“Yamanakabushi” performed by Jean-Pierre Rampal & Yuzuko Horigome, from the album “Yamanakabushi: Japanese Melodies”, Vol. 3, (1982)
Some thoughts today on “Simplicity”, the quest for which is an uphill battle which never ends in a world that worships the complex and “it’s complicated …” as a rationalization of every form of duplicitous, dishonest and even harmful behavior. The exploitation of “the other” for the benefit of “the self” necessitates an entire Olympiad of gymnastically complex contortions to protect our self image and to deny the reality of our conduct and intentions.
What is one to do in this duplicitous world? To approach in some way true simplicity of spirit we are required to avoid every form of duplicity. We must avoid duplicity of mind by a passionate search for truth. We must love and accept the truth even when the truth requires sacrifice. Sacrifice of beliefs, sacrifice of views, sacrifice of attachments to both creatures and ideas and modes of thought. How successful are we in this pursuit, even when embarked honestly upon it? How passionately do we desire peace?
Sacrifice also must be embraced when truth reveals our defects, and errors, and wounds our egos ,and harms our self love, revealing things, actions, and beliefs which do not redound to our credit, which even may detract from our self image and our public image. We are so wedded to ourselves and our narcissistic self image that even in prayer we often fall into delusional reveries about why we are “not bad people”. But is there peace in being “not bad people”?
To find peace, we must embrace the most candid, honest, sincerity, fleeing vigorously from every falsehood with the same intensity of passion with which we search for truth. This is not easy in our modern world where the entire focus of existence is deception and self aggrandizement. Our fear and avoidance of simplicity is perhaps the hallmark of our age, the leitmotif of our society and our culture.
But, duplicity poisons peace, and gives rise to our multiplicity of fears all stemming from our total lack of simplicity, the complex monkey on all our backs. William Shakespeare nailed it in Hamlet’s soliloquy:
To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles, And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep No more; and by a sleep, to say we end the heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks that Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep, To sleep, perchance to Dream; aye, there’s the rub, for in that sleep of death, what dreams may come, when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause. There’s the respect that makes Calamity of so long life: For who would bear the Whips and Scorns of time, the Oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s Contumely, [F: poor] the pangs of despised Love, the Law’s delay, [F: disprized] the insolence of Office, and the spurns that patient merit of the unworthy takes, when he himself might his Quietus make with a bare Bodkin? Who would Fardels bear, to grunt and sweat under a weary life, but that the dread of something after death, the undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveller returns, puzzles the will, and makes us rather bear those ills we have, than fly to others that we know not of.
(“Quietus” is an old English term for Death or suicide – could we call our Canadian Euthanasia bill the Quietus bill? It will certainly “quiet us”. a “Bodkin” is a “blade” and”Fardels” are “troubles”)
Truth and true peace is to be found in sincere simplicity of spirit … in that simplicity no fears can arise to plague us … rejecting the complexity of our will and all the fears thereof, and embracing the simplicity of God’s will, the sincere pursuit of only good, not “our good”, but “Good”.
empty oneself of every trace of belief in one’s “goodness”
I will not just copy everything they have to say about it but suffice to say go on over and visit it and read the article, it is worth one’s time to understand better the past history which contributed to Western European Civilization’s rise, especially since we are in such a hurry to blow it all away in our modern progressive wasteland.
So after the last blogpost it might appear we have swerved off the road, but in fact all of the items, objections, observations, and situations complained about, and judged, and questioned in that post are firmly rooted in my own biases, attractions, beliefs, and narratives in and about this material world.
In short, my ego, my “self” is intimately enmeshed in all my observations and conclusions, MY plans, MY dreams, MY opinions, MY understanding. I don’t believe that I am uniquely blessed. I believe that we all share these attachments to the material, especially if we strongly believe that this time based material reality is all there is.
Viewed through my human nature, all these things are ultimately important, but viewed through my soul nature they are really seen to be unimportant and irrelevant, mere distractions on the path. And yet … and yet … we insist on refusing to see what is right before us. We dive into the unreal and forsake the real for the sake of our passions, our tastes, our desires, our egos.
Grunewald – Isenheim Altarpiece – First View
“Barabbas is in each one of us. We are scoundrels, experts in selfishness, boasting, lust, violence and greed. We are bandits, taking God’s many gifts and ungratefully neglecting them and squandering them.
We take for granted the most precious realities of life: family, life, nature, health, faith, and the sacraments. We squander our talents, our money, our time, and the love others offer us.
Grunewald Isenheim Second View
We are quick to criticize and judge, to steal others’ honor and sully it with our moral and intellectual myopia. What do we, who are so flawed, so weak, so slow to repent, and so reluctant to serve — what do we deserve?
Certainly not God’s love, certainly not his continued forgiveness, certainly not redemption, hope, peace, and heaven. Strictly speaking, we deserve to be cut off from the kingdom against which we have so often rebelled — just like the murderous insurgent Barabbas.
