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Summer 2020: Presence

The world is battling the corona virus as I write, and we are isolating from one another. This is an extraordinary time, calling for extraordinary measures.

In the opening essay of this Summer edition of Parabola, American Zen pioneer Alan Watts points to a profound remedy to this suffering. He asks what we can do when there is no escape. His answer is, “watch what happens”—both internally and externally, in ourselves and with others. Seeing is a medicine prescribed in every tradition to cope with spiritual affliction. And the only way we can see clearly is through the cultivation of presence.

Within these pages, we hear from Persian Sufis, a Hasidic rabbi, African Bushmen, a Hindu sage, an orangutan, two poets, a diplomat, and more, all with the same basic message: It is only by being present to the moment, here and now, that we can fully embrace this precious life and one another. What these and other contributors offer is not just theory; there is much practical advice in this issue on how to engage with the present moment, that is, with reality.

The miracle is that the practice of presence not only enlivens ourselves, but allows us to share that new life with others and also to receive the presence of the Divine. It is the foundation for truth, and it is the genesis of hope. With practice, presence can, in the words of John G. Bennett, allow us “to serve the future, and to serve with love, with hope, with confidence that it is possible for mankind to be born again.”

May this issue help us all in that sacred endeavor.

Parabola mourns the recent passing of James George, who in his 101 years proved a great friend not only to this magazine but to humanity and the earth. An instance of Jim’s wisdom can be found beginning on page 76 of this issue. 

—Jeff Zaleski

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Parabola Magazine Volume 45, Number 2: Summer 2020 PRESENCE
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