Examiner.com: On the singing of birds

10 05 2009

[@ Examiner]

About a week ago, as I was hesitantly arising from my night of sleep, I heard the birds in the tree outside of my window singing, chirping, and making other mysterious chants to the neighborhood birds. This is a normal occurrence where I live – one that is easily overlooked when going about my daily duties (such as mustering the willingness to get out of the bed). On this particular day, however, I was immediately struck with the realization that these birds are always going about their days with a tune flowing forth from their little beaks. As a matter of fact, I cannot recall a day in my life when birds weren’t making some sort of announcement to the bird community: “Hey, did you guys hear about Fred? Poor guy stood on the wrong power line,” or cooing about the longing for dropped bread. They are always bringing in the day with song, a welcoming of and participation in the adventure which is the new day. Birds, I think (or hope, for some) we would all agree, sing. It’s part of what birds do (and do faithfully).

What struck me even more strongly, however, was the realization that humans, too, were created to sing, and to sing faithfully. This does not necessarily mean vocalizing one’s song (although, as St. Augustine tells us, “he who sings prays twice”), but it does mean that we were created in order to glorify God through who we are (both as humans and as individuals) and what we do. The bird, as a bird, can do nothing other than what it was intended to do (i.e., be a bird and do bird things), and, in so doing, it glorifies (and points us to) our Creator.

We, however, having been endowed with reason and free-will, can choose to not sing. We can ignore, deny, refuse, and, really, deprive ourselves of the dignity which we have been given in having been made in the image of God and restored to His likeness in our imitation of Christ. For it is only when we live our lives in submission to the way in which we were created (i.e., human nature) that we will truly enjoy life as we were always intended to enjoy it: to its fullest. This requires that we engage the whole human person: a “composition” of body and soul. When we live our lives (Christian or not) as if there is no God, we are depriving ourselves of something which is essential to who we are, for we have been created in order to glorify God by our freely-willed actions, as birds glorify God by singing. Realizing, in our daily lives, that we have been created by God frees us to act most fully according to the nature we have been given. It is only when we open ourselves to both the seen and unseen realities (that is, reason and faith) that we are capable of realizing our potential as humans, and of what it means to be human.

The living of life without God, whether because of the belief that material things are all that really exist, or simply because it is “easier” to live life without God (i.e., as one wants), has consequences which are all too apparent in our times: the neglect of human dignity, the elevation of “humanity” as the ultimate good, the unreasonable and emotive “arguments” which are put forth in order to do what one feels he should be able to do. All of these, in their many and various manifestations, point to a loss of the vision of God (at least for the louder and more powerful of our contemporaries; it seems that the majority of average folk retain common sense or otherwise haven’t reasoned themselves into unreasonable positions).

This brings me to my point: what if the birds didn’t sing? How much less enjoyable would a morning of sitting on the porch be? How deprived would the whole of nature be without the songs of birds? (Not to mention the consequences on their species were they unable to communicate with one another.) But isn’t the same true of us? We are the pinnacle of created beings, and are capable of many great things simply because we are human. But, with our “song” removed from our lives and our actions (and from the “theatre” of the world), how much worse is the world? What if we were to act as we were meant to, to glorify God through our actions? How much more glorious and meaningful would our simple daily tasks be? How would these little “songs” resound throughout the world, the community of humanity? How much are we depriving ourselves of the joys of human life because we’re neglecting the way in which we were created?

Though I am not advocating that the world is doomed or hopeless, nor that there are no “songs” already being sung, I am convinced that were we to regain the openness to the reality and presence of God, the human family would begin to flourish (individually, communally, and globally) because of our humility. For we must first see what is true before we can order our lives according to those truths, as the bird “knows” its place and sings its song as it was created to do.

