often a necessary corollary to his support of his religion. To say nothing critical you either have to remain silent, or bullshit. Certain things create each other, right. And a lot of Christians try to notice every good Christian thing there’s ever been, and studiously ignore every bad Christian thing—or else—and that ultimately is pretty dishonest. Ultimately I’d like from Christians that in one way or another they could become people we could all learn from, and maybe Richard is that. I don’t know why Christians would take pleasure in other people’s religious misfortunes, but Christians do seem to take pleasure in other groups’ religious misfortunes, after causing them; and I don’t think that’s how Christianity will work in the future.

I’ve written elsewhere about contemplation, but it’s hard to write about specifically, so I’ll just leave off with those Richard-specific things, and not try to explain unsaying today, you know.

…. It’s easy to think you’re being a contemplative/spiritual and echo the words, ‘Show us the Father and it suffices us.’ Enough of this Planet Earth B.S., Jesus.

…. There are actually two sides to it, I see now: acceptance because you’re actually being given a gift; it’s not just an endurance contest (which naturally would provoke resentment, against somebody or something, eventually). Richard actually seems to see the feminine side to it, although I didn’t see that, when I was a Christian.

…. He also tends to think that the models and so on are the farthest from Jesus, though: the old monastic fear, even if he has as little patience for men and masculinity as many men have. And then he claims to believe in aboriginal society, not because he knows anything about it or participates in one, but as a convenient stick to beat society with: just like every strong,hard-ass thinker—and everyone random person who wishes that was them—claims to want nothing to do with rich people~ oh, Jesus, the horror! To think that someone else is happy while I’m here suffering, looking after the children, playing football with hairy men; help me Jesus; help me live in this world where a few people go to parties and live it up!—mostly because those people at least have a chance to enjoy something that all of us wanted to enjoy before something unfair happened to us and we decided to pursue power, knowledge, and Jesus instead. It is true that the world isn’t perfect yet, and that sometimes people who have a chance to enjoy life the most are wasteful of their chances, but I think it remains that that’s not why we’re angry at them, and that’s that has nothing to do with this cultured French Marxism a few of us—a very, very few—actually pretend to understand, you know.

And then he criticizes people like that, not fully getting that it’s him, maybe 20% of the time maybe. Some people make excuses for people on Team USA/Your Mother/Jesus, like your average devotional writer, who would have difficulty admitting that your mother or Jesus or Frank Capra or whoever can experience discontent or make mistakes, and then the intellectuals come along and just kinda fire off criticism scatter-shot to make themselves feel like they got everybody/covered everything/are smart, you know. Sometimes the trans-cognitive awareness people think some very specific, spiteful thoughts, you know.

I don’t know. Richard is one of the Christians I can read without feeling like I’m supporting something unambiguously evil, but sometimes I just want to hear him drop the angry-man-from-the-desert charade and admit that being better than you could have been means that you cause less harm than was otherwise possible, and forget all this pessimism about the unbeatability of evil and the untrustworthy nature of models, rich people, and people in general, you know. Even if it’s true, Richard, it’s not making you happy—so how ‘true’ is that, right?

…. And it’s even funnier if you actually watch a TV show or two, which Richard probably doesn’t feel the need to do before he judges them, right. A lot of Hollywood’s deathly afraid to be Hollywood. In a lot of old movies the women get limited screen time because women are sin because they’re sex; in a lot of even relatively modern shows the girl who’s afraid of men because sex is sin is the first sister to get a boyfriend, (wouldn’t she run away and make him cut it out or die trying? Is she lying or does she just have no agency, at all?), and the scarlet starlet always has to hang out with some farm girl and talk vaguely about faith (Catholic and Protestant checks both cash!), and apple pie and sacrificing like mom did, you know. There are a few movies where people take drugs or whatever, although half the time they end up dead, which is as likely to be a guilt thing as calculation, really. And don’t tell me that Hollywood never made farm girl stories, even recently, even until our own day, because you know it’s true. And what else does the anti-Madison Avenue agenda have that they can do but that, aside from maybe some incredibly hypocritical scheming that’s not intended to be understood?

