Updated: May 6
Contemplation is the act of looking at or reflecting on something for an extended period of time. The anonymous author of "The Cloud" encourages contemplating God, who is hidden from us by a cloud of unknowing. Therefore God cannot be explained, only loved. The contemplative life is not about an accumulation of knowledge or skill, but rather a humble, considerate and loving state of mind.
This state of mind can be gained or lost in an instant, and frequently what brings us there is not something we have intentionally done--it's grace. Although I'm usually pretty good at moderating what I eat so that I can get a good night's sleep, one day I ate something after dinner time that I knew would wake me up later. Sure enough, at 1 am I was up, and went to the kitchen to get a drink of water. I looked out the skylight, and there was the Big Dipper, perfectly framed. Beautiful! Then I walked over to the next skylight to see what might be there. Of course, it was the same Big Dipper--a few feet is not enough to change perspective on stars that are millions of miles away! That's grace, though. While in the midst of doing something you could kick yourself for, maybe even because of it, something wonderful happens. It's like the universe saying beauty, or love, is more important.