In virtually all of his novels, the Czech writer Milan Kundera, manifests a strong impatience with every kind of ideology, hype, or fad that makes for group-think or crowd-hysteria. He is suspicious of slogans, demonstrations, and marches of all kinds, no matter the cause, writes Ron Rolheiser.
He calls all these the great march and, to his mind, they invariably lead to violence, all of them. Kundera likes artists because they tend to steer clear of causes, wanting to paint or write rather than march.
There are causes worth fighting for and there are injustices and wounds in our world that demand our involvement beyond our wanting rather to paint or write. Still Kundera's severe judgment on marches and demonstrations of all kinds, the great march, is fair warning. Why?
Because in our more reflective moments we know how hard it is not to get caught up in ideology, hype, fad, group-think, and crowd-hysteria in a way that leaves us mindless. It's hard to know what we really think and believe, as opposed to what the cultural circles we move within prescribe for us. It's hard not to be caught up in the fashion of the moment.
But it's even harder for us to ground ourselves in something deeper; to root ourselves in a perspective outside what Thomas Hardy once called the maddening crowd. How can we ground ourselves in a depth that immunises us from ideology, fad, hype, fashion, and the subtle group-hysterias that plague every culture?
In Luke's Gospel, the disciples sense that Jesus is drawing his wisdom, calm, strength, and power from somewhere beyond himself, that he is grounding himself in something beyond both the enticements and threats of the present moment. Their hunch is that he is finding this depth in prayer.
They too want to connect to this depth and power and they have come to realize that prayer is the route, the only route, to take them there. And so they ask Jesus to teach them how to pray. What did he teach them? How do we pray in such a way so as to ground ourselves in something truly beyond our own individual and collective narcissism?
Metaphorically, this is described for us in the passage in Scripture which records the martyrdom of Saint Steven. This is the scene...
FULL STORY Prayer as keeping us outside the great march (Ron Rolheiser)