Grunewald Isenheim Third View
And yet, Jesus overlooks what we deserve. It is Passover, and the angel of justice passes over the sinner to wreak his punishments on the Lamb of God instead. Look at the Lord with the eyes of Barabbas. Is there any heart that loves you more than His Sacred Heart? Is there any heart more trustworthy than the heart that died so that you might have abundant life? John Bartunek, LC, ThD. “The Better Part”, pp321
Grunewald’s Risen Christ
We insist on refusing to see what is right before us — we refuse to see reality through the eyes of our spirit/soul — we clutch at our “self” and our passions, appetites, vices, and sins, because, as Screwtape says (about half way down one of my posts): “you must remember that he(us) takes Time for an ultimate reality”.
As we walk through this “valley of death”, this mortal world full of evil both without and within, we find that the closer we cling to the visible, material, temporal vision, the more we fear. Because when you really look at everything around us, the happenings, and events, and personal relations, and national relations, the EVERYTHING in TIME, the more we fear.
Mathis Gothart Grunewald’s “St. John The Baptist” illum oportet crescere me autem minui (Vulgate, John 3:30 ), “He must increase, but I must decrease.
Because, if we actually pull our collective heads out of the “sand” (or wherever) the more we have to acknowledge that there is not one damned thing we can do about any of it and if this is all there is then we may just as well end it all. If this is all there is then what is really the point?
This morning I visited another WordPress blog which I follow at “Finding Hope” Often I am encouraged and given hope reading what this person writes. This time I found there a story specifically about this struggle with “What’s The Point”. It brought me to tears and to prayer:
A Prayer of Sorrow
” I have fallen, Lord, once more. I can’t go on. I’ll never succeed. I am ashamed. I don’t dare look at you. And yet I struggled, Lord, for I knew you were right near me, bending over me, watching.
But temptation blew like a hurricane, and instead of you I turned my head away. I stepped aside, while you stood silent and sorrowful. Lord, don’t look at me like that.
For I am ashamed and sorrowful. I am down, shattered, with no strength left. I dare make no more promises. I can only stand bowed before you.
Come, Child, look up. Isn’t it mainly your vanity that is wounded? If you loved me you would grieve but you would trust. Do you think that there is a limit to God’s love? Do you think that for a moment I stopped loving you? But you still rely on yourself.
You must rely on me. Ask my pardon and get up quickly. You see, it’s not falling that is worse, but staying on the ground.”
If we are not careful we find ourselves angry with God because “He is doing this to me!” and we can’t bring ourselves to recognize our own failings and faults, and that God is not really “doing this to us” but just watching us sorrowfully from His eternal NOW as we do these spiteful things to “punish” Him.
And then consider how much of what we do daily is out of spite and passive aggression. Spite at family members, spite at neighbours, spite at friends, spite at groups of people we “have a bone to pick” with, spite at other drivers, spite at other folks in public places or in the news, spite at professional groups, anyway, you get my drift.
Matushka Juliana Schmemann, Fr. Alexander Schmemann, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Our spiritual point of view completely obscured by passion , resentment and pride, so we do and say things we later regret or find are mistaken in their target and intent. “Every evil screams out only one message: “I am good”! And not only does it scream, but it also demands that the people cry out tirelessly in response: ‘You are good, you are freedom, you are happiness’ “(Father Alexander Schmemann)
All of these passions painting layer upon layer of darkness on the vision of our soul/spirit, completely obscuring reality. These “little sins” of spite, of holding grudges and passive aggression until vengeance be meted out are really great big sins of pride, of our ego, of needing to be seen and heard and esteemed, even by God, if we still remember Him.
My mother (God rest her soul) went to her grave, “died unshriven” as they say, or “básafháilgansagart” as our Irish ancestors would say, that is “not having confessed sins to a priest and been given absolution” after 32 years of rejecting God and the church and the sacraments. Because she just couldn’t accept that God’s plan for her life did not align with her plan for her life. After my father died, at 57, my mother (always a very stubborn woman) rejected the church, priests, God, religion, holding out for her plan, until vengeance be meted out.
In her early life, although we were poor, she did her best to raise us children so that we never wanted for anything essential, even including making our clothes. She looked out for us with devotion and worshiped my father as her eternal love. She died a unhappy woman at 92 still holding out for the material reality of her plan and rejecting the soul/spirit view of eternity.
God gave her 32 more years after he took Dad, to come to an understanding of reality and we discussed it and argued about it countless times for 32 years. I must have been a real pain in the ass when all she really wanted was to be left alone in her bitterness.
In some ways she reminded me, in the last 30 years of her life, of “The Old Woman and The Onion” fable which appears in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel “The Brothers Karamazov“. My mother refused to give up her narrative and her plan regardless of the cost.
And all that misery and bitterness because she took TIME for reality and could never bring herself to accept that this world didn’t matter, that she had to give up HER plan for life and accept God’s plan:
15Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17And the world passeth away, and the concupiscence thereof: but he that doth the will of God, abideth for ever. (1 John 2, Douay-Rheims Bible)
We would be better to write poems of Love to God:
“Ah, Love, let us be true to one another! For the world, which seems To lie before us like a land of dreams, So various, so beautiful, so new, Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain; And we are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, Where ignorant armies clash by night.”
