An Opportune Time to Pause, Reflect, and Move Forward

Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - 4:04pm
Photo by Simon Linde

An Opportune Time to Pause, Reflect, and Move Forward

The passing of a year is an opportune time to reflect on the many splendid things that have come our way and to be thankful for all the wonder that's bestowed upon us. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel also reminds us of the work yet to be done:

"It became clear to me that in regard to cruelties committed in the name of a free society, some are guilty while all are responsible."

And so, as we kick off 2016, let us assume the mantle, pause for a moment, humbly bow, and take stock of our responsibilities as old and new challenges face us.

This image is of a young Karen girl and her grandmother in their family's shop in the extremely remote village of Pare-Ou, located one hour boat ride from Ban Mae Sam Laeb along the bank of the Salawin River, which divides Thailand and Myanmar.

Familial responsibility is a key factor which leads to girls being trafficked. Culturally, daughters in the family are seen by their parents as a commodity with their only value being to improve the family's situation. In addition, these girls are bound by their obligation to their family and do not even question their parents if they decide to sell them to a trafficker. As such, the main way to improve the prospects for at-risk girls is to improve the standard and duration of education, and to engage with the community to help them understand the other ways to improve their standard of living.

(Karl Grenet / FlickrSome rights reserved.)

That's what Parker Palmer, our Wednesday columnist, asks us to do. A serendipitous typo inspires him to come up with a list of five "revolutions" for the New Year, resolutions to counteract grim realities in order to regain our humanity in 2016:

"Revolutions that succeed are always for something rather than merely against this or that. But if we’re serious about what we’re for, we need to name what we’re willing to stand openly against."

And, in "The End of Arrogance Is Needed," Mohammed Fairouz stands up and does just that:

"There is an ancient saying among the tribes of the Arabian Desert: you will know that someone truly cares about you when they tell you what you need to hear rather than what you want to hear. And so this article is written in that spirit of care and respect."

His latest column for our Public Theology Reimagined initiative touches an impulse stirring within so many today, especially as the political rhetoric of making America great again points at the decline of not only U.S. power, but the erosion of trust among its allies and its own citizens.

An Orthodox priest tries to stop a clash between protesters and the police at a protest in the center of Kiev, Ukraine.

(Sergei Supinsky / Agence France-Presse / Getty ImagesSome rights reserved.)

But Fr. James Krueger saw signs of hope and the building of a renewed trust amidst the violent protests that rocked the capital city of Ukraine last year. Inspired by the sincerity of the clergy's presence on the front lines, the Anglican priest reflects on how we bridge the gap between contemplative practice and contemplative action:

"Without first learning to retreat, one’s advancing becomes chaotic, confused, and contentious. Without knowing how to advance, one’s spiritual life becomes flimsy, sentimental, and tiresome. In contemplation, there must be decisive, prophetic action; in action, there must be openness, recollection, and prayer."

"This love of wide open spaces moves us beyond the ethics of caretaking and custodianship. It is a reminder that we as human beings are part and parcel of the fabric of the natural cosmos."

Untamed, wild beauty kindles a yearning and an awe that few man-made structures can, even with the most sacred churches, mosques, or temples. Our resident bard Omid Safi with a praise song for the wide open spaces that beckon us to open our hearts to all people and all things before us.

"Is it any wonder that our families are conflicted? They are the 'places' where we do all of the hard, meaningful stuff in life."

There is no norm when it comes to the prototypical family unit. And, family, as we all know, is at once our breaking point and our healing refuge. With the holiday season behind us, Courtney Martin asks us to embrace the family we have and resist the idealized version that never existed.

I'd like to go out with some music. If you haven't seen it yet, Aretha's inspired performance is not to be missed. And how about this gracious gift from the band Radiohead:

“Last year we were asked to write a theme tune for the Bond movie "Spectre." Yes we were. It didn’t work out, but became something of our own, which we love very much. As the year closes we thought you might like to hear it. May the force be with you.”

Their message — and their song — seems like the right thing to hear on these first days of 2016.

May you have a wonderful new year. As always, please feel free to contact me at, or via Twitter at @trentgilliss.

May the wind always be at your back.


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Trent Gilliss

is the cofounder of On Being / KTPP and currently serves as chief content officer and executive editor. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on "The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi" and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent's reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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