It used to begin with the evening news. Always, there was a faint tapping in the brain … something scratching at my conscience. Inevitably, this interior grating became an incessant “Get up and do something!”

Another voice, also unrelenting, spoke a canceling resignation.

It reminded me that in reality there was in fact nothing I could do respecting those particular issues.

Always, conscience and reality arrived at a valid and uneasy truce in recognition that the evening news seemed designed to foist upon me anxious thought about the un-saved character of our world.

Of necessity I have learned to steel myself against thoughts of being “King Arthur-come-to-the-rescue-of-this-world.”

Through the years I have become rather skilled in defeating the thought that I must always be “up and making a contribution” to my world. No longer am I as quick to judge myself solely upon whether I am or am not “making a difference.”

After all, no one is ever a mere doer. Life is more nuanced than that. Please do not mistake me! I am not calling a total halt to doing … and I am a doer, using such skills as are unique to me for the sake of this world. At the same time, I take seriously another need: the need to just be. No person exists merely for his or her ability to effect change in others or our common life. I must also be doing for my sake. What makes me valuable as a person is in part my ability to act “backward toward myself” for love of self. The tree that shelters the sun-drenched traveler exists because it has first nurtured itself. I am false to myself if I do not also nurture what I am. I recall something that has come down to me translated from the Buddha: “Don’t just do something, stand there!”

My aim then is to do more “standing there.” I will take time to pray and to read. I will give precious moments to spirit-deepening music. I will find time to sit in a pasture place, there listen to the hum of insects and watch some scudding clouds. I will pay attention to the burbling of the nearby brook.

Perhaps I will watch the sun slip below the horizon while all about me is an enveloping silence. I will save moments for thoughtful reflection before a van Gogh or Burchfield painting, even turn an appreciative eye upon one of my own landscapes.

You may think I am AWOL from life’s nagging issues. But what I will be doing is giving attention to my interior world so as to ready myself for those necessary tasks that are uniquely mine to do. It was Henry David Thoreau’s injunction that one should …


“Direct your eye right inward, and you’ll find

A thousand regions in your mind

Yet undiscovered. Travel them, and be

Expert in home-cosmography.”


You and I need first to become Lewis and Clark of our own inland streams and rivers. We too have a need to explore our own higher latitudes: explore the interior continents away from social media and this “too much world” that threatens to steal away our inner souls.

Afterward, we shall then discover new strength for serving on the front lines of those issues where our particular skills and insights are needed.

The Rev. Merle G. Steva is minister of visitation at First Parish Church in Saco.