“An Taiseirl (The Resurection)”, Noirin Ni Riain and The Monks Of Glenstal Abbey, from the album “Vox de Nube”, (1996)
Inuit Snow Goggles
It seems obvious at this point what reality is and what the choice is that must be made, between a short syllable of time or all eternity, to devote our short lives to chasing happiness and success in this world or take off our goggles and pursue eternity.
But in order to detach from the important material things which fill up our lives and leave us bitter and afraid we have to abandon our “self”–ishness and trust God. Selfishness is rooted in “FEAR” of loosing something good for ourselves or missing out on something which might make us happy, or whatever … we often do not even know what it is we are afraid of loosing or missing out on, but we are sure someone else is getting it and we are not.
The main obstacle or hurdle to overcome when approaching the spirit/soul point of view is self love. It is immensely difficult to develop detachment from this world while fully immersed in the pool of self love where this time based world is everything.
By immersing oneself in the world of spirit, outside time and space, where everything material is unimportant we are able to appreciate and understand just what an infinitesimal part of reality is the part with time, which we choose to believe constitutes all of reality.
Air Force One
So we have to give up our self and trust God, a difficult target when we have so much trouble trusting our family or our friends, or the folks at work or at the corner store.
Trust; trust God, who knows us so much better than we even know ourselves since he conceived us and created us and he loves us more than we love ourselves and he wants nothing more than our absolute happiness and well being. He knows what we need.
We fight the long defeat because results are not as important as our Father’s delight. We fight the long defeat because we are not the authorities over “success.” We fight the long defeat because the final victory is coming.
Started yesterday shoveling madly at 7:00 AM to make sure the walks and such were clear for customers and deliveries. Here we are 24 hours later and everything is melting and every where I shoveled is clear and dry. Great.
Today things were warm enough to melt in places and the weather geeks are calling for rain tonight before everything freezes up again and makes morning driving treacherous. Japanese Chill Out on the speakers, sipping Port and contemplating the difficulties for modern man in the FIAT of the Blessed Virgin.
“I am struck by the contemporary response to the ancient Christian doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, as of the Incarnation and the Virgin Birth. We just can’t believe anyone was so “pure.” Which is a paradox: for in the same moment we think this we have undermined our notion that there is no such thing as purity. We have revealed that we know exactly what we are denying. This is the paradox of atheism. I’ve never met an atheist who did not know exactly which God did not exist, little as he knew Him.”
“Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est: “For He that is mighty hath done great things to me: and holy is His name.”
This is the mystery of the fiat of Heaven, the decree that we are strangely free to honour or ignore. In our sinfulness, we usually ignore it. But she who was without sin honoured it without hesitation, becoming in that moment the Mother of God. At the moment of His earthly conception, she, as his mother, set for the world His first example, of joyful obedience to the Father’s will.
We sinners find this hard to understand. We moderns are afraid to render the fiat as Mary did; are alarmed even to hear it, because God’s plan for our own future may not be congruent with our own plans. And it is true that we have the right to choose: the way of life or the way of death. And have been given some time to think about it.”
And, as he so often does, David has absolutely nailed my stumbling block to the wall in perfect clarity.
As Augustan prayed “But I, miserable young man, supremely miserable even in the very outset of my youth, had entreated chastity of You, and said, Grant me chastity and continency, but not yet. For I was afraid lest You should hear me soon, and soon deliver me from the disease of concupiscence, which I desired to have satisfied rather than extinguished.”
– Confessions, XIII, Chapter 7, 17
I find myself vaguely reluctant, a shadowy background of reluctance, seen out of the corner of my spiritual eye. Reluctant in my prayers offering myself and all that I am and ever will be wholly to God’s plan for me lest it turn out to be not what I expected or wanted. I remarked on “Confessions“ in another post alluding to this discomfort.
I know with certainty that as much as I am reluctant so am I failing to live God’s will for me and yet I know absolutely that He holds everything in his hand and I am nothing without his thought. So much for logical embracing of reality … my mirror is warped. I see the knot and cannot touch it with the tools at hand. What now?
To think on the fact that God created all and is all good and deserving of all our love. How could a being such as this have anything but my best interests in mind in His plan for me? So it has to be as Augustine proclaimed: “…concupiscence, which I desired to have satisfied rather than extinguished.”.
I am, obviously, quite attached to my favourite sins, my favourite trains of thought, my favourite judgements and opinions, my pride, my ego, my surety that I see things aright … hmmm. Charity for all and malice towards none, a high setting of the bar. Do I REALLY want to give up being judgmental when it is so much fun and makes me feel so superior?
Time for another glass of Port.
“May God grant you always…
A sunbeam to warm you, a moonbeam to charm you,
a sheltering Angel so nothing can harm you.
Laughter to cheer you. Faithful friends near you.
And whenever you pray, Heaven to hear you.”