There is an old therapist joke...
The patient just left the office, and the therapist is writing up his notes. "Patient hears voices in his head." The therapist sits back, thinks for a moment, and then continues writing, "Problem with patient is not that he hears voices, but that he is not listening to them."
Time to stretch, crack knuckles, roll neck back and forth, flex fingers, poise fingers over keyboard....
..wait...cue up the music first....ATB's "What about us?" www.youtube.com
we think too much, and listen to our hearts too little....
we think too much about what other people think...we spend too much time trying to be someone that pleases other people, and too little time pleasing ourselves. It's a paradox: there is too little selfishness in the world. Not selfishness in the sense of "I need more stuff" or the morally relativistic selfishness of our truly disturbed culture, but instead in the sense of taking time first to be healthy alone, to meet our needs first, to be comfortable in our own skin.
Love is not a race to find someone to distract us from ourselves.
If we think that we need someone to be complete, we're not listening to our own voice. And by our "own voice," I really mean being quiet long enough to allow grace to work in and through us.
We need to empty ourselves....we're not going to do that by posting obsessively to Facebook fifteen or twenty times a day...there you have the the perfect "look at me" narcissism of our culture. Facebook is too often some kind of robotic substitute for life. Putnam had it right in "Bowling Alone." We have lost the ability to come together as a community. My own church, Catholic as it is, is an empty shell of a community, with a small handful of people, perhaps less than 1% of the total registered families, doing 98% of the work needed to take care of the building and grounds, help the sick and the lonely, prepare the altar for Mass every week, and the million other things that need to be done.
Catholicism has largely succumbed to the narcissism of the culture....too many Catholics are saying, "I don't get anything out of Mass." And many of them drift away to the entertainment-based made up churches: Riverstone, NorthStar, cowboy church, TruePath, RightWay, all the pathetically comical names that grifter preachers dream up to attract the lost, using "contemporary" music and a promise that "God loves you just the way you are."
That's the big lie....if God loves us just the way we are, what was the whole scourging at the pillar thing about? If we are perfect just the way we are, God did not need to send his Son to die a horrific death on a cross.
We've always been broken, since the first day life was breathed into us.
Our job in life is to discover what God wants us to be, not to be comfortable with being narcissistically selfish.
where was I?
oh yeah....listening to the voices...we've come to a place where it is just too damned easy to drown out the still quiet voice of grace in our heads. I'm shocked at all the people, especially younger people, who walk around ALL DAY LONG with their earbuds drowning out the life around them. We've grown an entire generation of people hooked to some electronic device that drowns out not only the world around them but the sound of their own thoughts....and then they wonder why they are unhappy.
I love my music, and I love being able to take it with me, but I know it is not an authentic substitute for participating in reality, in being aware of the people around me, of having enough situational awareness to cross the street safely, of being able to see...really see the grandeur of creation.
The study of fractal geometry should be required of every Catholic. One of the constants that keeps showing up throughout nature is the 1:1.42 ratio, sometimes called the fractal constant. Leaves, rivers, crystals, marshes, coastlines, and many other parts of the physical world are organized according to this ratio. It's amazing once you begin to look around...God had a plan, and it was good. The entire universe, at some level, is organized according to a single number. And the atheists think this all happened by accident.
As much as I have resisted it throughout my life, God had and still has a plan for me. Looking back, I see it in every good and bad thing that ever happened to me. Grace is ever flowing through us, by us, and around us, but we have to be quiet to see it, to sense it, to listen to the still quiet voice of grace. Call it the voice in your head. But grace is quiet, and needs quiet to be heard.
One of the things that took me a long to understand is that God is a constant, just like the number 1.42. God is always in the same place, always waiting, always light-filled. God never gives up.
We give up.
We turn away from the constant. We turn away from the light. As we turn away and walk, we enter further into the dark. Some of us never find our way back.
So how do we hear? We hear by becoming quiet, and to do so, we have to unplug from wanting. We must empty ourselves to make the space and to create the quiet for grace to work.
St. Francis had it figured out. "It is in giving that we receive."
Put another way, there is no receiving without giving.
Ahh, there it is, finally. The point.
We become a willing receptacle for grace by pouring ourselves out, by emptying ourselves, by abandoning the "look at me" culture. We must, again paradoxically, become selfish. We have to stop expecting others to meet our needs, and start meeting our own needs--that's the selfish part. And we meet our own needs in part by giving, rather than taking. As I said, it's a paradox. It's the paradox of grace.
We find love by giving up on love. We find love by giving up on hoping someone else brings us love. We find love by giving up on thinking we need someone else to be complete. We find love by loving...right now, right this minute, by doing something, anything, for someone else. And the quickest way we find love is to right now, right this minute, do something loving for someone who cannot love back.
The paradox of grace again.
I have to remind myself constantly, "Give up on love." Nothing else works. The minute I start looking for love, I am lost, I am selfish, I have turned away from the light, I stop listening to the voice of grace in my head.
The old country Western song "Looking for love in the all the wrong places" was only half right. Looking for love is wrong, period.
Love finds us.
Love is a gift of grace, nothing else. Love is not a human emotion. Love is supernatural. We cannot make love, we cannot manufacture it. We cannot find it at Costco. The idea that we can find love comes from the devil, and is the root of the rot in our culture. We love our things too much....and the more things we have, paradoxically again, the less we feel, the less we are able to listen, the less we are able to empty ourselves, the less grace we receive.
If I stop looking for love, love might just find me.
Why do we keep looking? It is our fallen nature. Original sin is, I think, the idea that we can find love, that we can find love without giving in to God's will. Original sin is, I think, the idea that we can find love without loving, without loving ourselves and without loving others.
There is that paradox again...isn't loving ourselves selfish? That idea comes straight from the devil, and is ultimately our downfall.
God promises us that we are made in his image. If we accept that, then we should, we must love who we are. Not being able to recognize the goodness in ourselves is, at some level, a turning away from God. And if we are not able to love ourselves, then we are on the devil's banana peel again, looking for others to complete us, instead of recognizing our own supernatural gifts and completing ourselves by getting quiet, making room for the voice of grace, and turning towards the light.
Stop looking for love. Start loving...