Daniel Berrigan's 'Ten Commandments'
Of course as someone who has written on the Old Testament (particularly the Prophets) Daniel Berrigan, S.J., age 92, the Jesuit priest, poet and peace activist, understands the centrality of the original Ten Commandments. But thanks to Jim Forest, himself an apostle of social justice, for pointing me to these ten spiritual rules from Father Berrigan's book, Ten Commandments for the Long Haul (1981). There's a personal interest in this for me, too. Once, several years ago, I wrote to Dan when I was frustrated about something in the church and was tempted to, as Thomas Merton used to say, "blast off," i.e., speak my mind in not the most sensible way. In response to an agitated letter, Dan, who had himself known Merton, wrote me to counsel patience, and reminded me that I'm in this "for the long haul." I think his "Commandments" are useful in the church today. (Photo also thanks to Jim Forest.)
1) Call on Jesus when all else fails. Call on Him when all else succeeds (except that never happens).
2) Don't be afraid to be afraid or appalled to be appalled. How do you think the trees feel these days, or the whales, or, for that matter, most humans?
3) Keep your soul to yourself. Soul is a possession worth paying for, they're growing rarer. Learn from monks, they have secrets worth knowing.
4) About practically everything in the world, there's nothing you can do. This is Socratic wisdom. However, about of few things you can do something. Do it, with a good heart.
5) On a long drive, there's bound to be a dull stretch or two. Don't go anywhere with someone who expects you to be interesting all the time. And don't be hard on your fellow travelers. Try to smile after a coffee stop.
6) Practically no one has the stomach to love you, if you don't love yourself. They just endure. So do you.
7) About healing: The gospels tell us that this was Jesus' specialty and he was heard to say: "Take up your couch and walk!"
8) When traveling on an airplane, watch the movie, but don't use the earphones. Then you'll be able to see what's going on, but not understand what's happening, and so you'll feel right at home, little different then you do on the ground.
9) Know that sometimes the only writing material you have is your own blood.
10) Start with the impossible. Proceed calmly towards the improbable. No worry, there are at least five exits.