Sometimes you can see a whole lot of things just by looking. That’s one of Yogi Berra’s infamous aphorisms. It’s a clever expression of course, but sadly, perhaps mostly, the opposite is truer.
“Eternity has more kinds of rooms than this world does.”
It is easy to mistake piety for the genuine response that God wants of us, that is, to enter into a relationship of intimacy with him and then try to help others have that same experience.
A good part of our lives are taken up with daydreams, though few of us admit that and even fewer of us would own up to the contents of those fantasies. We’re ashamed to admit how much we escape into fantasy and we’re even more ashamed to reveal the content of those dreams.
We shouldn’t feel guilty for exercising the gifts that God gave us, even though our motivations will never be completely pure. Whenever we use a God-given talent to do something well, God takes pleasure in it … and so too should we.
Every day our newscasts point out how, without much in the way of serious reflection, we are polluting the planet, strip-mining its resources, creating mega-landfills, pouring carbon dangerously into the atmosphere, causing the disappearance of thousands of species, creating bad air and bad water and thinning the ozone layer. And so the cry goes out: live more simply, use fewer resources, lessen your carbon footprint and try to recycle whatever you’ve used as much as you can.
Most all of us worry about aging, especially in how it affects our bodies. We worry about wrinkles, bags under our eyes, middle-age fat and losing hair where we want it while finding it in places where we don’t want it. So every now and then, when we look in a mirror or see a recent photograph of ourselves, we are shocked at our own faces and bodies, almost not recognizing ourselves as we see an old face and old body where we are used to seeing a young one.
Normally none of us likes feeling sad, heavy or depressed. Generally we prefer sunshine to darkness, lightheartedness to melancholy. That’s why, most of the time, we do everything we can to distract ourselves from melancholy, to keep heaviness and sadness at bay. We tend to run from those feelings inside us that sadden or frighten us.
Christian de Cherge, the Trappist Abbott who was martyred in Algeria in 1996, was fond of sharing this story: He had a very close Muslim friend, Mohammed, and the two of them used to pray together, even as they remained aware of their differences as Muslim and Christian.
Aware too that certain schools of thought, both Muslim and Christian, warn against this type of prayer out of a sense that the various faiths are not praying to the same God, the two of them didn’t call their sessions together prayer. Rather they imagined themselves as “digging a well together.”
“Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone — we find it with another.”
—Thomas Merton, “Love and Living”
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