…. He’s Richard, you know. As much as it’s clear that he’s obviously not unambiguously deluded, and as much as he’s really trying, I do disagree with him about some things; perhaps I disagree with him less than I would the average person, but…. I mean, even at his best, he tends to tough-wisdom people, and to like best (well, either his personality in foreign cultures, or) people he can pity and who so aren’t a threat—moms and dads caring for children in the night, and not for people who, philosophically, are a threat, like almost anyone else—say those kids, once they grow up and start watching TV and buying magazines, you know. And, sure, sure, the children, the teenagers, they’re psycho, but not because they’re young—not because they’re not Richard….

…. I know that Richard and his fans don’t form a hive mind, but once on YouTube Oprah was interviewing him, and she was being like the curious person who didn’t know anything, and Richard was being the old wise man, you know: and the comments were basically like, “Fuck television presenters”, right; which is sorta a hardened version of a sentiment he has sometimes, albeit not about Oprah specifically….

…. But at his best he does kinda get to that level of—I actually mean this as kinda a cool compliment, you know—basic, entry-level true morality: clearing away the debris before the door of non-illness, right…. We could all benefit from that. Sometimes pagans say, “Myth X was influenced by the Christians; therefore it’s bogus”—and it’s like, well, you know: ~who knows?….. (The Beatles: Revolution), “Well, you know….”, just relax, homie. We gonna make it. You sit yourself down now. You look like you gonna faint from the uptight, right. 😸

…. I certainly have a different perspective, but it’s really not a bad book, really.

“Forgiveness has nothing to do with logic; it is the final breakdown of it.”

…. I hear him basically talking about patience a lot: sit with the problem; don’t imagine it goes away instantaneously just because you don’t like it. Really appreciate your experience even when you don’t like it. Ironically, I don’t think I was good at this when I was a Christian, because then I felt judged, (too sinful; too associated with a sinful church), and how can you be patient when the hammer of the king is coming down on your head in your mind? It’s a lot harder to be patient when you feel judged. I couldn’t do it well.

Though of course, I try not to blame every individual Christian for Christianity; I also have to admit that Richard is right in this respect: sometimes you have to sit with undesirable reality, and all transformation of it has to come out of that sitting with it, that patience with it, basically. I know he’s right about that, because I’d like to be a liberated witch, a successfully-weird spiritual person, which I think is my mission in this lifetime, (perhaps ‘mission’ is like the American equivalent to ‘dharma’), but basically now I am just slowly crawling out from under my background as a judged, judging Christian. I’d even like to form a deeper, realer relationship with IHVH, and perhaps with the Bible teachers as teachers, since IHVH is as good a mask of the One as any, and it is not all the Many, and unity is not all how I was doing it when I was unhappy.

But in the immediacy it’s kinda sitting with having read negative or useless books and having had negative or useless thoughts, and having led a negative or ineffective life to some extent, while imagining that I knew God’s secrets, you know. (shrugs) Sometimes that happens to people. Just like when you get sick physically, right: you get a common cold, the doctor doesn’t look in your throat and say: I’ve never seen this before; I think it might be a ‘cold’…. I’m not sure what to do. This has never happened before; we’ll have to improvise….

…. I do disagree with him, though.

(counting) “…. and that’s how many potatoes you need this week. Come back next week for another patch of potatoes. And God bless you, my child.”

And watch what happens to non-aggression, etc, when you want another couple of potatoes, you know.

For a non-bigot he can be thoroughly judgmental at times, you know.

…. There’s a sense in which, to use the psychoanalytic term, Richard doesn’t care if you’re liberal or conservative—as long as you’re the cultural super-ego, thwacking away at the id—thwacking away at desire and what people want. (You ate two potatoes too many for the week! I’m reporting you to Father Francis! That money will have to come out of our ‘patronize the poor’ budget, Little Jimmie! Wait here and feel shame for the sins of capitalism, in the name of the left and the right!) But maybe society needs a cultural id, too; certainly it does, although people spend all their time being ashamed of it, which in no sense lessens their acting it out. The id should be reformed and moderated, of course, by both rational and meditative means: a lot of the cultural id is just racism and colorism (so relevant to women’s hair, for example), and is a little crazy.

