Circling and Centering

“I live my life in widening circles

That reach out across the world

I may not complete this last one

But I give myself to it.

~Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke’s Book of Hours, p. 45


“Life from the Center is a life of unhurried peace and power.

It is simple. It is serene. It is amazing. It is triumphant. It is radiant.

It takes no time, but it occupies all our time.”

~Thomas R. Kelly, A Testament of Devotion, p. 100

A Place for Centering and Circling Wider-the Labyrinth at the Idaho Botanical Gardens, Boise, ID

“If someone asks me, ‘Are you a conservative or a liberal?’, my answer is ‘Yes!’.”

I have heard this sentiment more than once.  In a sermon at my church.  In a book I read somewhere, probably something by Fr. Richard Rohr. We are more than a stereotypical label that boxes us in while boxing others out.

But I stray from my main point, which is to advocate for going deeper. While circling wider.

We are complex people, even the simplest of us. We are simple people, even the most complex of us. We all want the same, simple things – love, pleasure, family, friendship, security, growth, to make a positive difference, health. Yet we all are different.  Each has a unique story and experiences, personal longings and dreams and fears, a unique way of looking at the world.

My answer to the question about whether I am a conservative or a liberal is that I am neither one nor the other. I am both, and I am much, much more than either of those.  I have a touch or two of libertarian in me, sometimes a scootch of socialist might pop up.  The skeptic in me wags its finger now and again, the romantic points that finger at the moon, the scientist in me interlocks all my fingers, and the spiritual in me puts ten fingers together and bows.

I am both liberal and conservative, and much, much more.

And so are you.

“Neither one nor the other” does not mean nothing, it may mean everything. It may mean the most important things. It may mean going both deeper and wider than liberal or conservative, beyond political or ideological label.

We need labels. They are short-hand which can represent something much richer. Truth-in-labeling helps us make good choices. Labels are convenient, are useful.

Until they are not.

We all live in perceptual boxes. Some of those boxes are more porous, more transparent, more open than others. Some are more easily repackaged and recycled and re-purposed.  Some we just keep in the garage or the attic of our minds, cumbersome cubes weighing us down, the contents worth nothing to us now, or out of date or just empty.

No matter where we have been, no matter what boxes we’ve needed to move us to where we are today, we can always “center down” as Kelly says, going deeper and deeper, delving into the mystery that sits beyond us.  We can always circle wider, as Rilke says, to places of wonder and awe and inspiration.  Those are choices we make, everyday.


Kelly, T. R. (1996). A testament of devotion. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.

Rilke, R. M. (2005). Rilke’s book of hours: love poems to God (A. Barrows & J. Macy, Trans. 1st Riverhead rev. trade pbk. ed.). New York: Riverhead Books.

Mt. Angel Abbey, Oregon – A Place for Centering

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