Book Club Channel
Lessons from the Farm: An Interview with Robert Wicks
The interesting thing about the calls for me are, is that I feel you should not move any faster through them than is possible. To try to do so would be a mistake. Timing and readiness are crucial. Trying too hard can also be a block. What I am trying to say is reflected in the following dialogue between a young man and his spiritual director: "Father, if I join this spiritual community, how long do you think it would take for me to reach a new level in my inner life?" "Oh, 10 years," the Abba responds. "But what if I work really hard, how long then." "Ah, then it will take 20 years."
Do you have to be on a country farm, or somewhere else remote, beautiful and quiet to practice the lessons you suggest?
Oh, I don't have to think for a moment about the answer to that: Absolutely not! Although nature and a chance to enjoy alone time can be lovely for many. For others, it need not be the setting—as a matter of fact, it may have the opposite effect. The daughter of one author who wrote a book on solitude told her mother that she loved living in the city and then joked, "Besides, I am frightened of trees." The real importance is to have a place where you can lean back, breathe a bit, smile at your life, and be grateful. People run around all the time and see this as practical. Why running to your grace is sensible, I'll never know. Stepping back doesn't mean we do less but our motivations are different: we are active instead of busy; involved instead of overwhelmed. When we are mindful, and don't separate ourselves from spaces of quiet and solitude but instead enjoy them, then when we come to die, we will do it while we are living...not merely existing. (Obviously from my long-winded response, you can see how important I feel alonetime is.)
Who do you hope reads this book, and what do you hope they take away?
My hope is they will take a few lessons in living simply and fully that will help them enjoy their life and be more naturally compassionate to others. In addition, I deeply wish they will remember some of the stories because stories get around our resistances, remain in our heart, and often come to mind at times when they most need to stand by our side and help us decide whether our thinking and actions make real sense or are just a product of the family or societal culture around us that often serve as invisible puppeteers without our even knowing it...sometimes until it is, unfortunately, too late. The lessons in this book say it clearly: it is never too late but don't assume you will always have time.
What conversations do you want this book to inspire?
I would love people to talk about what is really important in their lives. During this stressful time for many, Streams of Contentment seeks to have people look at their lives through different lenses than ones like success, financial wealth, and the ability to choose among many products to buy. Rather, it encourages time for better relationships with the persons around us, an appreciation of faithfulness in doing "little things" for people, and more interest in inner freedom than the freedom to purchase whatever you want. Again, not new psychological and spiritual tenets...but often forgotten ones.
Do you expect this book to change anyone's mind? About what?
This book is not designed to change anyone's mind. The reader can only decide that and that is as it should be. But I have tried to put forth for a larger audience the concepts that those in the healing and helping professions have found helpful in the past 30 years of my working with them.
Deborah Arca joined the Patheos team after more than ten years managing programs for the Program in Christian Spirituality at the San Francisco Theological Seminary. Deborah has also been a youth minister, a director of Christian Education and music/theatre programs for young people and has served as a music director for worship and special retreats.