Retaining current conscience regulations

8 04 2009

Ever since the threat of rescission of the conscience regulations instituted by the Bush administration (which protect the rights of health care workers), many of the U.S. bishops (including my own) have spoken out in order to protect the regulations which are currently in place. (The call of Cardinal Francis George may be seen here and the USCCB’s page dedicated to this effort is here.) We, as U.S. citizens, and especially as Catholics, are being asked to speak out to our leaders in order to prevent the government from attempting to intrude an aspect of humans which should be revered as fundamental to individual and, consequently, societal flourishing: our consciences. Granted, our consciences as a society (often enough) aren’t properly formed, but to have the ability to say “no” (without a penalty) removed for those who would refrain from doing something which they consider to be inherently evil, is, frankly, scary. In order to attempt to protect those who are affected by these regulations, we have been asked to contact those in charge. This may be done in several ways (n.b.: a sample statement to send may be found below these options):

  1. e-mail proposedrescission@hhs.gov,
  2. sending your comments via NCHLA – sponsored by the USCCB (also, it has a generic message which you may edit before sending),
  3. visiting the U.S. Government Regulations website and enter “0991-AB49” in the search box (via Word, Wordperfect, or Excel),
  4. mailing one original and two copies via snail mail to: Office of Public Health and Science, Department of Health and Human Services, Attention: Rescission Proposal Comments, Hubert H. Humphrey Building, 200 Independence Avenue SW, Room 716G, Washington, D.C. 20201.

Here is an argument against the proposed rescission, which you may use in contacting them, if you so choose:

I am writing today to ask those who are in charge to retain the conscience regulations which are in place to protect health care workers from providing services which they regard as morally offensive. I find that this destroys the freedom and autonomy of the individual to act according to his or her conscience, which I find, in itself, to be morally offensive. Removing this protection would prevent citizens from acting freely, according to their most deeply held convictions (which shape who we are), forcing them either to be penalized, resign, or act as “robots” of the State’s bidding, none of which respect the dignity and autonomy of the human person to act on his or her own free will according to the formation of their conscience. It would also seem that, were this regulation be eliminated, the problem would then be prepared to spread itself throughout the rest of the institutions of our country. And then, are we all to bow before the will of the State (read: those few who are in control and want their will obeyed through the power of the State), regardless of the things which we believe and especially those which believe to be duties higher than those of the State? The consequences of eliminating these regulations would be the beginning (continuing?) of the removal of the ability of the person to act according to his own mind and will, rendering him (for all practical purposes) less than human and nothing more than a blind instrument of the State: consequences which have nothing to do with “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for all citizens of the United States.

Name, Address, etc.
Thanks in particular to my bishop, Robert Baker, and CatholicVote.org for raising awareness of this issue.

A reply to Mark Morford on the Pope, condoms, and AIDS

8 04 2009

Almost a week ago, I received an e-mail which I had initially assumed was related to the comment of Edward Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project for the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, which said “the Pope is correct” about the use of condoms increasing the spread of HIV/AIDS, etc., rather than decreasing them, as its supporters would have us to believe (check below for links to articles of Mr. Green’s statement). However, the e-mail was only an article written by Mark Morford of the San Francisco Gate, which was simply a lengthy character attack of the Pope. I let the e-mail hang out in my inbox for a few days, until I finally decided to respond to it. What follows is the text (minus personal elements) of my response which I now offer as a response to Mr. Morford’s article.

I have read and skimmed through the article which you have sent me and have discovered that the clip in the e-mail would have been enough to suffice for what was to follow in the rest of the article. It is, from beginning to end, simply an attack on the character of a man with whom the author does not even seem to have any familiarity at all – else he would not lower himself to speak so superficially and dismissively about him. Nor would he have any reason to hold the Dalai Lama up on a pedestal (also a religious leader) while simultaneously attempting to attack a man who sticks to what he believes to be true – a characteristic in men, I think you would agree, that is lacking in our day in time (and is consequently a courageous thing, in my opinion). My question to him would be, how quickly would he remove the Dalai Lama from his pedestal were he to pronounce a statement against the same issue? The answer to me would appear to be that because the Dalai Lama has not pronounced anything against contraception, he is fair game to be used as an example to be followed – but, were he to do so, were he to pronounce something against what this author holds to be “good,” “right,” “just,” etc., he would write the same scathing article denouncing him. Now, the question then to ask is: who set him up as the dogmatic figure who may pronounce what is truly good, right, and just? He only supports the Dalai Lama because he supposes that the Dalai Lama falls in line with his beliefs – not because he actually cares what the Dalai Lama says. At the pinnacle of irony, who set him up as Pope? This, to me, is as “dogmatic” as it gets. But, this problem continues to multiply as you have multitude upon multitude of Mr. Morford’s running around declaring that what they think to be good, right, and just truly is, because they say so. And on what authority? With the Pope, there is only one figure who has been granted authority by Christ (who we, as Christians, believe to be God in the flesh) to sustain unity of belief (i.e., what God has revealed to us both through nature and through Scripture and Tradition) among His children.

