The Museum of Modern Art in New York City is currently sponsoring an exhibition of the drawings and paintings of Paul Cezanne (1839-1906). A panel entitled, “Time and Contemplation,” adorns the wall leading into his work. On it one reads the classic words of the artist himself: “Time and contemplation gradually modify our vision and at last we reach understanding.”
Do we though? Can we ever understand a 12-story building collapsing on hundreds of innocent people while they sleep? Can we ever understand the incessant and unrelenting effort to remake reality according to one’s own agenda? These kinds of events are an affront to all we hold dear. They are deeply challenging because our grief and righteous anger in the face of them can fill the screen of our consciousness obscuring and challenging anything else we know. Contemplative practice in the face of all of this is like a trip into the wilderness where, as author and activist Terry Tempest Williams tells us, “The open space opens our minds….we hear what has been lost…we see what has been obscured….no longer numb, we feel ourselves alive, awakened.”
No need to travel to the wilderness. The above experience is as close as the nearest chair or meditation cushion…because it is as close to us as we are to ourselves. Take the time, or better, make the time to experience it.
Written by Margaret Galiardi, OP for the Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue