Friday, August 19, 2011

“Most of Us Can Read the Writing on the Wall; We Just Assume It's Addressed to Someone Else --Ivern Ball

Once there was a group of people who surveyed the resources of the world and said to each other, "How can we be sure that we have enough in hard times?  We want to survive whatever happens. Let us start collecting food and knowledge so that we are safe and secure when a crisis occurs."  So they started hoarding so much and so eagerly that other people protested and said:  "You have much more than you need, while we don't have enough to survive.  Give us part of your wealth!"  But the fearful hoarders said:  "No, no, we need to keep this in case of an emergency, in case things go bad for us, too, in case our lives are threatened."  But the others said:  "We are dying now; please give us food and materials and knowledge to survive.  We can't wait; we need it now."  Then the fearful hoarders became even more fearful, since they became afraid that the poor and hungry would attack them.  So they said to one another:  "Let us build walls around our wealth so that no stranger can take it from us."  They started erecting walls so high that they could not even see anymore whether there were enemies outside the walls or not!  As their fear increased they told each other:  "Our enemies have become so numerous that they may be able to tear down our walls.  Our walls are not strong enough to keep them away.  We need to put explosives and barbed wire on top of the walls so that nobody will dare to even come close gto us."  Now instead of feeling safe and secure behind their armed walls they found themselves trapped in the prison they had  built with their own fear."         --Henri Nouwen

A sobering story.  A story that mirrors much.  What do you see?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Ego Makes Sure The Joke's On Me

The ego is --surprise!--egotistical.  It's all about me.  The ego, that selfish part of us, hates two things: exposure and change.

The ego will resort to any means to avoid being found out.  It will minimize--"It's not as though I robbed a dozen banks; it was just one."  It will rationalize--"I needed the money more than the bank did."  It will deny--"what bank?"  

It will do anything but tell or face the truth because that then would necessitate change.  We will cling to what's familiar even though it's killing us and we'll act like it's just another day in paradise.  "I'm in the dance band on the Titanic, singing Nearer My God to Thee."  The ego thrives on equilibrium; the current status quo may be as dysfunctional as a Big Brother episode, but it's predictable, though possibly lethal.  

Decades ago, I was a therapist in a rural county mental health clinic.  An adolescent male whom I'll call Sherwin Williams was a substance abuser.  Sherwin was into huffing spray paint.  One day he showed up for his appointment, walking into my office as nonchalant and ho-hum as could be.  He had a large circle of paint around his nose and mouth; walking in naked wouldn't have made him look any more conspicuous.  I asked him how he was doing.  "Fine."  I asked him if he had been huffing lately.   "Nope.  I'm clean." 

Are you kidding me?  How stupid do I look?  His ego was so entrenched in denial that what was obvious to anyone else was not even factored into the equation.  I still shake my head in disbelief when I think of Sherwin.  

But then there are those occasions when I look in the mirror--when I am honest with and about myself--and I can't believe it.  There's paint all over my face.  

Don't worry about me, though.   Like Sherwin, I'm fine.  I just need to stay away from mirrors. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Am I Looking for the Infinite in the Finite?

I love to read.  I love to read from poets and mystics and theologians and  Franciscan monks and men and women who describe their pilgrimage.  Reading is the equivalent of eating.  I feast upon good books and deep thoughts and touching memoir. 

 I love to listen to music.  If I'm feeling lethargic, music can serve to energize me.  The Stones.   Springsteen.  Steve Winwood's, "You Gotta Roll With It, Baby."  Marshall Tucker's "Can't You See?"  Some music soothes and comforts my melancholy.  Van Morrison has made me cry.  Sarah McLachlan's mournful soul has caressed my own. 

I'm always looking for the next book to ground me, to anchor me in my journey.  I'm always listening to the next new artist, hoping that, maybe this time , the healing will come, the mood will stabilize, the epiphany will occur.    

I think I'm kidding myself.  I want to read, but I don't want to be read by the One who truly knows me.  I want to continue to expand my mind, hoping that through the vehicle of my mind I will eventually experience that "Aha!" revelation.  At other times I feel it is the heart that is the necessary mode of movement.  Maybe the next album will usher in a new lasting sense of peace and ease my anxious spirit. 

There's a part of me that knows better.  Yet, a part continues to pursue down paths that will not lead me to my desired destination.

Don't worry; I'm not about to engage in a frenzied book-burning extravaganza.  I'm not going to melt my cd's in a puddle, fueled by misguided repentance.    I'll keep reading, I'll keep listening.  Two questions arise.  Am I willing to be read?  Secondly, am I willing to listen to One who speaks in silence and solitude? 

Mick Jagger put it well:  I can't get no satisfaction. . . .and I try, and I try, and I try.