Now, I know that we are coming from two different angles on the authority of the Pope and religion, etc., but I think that we can both agree that having millions of “popes” rather than one is a source of tremendous confusion and turmoil: if there are millions of different views of what is truly “good, right, and just,” then there’s not really unity – there’s just people doing what they want to do when they want to do it. How can any society (regardless of what its Constitution says) be expected to run something that is chaotic to the very core? I think that we can both see the manifestations of this at work right now. But, the thing that we have to come back to is that there’s only one truth, only one reality: the tree that you see is the same tree that I see; the Abita Amber that you drink is the same Abita Amber that I drink; the Mississippi River that you (hopefully ;) don’t swim in is the same Mississippi River that I don’t swim in. And this remains true even if one of us decides to deny the reality that is before us. If we were standing together in an open field with only one tree, and we go back to our friends and I (confused by the glare of the sun, but nonetheless fixed in my conviction), say “we stood by an elephant,” while you (unaffected by the sun because of your Ray Ban’s) said “no, we stood by a tree,” the truth remains (no matter how adamantly I believe and speak of my elephantile misperception) that I did, indeed, stand by a tree. The truth remains true regardless if one sees or believes it. And so it is with everything else in our universe – things seen and unseen – because truth is not created by us, it is received by us.

Now, back to the Pope and Mr. Morford: on what authority do they stand?

Mr. Morford: as far as I can perceive from his writing, a man with an axe to grind because a religious leader doesn’t conform to his beliefs. Where do his beliefs come from? I would surmise that his beliefs largely come from himself and what he “feels” to be “good, right, and just” by “his own” conscience, which could very well conflict with the respective consciences of his many fellow world-inhabitors. For, if there is no God (or we have killed Him, as Nietzsche wrote), what else has man left but himself to look to? Now, why would I want to follow my own, much less the beliefs of another man who stands by himself (i.e., on his own authority) in asserting what is objectively “good, right, and just,” regardless if it corresponds with what is actually true? Should one of our friends, visiting the field and seeing not an elephant, but a tree, stand with me who proclaims that the tree is an elephant because I say so? Or should, he, seeing the tree, stand by you, who stood by what is really true?

The Pope: a man who, on being elected, stated that he was but an unworthy laborer in the vineyard of the Lord, which says from the get-go that he is not laboring for himself (and even didn’t want to be elected, but wanted to retire and to finish his life writing books). Where do his beliefs come from? His beliefs are the beliefs which the Catholic Church has always taught, which, he believes were and are the teachings which Christ (God) Himself gave to the world in His time on earth. The authority on which he stands is the authority which Christ granted to the Apostle Peter, of whom he is a successor. Therefore, his responsibility is to hand on the objective truth about what God has willed for our universe and for our race. That is, God Himself, in human flesh, gave Peter (and his successors), whom He knew personally, authority to proclaim the one Truth, Himself, Who is found in everything which is true – seen and unseen. To end the contrast between the two, the Pope isn’t arbitrarily dogmatic, just because he believes it to be true, regardless as to whether it actually is, but proclaims that which God has entrusted to him to proclaim. He is “dogmatic” in the sense that the office which God has given him is to preserve those things which are always true, regardless of times and cultures. He stands by you, proclaiming that the tree is actually a tree, and not by me, who proclaims that the tree is an elephant, when it is only my misperception and adherence to it which I adhere to. A tree is a tree, regardless if I believe it or not. In the same way, murder is murder and is wrong, regardless of the time and culture it happens in.

Finally, from this to the complaint of the article: by not allowing the use of condoms (or, rather, not adhering to the dogma of Mr. Morford), the Pope is condemning millions to die. The fact is that, the Pope, by the authority with which he has been entrusted, is reaching to a deeper truth about man than simply a superficial “use of condoms.” From the way which I have argued thus far, he is saying that condoms engender an attitude, an inclination, in man which is contrary to the way in which God created us (and, I think, STD’s are an indication that “things aren’t supposed to happen this way”). Condoms are promoted as a way to have “safe sex,” but in reality, it promotes sex without consequence [and is even ineffective as a method of prevention – the safest condom in the world only offers an 85% chance of effectiveness, and none of them are tightly woven enough to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS through the condom] , i.e., it provides a way for man to not control his sexual inclinations – not controlling them by the gifts of reason and free will (which distinguish us from other animals), but submitting (and becoming enslaved) to them, thereby lowering us beneath the dignity which we have been given. It’s like putting an infectious band-aid on a wound that needs stitches: it’s only making the underlying problem worse. As the recent statement [here or here] (which I initially thought your e-mail was related to, as your article and this one came about around the same time) of Edward Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project for the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, of the conclusions of their research shows, the promotion of condom usage is directly related to the increase and not the decrease of AIDS/HIV, etc. It is this way for the exact reasons which the Popes have always taught about contraception: using condoms promotes sexual promiscuity (a “disordering” of the way we have been created) and it is patently obvious that sexual promiscuity was and is the cause of STD’s. I mean, remove promiscuity, and there are no more STD problems. It is a matter of self-control, of mastering oneself (which the Greek philosophers understood even before Christ’s taking on flesh, i.e., through reason), which is further supported and enlightened by God’s revelation (i.e., through faith) about man.

I know that we’re coming from two different perspectives on this issue, but I think that the facts (as supported by Edward Green of Harvard) are confirming what the Popes have been saying ever since this has been a problem (which did not begin in the 60’s, though it has certainly been a prevalent issue since then). In this case, I think that Mr. Morford is crying “elephant,” all the while the Popes have been standing by the tree and calling us to look deeper than the surface and to heal the deeper wound of selfishness and self-gratification with self-gift and self-sacrifice – which must be present for authentic love – not by furthering the damage with a tool which only makes the wound become more infected and further from healing than it already is.

An (unexpected) change in course…

5 12 2008

After three and a half years of discerning my vocation to the priesthood, I have decided that this semester will be my last. This is not exactly the decision that I had thought I was going to make when I first entered the seminary. Upon entering (and for at least the first two years after that), I was pretty definite that after the 6 years of formation, I was going to be a Roman Catholic priest. But, that is not how things have ended up happening.

It has been an interesting road to travel down. I have learned many things, not only about myself, but also about God and philosophy and theology and other people. I have had the opportunity to make some good friends and to see a part of the Church that I had never known to exist before I entered. I can say, without a doubt, that I am excited about the future of our Church because of the quality of men whom I’ve had the privilege to meet in my time here. I am honored to have spent the past three and a half years with these guys and in this environment. God has really blessed me and revealed to me in a very awe-inspiring way the abundance of His intimate love and concern for me. He has always heard my prayers, and always answers them, even if I have no clue about how He is working in me. As I said, I thought I was going to be a priest – but God brought me here and taught me about His greatness and His complete mastery over creation; no matter the bigness of my problems, nor the problems that occur in the world – God is joyfully present and completely in control, even if we cannot see it. It’s both amazing and humbling to see how He works through our cooperation with Him – it stretches the heights of my imagination, and does not cease to inspire true fear (reverence) in me.

