Community is an Art Form – 5 quotes from Richard Rohr’s book – Simplicity: The Freedom of Letting Go

by Mark Votava


1. We have to live our way into a new kind of thinking

“We have to put our life on a new footing.  I believe we’ve always thought that we could reason our way into the Gospel.  But we’ll never solve the way to a new life in our heads; we have to live our way into a new kind of thinking.  First we have to act.  We have to dare to cross over this threshold and live differently so that, starting from this point, we can again ask challenging questions.  That’s why action and decision come first.”

2. The art of contemplation

“Contemplation is a way to hear with the Spirit and not with the head.  Contemplation is the search for a wide-open space.  This space is broad enough for the head, the heart, the feelings, the gut, the subconscious, our memories, our intuitions, our whole body.  We need a holistic place for hearing.  As Christians we have to go to this place if we’re looking for wisdom.  If we don’t produce any more wise men and women, then the reason is that we have forgotten the art of contemplation.”

3. God is always free

“…the sermons of priests and pastors convert no one.  Just consider how many sermons you’ve heard in your life.  Circumstances convert people!  You have to make your way to new circumstances, so that reality can really get through to you, because that’s where Jesus has hidden himself: in the human condition and even in the humiliation of human flesh.  Christ always comes into the world on an ass, Christ always comes into the world as a beggar.  We would so much like to have him enclosed in the Church and in our theology.  But God is always free.”  

4. The Gospel calls the whole world to a kind of community

“I really believe that the Gospel calls the whole world to a kind of community, to the possibility of a life that can be shared.  But community is an art form…  The secret lies in the way you let other people get through to you, and the way you move out of yourself.  This is, of course, at once the mystery of spirituality and the mystery of vulnerability and powerlessness.  When a person is on a serious inner journey to his or her own powerlessness and is also in immediate contact with the powerless men and women of the world, then community will result.”

5. The compulsions to be successful, to be right, to be powerful

“In my opinion there are three things that we need to let go of.  First is the compulsion to be successful.  Second is the compulsion to be right – even, and especially, to be theologically right.  That’s an ego trip, and because of this churches have split in half, with both parties prisoners of their own egos.  Finally there is the compulsion to be powerful, to have everything under control.  I’m convinced that these are the three demons Jesus faced in the wilderness.  And so long as we haven’t looked these three demons in the face, we should presume that they’re still in charge.  The demons have to be called by name, clearly, concretely, and practically, spelling out just how imperious and self-righteous we are.  This is the first lesson in the spirituality of subtraction.”  

Which quote do you like the most?