But to just glorify the days when people believed in poverty so that the Pope wouldn’t ram a knight’s lance down their throat, and to declare war to the death on women buying home decor, and men (if there are any) who care about what women think of them and what they themselves look like…. They say humanity might not survive, but what good is survival if you’re miserable? People probably wouldn’t be so suicidally negligent about collective survival if they weren’t miserable, and even a non-bigoted pleasure-thrashing, poverty-promotion agenda does NOT make people less miserable. It’s just shame. They’ll do all the same things or worse, and just feel worse about doing them….

The id doesn’t even pretend not to be colorist; however, it is largely fear of the id that has put the mass incarceration crew in glorified cages, you know. Which isn’t Richard’s intention, but I guess you could say that he’s cousin to the Czar, or something, in a way. Like most of the people who wrote books in the 19th century in Russia. Like the good old dead men who wrote books, generally speaking.

But it’s not a bad book. I would just go a little further and say, with Cosmic Hermes, (the teacher of the Child Hermes) that everything belongs…. to Me.

…. Most people participate in the market to some extent, at least, and most people do not believe in it; some people even make millions of dollars and become admired because of their career, but do not believe the market is in any sense a good thing. I don’t say that to mock or become indignant, of course, since it is their choice, and anyway, the primary person limited by their choice is themselves—they do not believe in enjoying their success; they believe in carping. And I guess Richard signs his earnings to be automatically given over to Saint Francis or Pope Francis or somebody, so, he especially doesn’t get to enjoy, you know. He gets to sit very quietly in a room by himself and feel that we should all come together and judge each other for the betterment of mankind, you know.

…. But Jesus is not my god. I guess that sounds a little provocative; even when I was a Christian, though, and certainly now, I just never clicked with the whole Christian clique thing where Jesus is head and shoulders above all the other gods and prophets, a wild, Western male, you know…. And, on the other hand, I don’t object to his personality or character itself, but I never connected emotionally to his story as it’s presented—“as it really is” or whatever, aside from the wars and so on, the getting betrayed and murdered, just how it was always supposed to be, you know. Becoming less and diminishment are a part of life on this plane of existence but the “good Christian” just seems to grow mighty attached to them, you know. Basically I just don’t understand why Jesus isn’t like any other god or prophet, to some extent. And I don’t get how you can look at a child and say, “Because you were born in this country, in this century, in this family—I’ve got your god lined up for you”, you know. It’s like, Do you reject everything that there is, because you’re angry/sexy or play chess/watch mid-century sitcoms too much—although you really ~shouldn’t~ be like ~that, in the end, you know—or…. (hands over ten thousand page document of spiritual assumptions and demands/preconceived notions). It’s one or the other! (And, in the end…. You’ve got to make the right choice!)

And I don’t get how even trying to be a “moral”, kind, just, non-bigoted Christian isn’t ultimately largely about propping up that system, you know—The Great Jesus Assumption, you know. “Jesus is my god; therefore, I assume that we’re all here, doing whatever we’re doing, because of him…. And I assume that you assume the same! And ~you, in turn, can assume that if you don’t agree with me, you’re a (select insult—wandering Gypsy, teenage rebel, dirty capitalist, typical woman/man…. Although probably the most relevant label, if you’re going to go there, would just be ‘Christian’: typical neurotic Christian….).

The church as a system of assumed, non-negotiable loyalty is just so problematic, and the only way around it seems, is to stop being a “real man”, something even many left-leaning Christians can’t really imagine without their brains ‘sploding, you know. Even female Christians preaching nursery care and non-competition are probably engaged in one of their more male-leaning activities when they go to church, you know. They’re feminine, of course—embroidery classes while judging others! This is better than “Gossip Girl”!—but church is their kinda bending the knee, paying homage, apologizing, you know. And there’s not a lot that most liberal Christians, certainly most liberal Catholics, really do to challenge that, really.

