Hour of None

Early Christians had a custom of dividing up the day into four blocks of about three hours, each with its own mood and prayers to say. It was actually a practice that historians say was adopted from Judaism as a way to structure and honor the passage of time. I was surprised to see the third portion of the day referred to as the “Hour of None.”

The None in this instance was derived from the word “nine,” referring to the ninth hour of the day, which generally fell at about three in the afternoon and led into evening. But what I found most interesting was how this particular chunk of time was characterized. It was considered the portion of the day when businesses closed for the night and people returned home to bathe and eat. It offered both a break from work and a transition before the last prayers; it played the role of sort of spiritual exhalation. I wondered about the synchronicity of the names—if, culturally speaking, we aren’t in our own “Hour of None.” Perhaps we’ve entered something of a pause, a retreat from the normal course of things, an opportunity to reflect and prepare for what comes next.

If we have arrived at such a time, this “time off,” then I have the opportunity to consider what to bundle up and smuggle with me into whatever phase awaits. From Judaism I’ll take monotheism, which I’ve come to appreciate as the birthplace of the radical notion that all beings on this planet—human and otherwise—originate from the same source and are, therefore, intrinsically connected. I want to remember the intent of Sabbath—a designated time to surrender productivity and allow myself to relish the freedom of simply being. I must not forget to take a moment or two each day to focus my thoughts once again on how miraculous it is to be alive, perhaps letting a simple but amazing sight—a cloud formation or a fragrant bloom or a loved one’s smile—trigger the thought. I would like to keep the Jewish custom of keeping the word “dayenu” on the tip of my tongue, letting it tumble out in those moments when I am suddenly overwhelmed with appreciation or, perhaps more importantly, urging myself to say it when I feel slighted or cheated or preoccupied with someone who appears to have it better. Dayenu! I have everything I need—more than enough. I only need tap a deep well of gratitude.

I refuse to go forward without the story of Jesus tucked close to my heart. Here was a free-thinking rebel of his day who broke with tradition so he could best demonstrate his love and care for others. He lives on as a powerful example: all that is noble and good can exist in a person, the divine can be embodied, we are capable of greater heights of love—for ourselves and others. I can’t not think of the way he died, how exposed he was on that cross; how he literally shared his death with the world, demonstrating that strength is possible even in our most vulnerable moments—maybe especially at those times. Even in my darkest hours, I can rest assured that I am loved because I am not exempt from that most personal message Jesus sent to every single person: I love you. But I must strive with all my might to complete the assignment he left humanity. He was quite clear that we are to experience joy and to love others, two things that one might assume are easy but are perhaps the greatest challenges any of us face.

From Buddhism, I’ll borrow the daily practice of sensing “the oneness” to which monotheism points. It shows me how to go beyond recognizing my interconnectedness as an intellectual concept to feeling the truth of it with every fiber of my being. I want to occupy that space of knowing for as often and long as possible, and when I forget I want to find my way back, because great comfort is found there. I can cultivate this sense of wellbeing and then I can turn around and share it, projecting it out into the world where it will manifest in ways too mysterious for my mind to comprehend.

If Buddhism helps me nurture a sense of belonging by focusing inward, then Islam encourages me to fix my gaze outward and translate this unity into a sense of duty. It urges me to assume a position—on knees, forehead to the ground—conducive to embracing my own vulnerability so that I am better able to empathize with people in need. Ultimately, it would have me transform empathy into action, finding concrete ways to help society’s weakest members. Then, as further challenge, it nudges me to expand the collective to which I identify. It wants me to push beyond the obvious affinities such as nationality, race, socio-economic status, gender, or religious affiliation to ever-widening circles of humanity. Perhaps, at last, I can arrive to place where I feel beholden to every living creature and the earth itself.

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16 thoughts on “Hour of None

  1. I feel so in warmly agreeable with what you have so beautifully written. I tried to come up with the right word – summarized doesn’t say it, nor synopsis. It’s more like digested- taking in and using the nourishing parts for growth. Wish this could become the new worldview of religion, with allowances for personal attachments to particular ingredients!

    Can’t thank you enough.

  2. Beautiful summary of your posts about your journey. I have enjoyed reading your experiences of the different faith communities – wonder how you fit the experience of community into your life? You certainly have gotten the insights you record from a living community of faith. Thanks for your openness to each!

  3. Beautiful, Sweetie. I’ve been with you, silently, every step of the way. Funny how your summary suggests much of where I am now that I’ve turned away from one-way Christianity and to something bigger that embraces as much as I can. For me, it’s becoming a sort of monotheistic paganism. At least for now. Thank you for everything.

  4. Here’s what I have taken away from your exploration. From Buddhism, the idea of seeking peace within oneself in the midst of a troubled world; the seeking out of the spiritual realm right in broad daylight; the being able to be together but be silent. I’ll never forget you in that line of people walking in silence, wanting so to badly to reach out, look into people’s eyes and connect to say a kind word. Yet in their ability to walk the higher ground of serenity, their peace permeates, even though unspoken. From the Muslim, your quest to “break through” shut phone lines, buildings, and internet sites. You opened the door from the outside and they welcomed you in. You saw visible, public display of faith in their collective devotional prayers. You found people with families who allowed you to share their experience and extended their generosity. Judaism offered the Word of God, the celebratory festivals, close knit community, tongue-in-cheek humor (when a woman asked you to turn off the stove because she couldn’t–if you didn’t would they pay a homeless man $20 to do it?), and all the while their activities pointing to their hopeful anticipation of God’s Messiah. Yet when he came, they could not grasp his hope. Then there’s Christianity. I think of you going to all of its denominational expressions and various types of worship. The church music wars probably produced the most energetic blog responses. It must have made Jesus laugh. Jesus loves variety and diversity. Yet, while we are admonished by biblical teaching to be “Little Christs” in our behavior toward others and personal lifestyle, we are not him. He is unique among all others, God come down to us to show us what God is like, so that we can love and trust him. God, who made the world, embodied. Giving life, overcoming death. Never killing. That’s who Jesus is.

  5. Corinna, I appreciate so much how you characterized monotheism…the one source. Much to think on there. Also, I loved the way you spoke of Jesus, showing us the example of carrying on joy and love. Some of my fellow believers minimize the idea of him as example, thinking that the focus should be only on the cross. Well, without the cross and resurrection, it’s true, we’d be up the creek without hope for sure. But he came to show us how to live according to the way that counts before the Father–love from the heart. Showing love and joy is certainly not easy since it entails a serious loss of self…but therein is the secret of joy.

    If you pray for your readers, pray that I not be dismissive of what you learned in Islam. It’s not easy shaking off the assumptions I’ve clung to for at least a decade after 9-11. You’ve stepped into a different world from what most Americans have been exposed to.

    Ginger, I loved your comments!

  6. What a wonderful integration of the central beliefs, concepts, and aspirations you brought from the various faiths that you explored. I will be reading this post many times. I hope that you will leave this blog site up for a while even if you do not make any new entries. My hope is that others will discover it because it teaches us so much.

    The regulars have already articulated the admiration and gratitude that I have for what you have done in this blog site. I don’t know if you realize what a wonderful service you have provided. You are a very special and amazing person. Thank you for your curiosity, courage, and determination to undertake this journey and for sharing it with us. You have opened doors of understanding that would have otherwise remained closed to many. I can’t wait to see what your next endeavor will be.

    • Hi Blair, Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words. I have another post or two before officially concluding my journey…and a big announcement. Stay tuned! Thank you so much for reading and sharing along the way.

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