So, now, onto the reasons. Like I’ve already said a few times, if you’d asked me at least through my first two years whether I was going to be a priest, the answer would’ve been a “yes” without hesitation. But, there has often been a sense of not “fitting in,” even if I didn’t realize why this was so; and still I journeyed on to ordination in 2011. Before 2008, though, this began to be a continuing presence, to the point that I was often just not at peace with myself, others, nor God – but I still couldn’t put my finger on it. Some of it certainly stemmed from problems other than just discernment, but that has also been a part of my own growth here at the seminary (I, nor others, who are in seminary are perfect upon entrance, arrival, nor exit).

In January of 2008, while in Washington D.C., for the March for Life, one of my best friends at seminary disclosed that he was considering leaving the seminary at the end of the semester. I was completely shocked. He, of any person that I knew in the seminary, would have made a great priest (in my estimation). (As a side note, this same person was a great blessing in my growth in the seminary in many ways: very human, a clear thinker, well-balanced and -rounded, and apparently secure in who he was.) But, as he revealed his reasonings why he was considering leaving, I was simultaneously taken aback because I had been experiencing the same things, and even revealed that it may have been my last semester as well (simply just to take some time off). This put the bug in my ear: maybe you’re not called to be a priest. First time that that thought had really ever come into my mind. (If there’s anything I’d like to offer to those who are in discernment, it would be this: don’t close your ears, God may still be talking.)

And then discernment really began. I considered the possibility, brought it to my spiritual director, and just sort of let it stay in the background of my mind: “maybe you’re not.” As the semester came to a close, I began to feel as if I were called to the married life and the tension of “not fitting” began to ease; pieces were starting to come together. At the last Mass of the semester, after receiving the Eucharist, I was (a bit out of nowhere) at peace with the thought of that being my last semester, my last Mass at Notre Dame. But, not wanting to act rashly, and certainly not having talked to my spiritual director, I kept the path and went to Mexico for the summer as had been planned. I wanted to just put the whole “seminarian thing” out of my mind for the summer, and just be. Making this decision brought me to a peace which is hard to explain in words, but has been consistent in my conversations with people who I’ve talked to about it (and is the reason I have now decided to leave): life just flows … it fits me.

But the discernment didn’t stop there. Even though I intended to put it off for the summer, it got extremely intense, especially towards the end of the summer. I’d keep going back and forth with all of the questions; I’d answer questions that were pertinent to my discernment at the time, and then more would come. “What if?” and “I wonder what this meant?” and “I wonder what this means?” and “What is God trying to tell me?” “Am I the cause of this movement, or is God?” It was a very difficult situation to find myself in, especially when I was for so long sure that I was going to be a priest. It was because of this, I think, that guilt hit hard. “Maybe I’ve been slack, not trying hard enough, and that’s why things are going this way. Maybe you’re just focusing too much on what you want and not what God wants.” This is, I think, a bit of a dichotomy which I created (which I will deal with at the end of this post).

As the summer came to a close, I became more certain that my vocation was to the married life, but I kept going back and forth with my questioning: one part of the day I would have convinced myself about marriage, the next part I had convinced myself about priesthood. Back and forth and back and forth. It’s an extremely difficult place to find oneself in…you are constantly torn between a fundamental decision about who you are, and it just makes daily life that much more difficult when you don’t know which way to go. I’m 100% certain that Satan and his minions were having a good-old time helping me into this situation and doing their best to keep me in it, as well as try to convince me that it was just me involved in the confusion (i.e., that they had no hand in it, that they didn’t/don’t exist). But, from the beginning of my more intense questioning God was telling me to trust in Him through my difficulties, which lead me to the point in which I tried to stay for the whole of the fall semester: I have to get this off of my mind, and just live with God as His child, trusting that I will know eventually. Doing this (rather unsuccessfully many times), allowed me to come to a point of freedom and peace about the decision which was before me.

