To Savor or Save

by Rev. Aaron Payson

Below are the words of my friend and colleague Richard Gilbert who quotes E.B. White that are my cause for pause this week as we look toward the turning of the seasons and opportunities to experience the world in ways we recognize from pre-pandemic days.  It is a moment of pause because I yearn for the presence of the familiar ways in which I have enjoyed my life and I am forever changed by the experience of the past few years.  I have been changed by the pandemic, by the political turmoil, the racial terror, warfare and economic uncertainty.  And yet, when I think about those things that give me the most joy, the presence of loved ones, the experiences of those who broaden the horizon of my understanding and appreciate for all that I have been gifted with, I realize that the balance between savor and serving is not the competition of opposites but the ability to bring the power of one to the potential of the other.  As we return again to warmer days, maskless breath and a future yet to be determined, I turn to my friend and the author White for inspiration.  May it inspire you as well.  Blessings, Aaron

“It’s hard to know when to respond to the seductiveness of the world and when to respond to its challenge. If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between the desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” (Richard Gilbert)

I rise in the morning torn between the desire
To save the world or to savor it—to serve life or to enjoy it;
To savor the sweet taste of my own joy
Or to share the bitter cup of my neighbor;
To celebrate life with exuberant step
Or to struggle for the life of the heavy laden.
What am I to do when the guilt at my bounty
Clouds the sky of my vision;
When the glow which lights my every day
Illumines the hurting world around me?
To savor the world or save it?
God of justice, if such there be,
Take from me the burden of my question.
Let me praise my plenitude without limit;
Let me cast from my eyes all troubled folk!
No, you will not let me be. You will not stop my ears
To the cries of the hurt and the hungry;
You will not close my eyes to the sight of the afflicted.
What is that you say?
To save, one must serve?
To savor, one must save?
The one will not stand without the other?
Forgive me—in my preoccupation with myself,
In my concern for my own life
I had forgotten.
Forgive me, God of justice,
Forgive me, and make me whole

(E. B. White)