I’ve been roaming around among my old blog posts lately and found this tidbit. I think it’s worth sharing. This is back when I was apparently riding the leading edge of the waive. Of course big Tom makes an appearance. Originally posted on November 26, 2002…
… I also had a very good conversation with my friend Steve last night. We meet in a coffee house on Monday nights to talk spiritual life stuff. That’s not just high and lofty things that have no connection to our walking around – that’s holistic life in the spirit. We’ve been discussing a Thomas Merton quote that deals really with the core of what it means to be a Christian – the center of the spiritual life – Love. I put this quote on the Vine last week – I’ll quote it again here. We’ve had two good solid hours of rich encouraging discussion out of this one quote. I think we’ll stay on it for a while.
Love in fact is the spiritual life, and without it all the other exercises of the spirit, however lofty, are emptied of content and become mere illusions. The more lofty they are, the more dangerous the illusion.
Love, of course, means something much more than mere sentiment, much more than token favors and perfunctory almsdeeds. Love means an interior and spiritual identification with one’s brother, so that he is not regarded as an “object” to “which” one “does good.” The fact is that good done to another as to an object is of little or no spiritual value.
Love takes one’s neighbor as one’s other self, and loves him with all the immense humility and discretion and reserve and reverence, without which no one can presume to enter into the sanctuary of another’s subjectivity. From such love all authoritarian brutality, all exploitation, domineering and condescension must necessarily be absent.
Our talk last night centered around the mistaken notion of what it means to live the Christian life that many of us have had. We have made it all about “believing the right things” and “doing the right things.” We live our lives focused on finding out how to be good and making sure that we can observe ourselves being that way. We have to measure our progress at all times so we can be sure that we are progressing. We become spiritual “fighter pilots” who’s goal is the targeting and destruction of all the bad things and problems we see (in ourselves and in others). We spend vast amounts of energy lining up the sights on the enemy targets, we pull the trigger, and then what? I’m not sure the target is really destroyed for one thing. But then we are old soldiers walking around without a war to fight it – stuck in that mode.
That’s a bad way to live. That’s not what we’re called to when we are called to inhabit Christ and be inhabited by Him. We are called to Love. We are called to Union. That is all. In these things is all we need. If we make it our business to put ourselves in the place of “getting wet” under the waterfall, the waterfall gets us wet. We just need to go about putting ourselves in the place of being where the water is. The river flows where it flows. Our deal is to get ourselves into the river so that the flow takes us where it goes.
Now, I’m not talking about hooky spooky overly charismatic stuff. I’m just using analogies to explain something. We need to focus ourselves on the every-day cultivation of our union with God in Jesus. That’s what we need to be about. If we do that, His Love will grow in us, His Spirit will transform us – that’s what it’s all about. Worrying about doing the right things all the time is destructive. I will not take that back. I just said it with great thought and I fully know the implications of what I just said and I will not take it back. Wow, I need to stop. I’ll write the book later.
“Then let me build a bridge, for I cannot fill the chasm…” —Sting
The problem with the whole “bridge” thing, referring to Jesus as a bridge between us and God, is that His intention was never to be merely a “bridge.” He came to “fill the chasm.”
A bridge is an external “fix.” A bridge is temporary. A bridge is a “thing” which is built to serve a purpose. We have, for far too long, been satisfied with looking at the existence and work of Jesus as something like this – as some fix – something which was built, upon which, if we walk just right, we will get to the other side – the same us who started the journey from side A, mind you, arriving safely on side B.
This way of looking at the whole notion of Christianity is deeply unfortunate.
It tends to leave everything on the outside of the door. At its root, it is an external solution to an internal problem.
If we get our passport stamped, we’ll get across the bridge. If we know the password, we’ll get across the bridge. If we walk properly from one side to the other, we’ll get across the bridge.
If the low places are filled, we can walk like real human beings, naturally, across the land we were meant to walk upon, into “places” where we were created to walk. A bridge is a mechanism laid on top of something. It’s the something that needs to be fixed. It’s the something, the everything, that He came to repair. And we’re part of the everything.
As the chasm is filled, as the broken ground is repaired, we are more and more able to walk freely from one place to another. In fact, it’s better to actually say it like this: The sides, the places which were once two, are being made one again. That includes our “insides” being brought into union with Him again, with His Reality.
327 words won’t quite cut fully explaining this, but it’s a start. Stop thinking bridge and start trying to grasp the chasm being filled, being repaired, being recreated.
It’s funny – in some ways my life is more peaceful now. I was telling someone the other day, that it’s an amazing feeling to come home after work… and have nothing else to do, not really. No other job. No one pushing, pushing, pushing me. No real deadlines. Sure, every now and then someone orders a rosary and I have to make that for them and send it off. I enjoy that. It doesn’t feel like “work.” Rarely, someone will ask me to tie them some flies, for money, and I do that. I wouldn’t like to do that constantly, all the time, but it’s not a big deal to tie a few flies for some lunch money. And of course, there are just normal things around the house. It’s an interesting change of pace.
Our “kids” are all older than 18 now. There’s still a little bit of “taxi driving” going on, but not much. They all go their own way. That’s good, I guess. Their own way is not always the way I would choose for them, nor is it always something I think is right or good for them, but they’re OK. I worry, as you do, and I hope they’ll learn, or re-learn, some of what I’ve taught them. We shall see.
At this point, I almost never “go to church,” or “mass” or whatever you like to call the going-to of religious services. I feel mostly fine about that. There are reasons for this choice. I’ll not go into all that right now. I’ve not turned heathen, or pagan, or anything else. I still pray and try to maintain a relationship with God. Maybe I’m in the desert for a while. I’m not really sure. I have my issues with things, for sure, but I’m not sittin’ around swinging my fists in the air. Not sure how long this season will last. For now, though, I tend to look at it as, ironically enough, a sabbath.
I fish. I fish, relatively, a lot. In the past, I’ve done little fish counters on my blog, trying to keep track of how many fish I catch during the year. This year, I’ve lost track. It’s in the hundreds – probably 300+ at this point – conservative estimate. That’s a good thing for me. I’ve gone through seasons where I’ve had to basically “fast” from that as well. Now, it’s feasting for sure on the fishing front. Mostly bass so far. I’m way behind on some trout fishing – must do more of that soon. And carp – yes carp – is moving right in.
Funny times. Interesting times. Sort of peaceful times. Enough talking about that for now. Peace to you.