Self-cultivation, creative community and nobility of spirit: recovering the forgotten ideals

The search for inner peace in the midst of a noisy, hurried, anxious and acquisitive society is a worthy and understandable pursuit. However, the search for inner peace must not be separated from the forgotten classical ideals of self-cultivation, compassionate community and nobility of spirit.

More expansively, these forgotten ideals include the cultivation of spiritual insight, natural wonder, intellectual reflection, authentic friendship, artistic creativity and ethical integrity. What we are talking about is a renewed vision of "the universal human" — the liberation of our creative potential within the larger context of the ecology of being, the presence of mystery and reverence for life.

I find the relationship between inner peace and outward striving to be a creative dialectic, just as introversion and extraversion, solitude and community, detachment and engagement, awareness and involvement are continually cycling back and forth in our lives. Either extreme will get us in trouble. We need to discover "the middle way."

Aristotle, Buddha, and Confucius all spoke of the golden mean or middle way between excess and defect, too much and too little. We are still learning that lesson today. We either get caught up in the frenetic rat-race or we fall into lethargic depression when we stop running everywhere. We have altered Descartes idea from "I think, therefore I am" to "I do, therefore I am." We fear that we will fall out of existence if we stop doing. We must recover "being" and "relating" and the deeper spiritual context for "doing" and "achieving."

In my life I try to strike a balance between contemplation and community, reflection and dialogue. At Omega House I enjoy assisting university students and adult learners of all ages to engage "The Great Conversation." This conversation includes the basic worldview questions and profound wisdom traditions. These conversations happen every Friday at noon. They are free and open to the general public. Our Southern Oregon University spiritual life community also meets every Friday. It uses classical music and sacred chant from the world's spiritual traditions to cultivate "contemplative space" in a world dominated by "the tyranny of the urgent" and the compression of time. We need to remember that "the urgent is seldom important, and the important is seldom urgent."

True peace of mind must not be separated from the forgotten ideals of self-cultivation, civil society and nobility of spirit. Especially, it must integrate the rhythm between contemplative solitude and community dialogue. It must renew our connection to the sacred, the eternal, the sublime, but without degenerating into a self-defeating attempt to escape the human condition, the perplexities of life and the exigencies of time. What we need is wisdom, compassion, courage and grace.

In closing, I recommend a delightful book entitled "Nobility of Spirit: A Forgotten Ideal," by Rob Riemen. Mr. Rieman is an essayist and cultural philosopher and founder of the Nexus Institute, an international center devoted to intellectual reflection and to inspiring Western cultural and philosophical debate. In this book he identifies nobility of spirit in the life and work of Spinoza, Goethe and Thomas Man, explores the quest for the good society in our own age and addresses the pursuit of truth and freedom that has engaged many of history's greatest minds.

The Rev. Richard C. Lang is the executive director of Omega House Spiritual Life Center and Creative Learning Community, located at 371 S. Mountain Ave. He can be reached at (541) 488-2304 or

You are invited to share what inner peace means to you. Send a 650-word article to Sally McKirgan at .

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