I think that it’s important to mention at this point (especially for those in discernment) that I think that it’s necessary to reevaluate the importance which we can be tempted to place on ourselves (especially in light of the culture in which we live and the shortage of priests). I do not say this simply as a projection, but in unison with observations in my years in seminary, as well as conversations which I have had over those years. I mean, it is definitely an important vocation, and the need for good and holy priests is certainly there, but I think that the temptation can sometimes be to a sort of implicit messiah-complex, where the seminarian or priest is the savior, and not Christ, Who is the Messiah and does the saving. I think that the role of the seminarian/priest can be taken out of its proper place and God is implicitly lost. It’s an issue of seeing one’s insignificance in relation to God, that He does not need us, that He chooses us and chooses to work through us. I do not at all think that it is the intention of any seminarian to replace God, but if he doesn’t keep himself in check then this could very well be the fruit. Now, I say all of that because of something which a professor told me last week: “It’s all too common that a person thinks that the decision to enter or leave the seminary is an irrevocable one,” which says a lot more than rests on the surface. The aspect of it which I want to emphasize is that it is necessary to see, as best and often as is possible, our littleness in the big scheme of things because of the vastness of God and His complete mastery over creation. In addition to this, I think it can also help us to reform our concept and living of “time,” which in this case (and especially in our culture), strives for efficiency, rather than a “wasting of time” with God. (For an excellent reflection of our littleness, I recommend Hilaire Belloc’s The Path to Rome – you will see what I mean when you get to the end.)

I went on this quasi-tangent because realizing my place before God was an important factor in my discernment, one which, when I began to incorporate it into my life, helped me to come to peace with my place and God’s ability to “get on without me,” if you will. From this realization (which I will always be in need of realizing) and the place of freedom and peace to which God has brought me, I have decided the way in which I have. The vocation to the priesthood is beautiful and is definitely worthy of aspiration – but, in my lived experience of my time in seminary (which is not limited solely to the seminary itself), I have come to discern that the vocation does not fit who I am, who God created me to be. And this is important. God wants me (quoting a priest who holds the highest of my admiration) to “be who I be,” for that’s why He created me – to “be who I be” and to allow Him to manifest Himself through “who I be,” for we all manifest a different aspect of God’s infinite-ness. (Realizing this helped me to deal with the “dichotomy” which I mentioned earlier.) In addition to this, something else popped into my head a few days ago (when I finally decided to stand by my decision), and that is something which I learned in philosophy which is crucial to Catholic thought. Grace builds on nature. In “being who I be” and not trying to “be who I don’t be,” God is most effectively able to work through me, because His grace builds on who He created me to be (for you more philosophical/theological folks: not that His grace wouldn’t be available if I were to become a priest, but that, normally, His grace builds up and brings to perfection what He intended through His creating it).

Being able to come to this position has been a long and arduous one (probably more so because of my own anxieties), but the results have been worth the struggle. I was able to grow closer to God and more aware of myself because of this increasing closeness. It is indeed a great gift to be able to “waste time” with God in discernment. Entering the seminary has been, thus far, one of the best (though not easiest) decisions of my life. Leaving it will be tough as well, but I believe it to be the right decision (despite my own fears and preoccupations). I am and will remain thankful for the rest of my life for this opportunity; like I said earlier, God does not forget a prayer, even if it doesn’t come about like you would want or imagine. He has taught me a lot in my time here (imagine the possibilities if I weren’t so hard-headed ;), and I now go back from whence I came to continue to “waste time” with God, and to see what lies in store for me in the future. In gratitude to Him, I will go about “being who I be” as His child, striving to live my life to its fullest in (and because of) Him Who loves me.

May we keep our focus on that Love which embraces us at all times as we strive to enter into that Kingdom which has no end.

Please pray for me during my transition, especially that I may be protected from the “snares of the devil.” If you would like to talk to me about any of this or would like me to pray for you, simply ask. I will pray for all of you.

God bless.

Birdcage, Sociology, and Marriage

21 08 2008

Birdcage 'Universal Definition' of Marriage THUMB

This is an interesting one. My sociology professor makes the class watch the American classicThe Birdcage with Robin Williams and then makes us write a paper giving a “universal definition” of marriage. After having thought seriously about how I was to approach this paper, this is what resulted.

When I run across my paperwork for this class, I will take the time to write out the actual questions that I was asked to answer.

This was written while taking Bachelor’s classes at Our Lady of Holy Cross College for Introduction to Sociology.