…. The Middle Ages

—My mother says I can’t become a nun; I have to get married and I have to marry Tom. What do you say, Father McCray?
—Mothers are so kind, and Tom is so handsome. It is an honor I give to myself to marry the two of you.

—My mother says I can’t get married; I have to become a nun, and I have to join the Sisters of the Grim Unkindness. What do you say, Father McCray?
—The world is sin; rejoice that you shall know the mystery of Grim Unkindness, and not the sin of the marriage-bed. I’ll tell Sister Sally about your vocation.

Today

—I think people should have some say in how they spend their own lives, and that includes me, of course: but my mother makes it sound like I’m being an ungrateful, chaotic little twit. What do you say, Father Richard?
—The choas swirls unkindly in these wealthy, last days of the world. Some people say it’s the Gypsies with their tarot cards. But maybe it’s really just the capitalism, you know…. The system; the system wants things to change…. We have to stand up and say: no! No, I’m free!
—So I’m my mother’s slave until she dies, then.
—Is there any other way?
  goosecap | Jan 14, 2024 |
I have found a welcoming spiritual guide in Richard Rohr. I used his Lenten guide this year and found his message to be one of love, peace and acceptance. Everything Belongs" The Gift of Contemplative Prayer continued that message, focusing on prayer as a means to settle the mind and speak with the creator. His message has so many connections with the meditation teachers I follow, most of whom are Buddhist. Rohr is a Franciscan priest. I subscribed to the daily meditations from the Center for Action and Contemplation and he often includes passages from those outside the Catholic and Christian traditions.
  witchyrichy | Aug 30, 2023 |
Richard can talk to me anytime he likes. Usually we meet in the early hours before my day picks up steam. When I say we meet, I mean I hold his book in one hand and a pencil in the other as I underline sentences or star particular paragraphs that he clearly wrote just for me.

The only sorrow of picking up a book by Rohr is knowing that it will end and I'll be left on my own until I find/order/borrow another. Of some comfort: his ideas are so fresh that I know I will be struck once more with the warmth of the Love of which he speaks. The perspective and understanding shared will make me blink and catch my breath as he invites me, yet again, into contemplation and the Unified Field where everything belongs.

Confession: I still have a spiritual crush on this writer and must admit that I hope I may be transformed into a mystic as his words and teachings soak into my soul. ( )
  rebwaring | Aug 14, 2023 |
I have yet to read a book by Richard Rohr that does not resonate and hit me with a synchronistic lightning bolt of wisdom. Every word within this book is gold. Highly recommend to any lapsed christian and philosopher that is looking to find deeper meaning in our modern world. ( )
  Andy5185 | Jul 9, 2023 |
Part of my journey that turned my spiritual life around ( )
  leebill | Apr 30, 2020 |
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This popular and bestselling book of the renowned Franciscan challenges people to move beyond the comfort of a settled life toward an understanding of themselves that is rooted in their connection to God. Only when they rest in God can they find the certainty and the freedom to become all that they can be. Contemplation has its place at the heart of Christianity, a place that allows people to experience how “everything belongs.”

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Using parables, koans, and personal experiences, Richard Rohr leads us beyond the techniques of prayer to a place where we can receive the gift of contemplation: the place where (if only for a moment) we see the world in God clearly, and know that everything belongs. Richard Rohr has written this book to help us pray better and see life differently. He teaches us that there are not two worlds - a sacred and a profane. There are two ways of seeing the same world. If we can let go of who we think we are, we can see who we really are. And when we do, we will see the sacred for ourselves. Rohr encourages us to take on a "beginner's mind," to unlearn old habits and learn to stand reality on its head. The benefit is the gift of contemplation: "a way of living in awareness of the Presence, even enjoying the Presence. We trust, allow, and delight in it. We see how everything fits, and know that everything belongs." Includes a reader's guide for reflection.
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