We Are All Refugees Now, II

“Suppose a man be on the shore beholding a shipwreck, it will move him somewhat, yet truly not without an inward tickling of the mind, because he sees other men’s danger, himself being in security. But if he in person were in that distressed ship, he would be touched with another manner of grief. Even so verily is it in this case, let us say, or make what show we list to the contrary: “For we bewail our own misfortunes earnestly and from the heart, but public calamities in words only and for fashion’s sake (Pindar, 476 B.C.E., Nemea 1. 53-54).” —Justus Lipsius, On Constancy, 1584 C.E.

Refuge: A Definition and Two Spiritual Exercises

One million Armenians were forced to leave their homes in Anatolia in 1915, and many either died or were murdered on their way to Syria.

In this post I explore the definition of the word ‘refuge,’ and describe two spiritual exercises that arose out of that exploration. The word ‘refuge’ can be used as a noun or a verb. The following quotation gives the noun definition as found in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (Unabridged):

1 ref∙uge ‘re(,)fyüj. esp. before a syllable-increasing suffix -_fyә’j n -s [ME, fr. MF, fr. L. refugium, fr. refugere to run away, avoid, escape, fr. re– + fugere to run away, flee — more at FUGITIVE] 1: shelter or protection from danger or distress < seek ~ in flight > < take ~ in the home of a friend > < a house of ~ > 2a: a home for those who are destitute, homeless, or in disgrace b: a sanctuary for birds or wild animals c: a mountain hut or cabin erected to serve as sleeping quarters for mountaineers d: a safety zone for pedestrians crossing a street in heavy traffic: SAFETY ISLAND 3: a means of resort for help in difficulty : RESOURCE* (see note below) < patriotism is the last ~ of a scoundrel – Samuel Johnson > < The ivory tower . . . as a place of ~ from unpleasant reality – H. N. Russell >

  • resource 2: something to which one has recourse in difficulty: means of resort in exigency: expedient, stratagem <her usual resource was confession>

As I contemplated the five verbal examples embedded in this definition; with their deep roots and entanglements, their interior groans and sighs, and their uncertain habitations and delights; I sensed within me a welter of feelings and impressions; some strong, some weak, but all profoundly human.

  • Seek refuge in flight
  • take refuge in the home of a friend
  • a house of refuge
  • patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel
  • The ivory tower . . . as a place of refuge from unpleasant reality

As I continued my contemplation of the full definition, two spiritual exercises came to mind—exercises for me to carry out over the next few days:

Spiritual Exercise #1: Meditate on the five verbal examples and write a paragraph expressing how they touch on the life I am now living.

Spiritual Exercise #2: Explore the three cross-references appearing in the definition―FUGITIVE, SAFETY ISLAND, and RESOURCE—and write a paragraph expressing how they touch on the life I am now living.

NOTE: In an upcoming post, I will include some notes on the nature and character of ‘spiritual exercise’ as I intend it in this context and throughout this blog.