On the slipperiness of writing

1 06 2008

For months now, I have been, well, procrastinating, with/against the idea of writing in some form or another. Today, I have finally buckled down and began to type. And about what? The slipperiness of writing.

For years now, one of my favorite authors is the late, great, G.K. Chesterton – a man who wrote more than I could possibly fathom writing. As a newspaper journalist, Chesterton wrote somewhere in the neighborhood of 11,000 articles for various publications throughout his life. I have yet to read most of his numerous articles, books, poetry, etc., but I have made may way through (in some form or another) a few of his works and am currently enjoying Joseph Pearce’s biography of Chesterton, Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of G.K. Chesterton. I am just past the halfway point in this near 500-page book, and am increasingly in awe at his utter simplicity in life, whether it be his relationship with children, the romance with his wife, the sincere way in which he approaches thought and dialogue, his complete firmness in what he himself believes through much effort of searching and finding, and, I believe, most importantly, the way in which the discoveries of his tireless searching were not merely for some sort of intellectual gratification (alone), rather these discoveries were reached and then lived by him. Of all the many quotes from his contemporaries that I have seen so far in this biography of Chesterton, one of the most familiar type is that of his being a magnanimous character (and not only in size, although it seems that his enormous stature was quite the illustration of the man he was): a man who lives what he believes.

So if this post is about the elusiveness of writing, then why did I just write a paragraph about Chesterton, and not about not writing?

The topic of the slipperiness of writing is very much involved with the persona of Chesterton. For Chesterton was a man of deep, incisive, penetrating thought. And he did not keep these thoughts to himself. He articulated these thoughts to himself and to others, in his (and their) quest for the truth of things (indeed, the Truth of things) and brought these very thoughts to the masses through his many and various writings. Chesterton could very well have been one to run about his daily life, without ever questioning or examining, without ever wondering or searching, and, really, without ever articulating his perspective of the same reality which we all experience. But then, who would Chesterton be? He simply would be a disappearing memory, whose name would only be recognized by those who he would have known in his life in England in the 1900’s: relatives, friends, colleagues, etc. Not that that is at all a negative place to be, for God knows many of the greatest souls to ever walk this earth are just that. But Chesterton had a gift, and this gift did not go unused, this talent not buried. And the gift was his simplicity (or, as Pearce says, his innocence).

For what could be a greater cause of duplicity than being inarticulate? To wander about one’s daily life, unexamined, unquestioned, unaided by articulation of thought; what is the purpose of it? As the country song goes, “you’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.” “Falling for anything” is another way of saying duplicitous, for if one is not at all grounded in his articulation, his way of expressing reality, then he can’t help but be thrown about in every possible direction by passing fads and rootless opinions of others. This makes one duplicitous because he’s not simple in accepting, in appreciating, and in interpreting reality, the truth, for himself. So he walks around, amidst all sorts of noise, never questioning, never understanding, never able to explain why certain things happen, why they happen in certain ways, never able to appreciate life in its depths because he’s completely caught up in its superficialities: the colors, the sounds, the movements, the passions, the new this and the new that – all tangled up in a big blur which he calls life. If only he would stop and question, stop and appreciate. What do these things which I experience mean? Do they point to anything other than themselves? Why is the rose beautiful? Why a sunset? Why are the leaves of trees so abundantly green and so precisely beautiful in their composition? Could I tell you the difference between the sunset today from the sunset yesterday? Do I appreciate (in some form) the similarity or difference between the two?

If one doesn’t ask questions, if one doesn’t appreciate … then what is life? What is life but a blur of fading and intertwining memories mixed with continual sensual experience, never pondered, never questioned, never appreciated? “Life” is lifeless – “life” has no soul; it is a dead person watching life stream before his eyes, but never partaking of it. For what else brings the seemingly endless influx of experiences together and gives them meaning more than expressing (as opposed to simply riding the emotional “flow”) what life means? It brings order to the chaos; and from the order springs a symphony: taking many and varied objects and experiences, and utilizing them in tandem to create something beautiful, something more than that which is capable with each of the things on their own. It brings life to life.