WHEN LIFE’S PATH IS STEEP, KEEP YOUR MIND EVEN. This observation comes from Horace (65-27 BC). Maintaining our balance, an evenness of mind, is a challenge for human beings. We’re always out there pushing and contriving, finding ways to further our own interests. Self-effort might encourage Christians to depend more than we should on ritual and church practice. Pride might exaggerate our reliance on good works or donations to charity. Or, out of a sincere desire to grow our spirituality, we could place an overemphasis on physical discipline, plans for exercise, healthful or cleansing diets, and meditation.
Now, let me say, I’ve done variations of all of these things at one time or another. And there can be some good in them, if done in moderation. But who among us stays moderate? A 14th century mystic, the writer of the Cloud of Unknowing, knew well the ascetic practices and intellectual exercises and good works of worship. Living in a monastery, they surrounded him every day. And yet he thoughtfully concluded this in his Epistle of Discretion: “For silence is not God, nor speaking is not God; fasting is not God, nor eating is not God; loneliness is not God, nor company is not God; nor yet any of all the other two such contraries. He is hid between them, and may not be found by work of thy soul, but only by love of thine heart.” (Underwood vi-vii).