“I really liked Richard Beck’s latest blog post, The Kingdom of God is Seeing.
If you’ve heard me talk over the last two years you might have heard me talk about how the kingdom of God is perceptual rather than moral. Specifically, the kingdom of God isn’t a matter of becoming a good person. The kingdom of God is a matter of seeing. If you see clearly then the goodness–right action–follows as naturally as breathing.
He describes a moment of revelation that Thomas Merton experienced in Louisville KY (one that merited a historical marker!), and then writes:
My observation here is that Merton doesn’t, in this moment, need to try, through an act of will, to “be a good person.” Instead, having come to see clearly, right action is easy and spontaneous.
This hints at what has been a guiding principle for me for many years, though even now I don’t understand it well enough to put it into simple, clear words. All I know is that seeing clearly, whatever that means, is somehow the key to the good life.
The good life is fundamentally a matter of doing the right thing. The best life is the one where the natural response to any circumstance is the right one. Doing things right means we have to be able to do the right thing, which requires a determination to do the right thing, i.e. to become a person who always acts rightly. But prior to that is the need to perceive what is right. And I think if you perceive clearly what is right, you will be drawn irresistibly (and joyfully) along the path that ends in a life of naturally does the right thing.
Years ago Doug Jones shocked me by writing that faith is a sense, a way of perceiving what is real. Perhaps it is the only way to perceive what is real. Suddenly most of what the Bible had to say about faith and faithfulness made sense to me.
I’m tempted to make a small adjustment to that well-known passage from T.S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding”:
We shall not cease from exploration,
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And see the place for the first time.