Monday, February 08, 2010

More on the Being of Oneself

The theme of my last post could be summarized as coming to more fully appreciate the substance of one's own values by running head-first into a person who expresses values of a different substance. (Well, I'm not really sure that "substance" is the right term here, but I'll employ it anyway. Those whose linguistic values have just been broadsided can comment accordingly.)

Now, I had wanted to go farther in my post on the vocation of being oneself at the time I wrote it, however the call to sleep and the difficulty in summoning forth the proper words led me to opt for a later second installment. I think I'm ready to move forward with that now, and I've been helped along by another sort of head-first experience that resulted from my previous post. My friend, upon whom I am affectionately bestowing the moniker Suzanne the Irritating, and I had an exchange on my last blog post. To make a short story even shorter, a conversation today clarified the intent and the heart of each of us behind that exchange, which had gotten a bit problematic to me and was compounded by an email I sent to her bouncing back to my spam folder without my realizing it.

Now a bigger realization has occurred to me. It really is very good and satisfying to be able to fully clarify to oneself why one feels irritated.

In the blog post in question, I used images that spoke of a solitary journey and of a singular vocation that feels very different from what those around seem to have been given. It is true, of course, that each individual is given a unique vocation (You are completely unique... just like everyone else!) and that none of us is on a solitary journey in the Christian life because the Church is a people and all that. But this type of thing is decidedly not what I am contemplating there. Even though I sort of like using the word "terrifying" for what I am contemplating (as in the title of the post "The Terrifying Vocation of Being Oneself"), I see that to most people this gives the wrong connotation. If someone is terrified, the inclination of many, like my friend, is to emphasize how I am not really alone, because company eases terror. But I realize I see "terrifying" more as a synonym of "exhilarating". Maybe spiritually I am like someone who absolutely adores the fastest and wildest roller coasters. So suddenly it struck why the help my friend felt to give registered with me as incredibly irksome (sorry, my friend!). It struck me as it would had my husband and I used the lock on our bedroom door, and my eight-year-old son banged on it and said "I don't want you guys to feel alone! Let me in!" Naruhodo: When I speak of the terrifying vocation of being oneself, I am talking about a deeply intimate and exhilarating experience of being with the Lord where he takes me (anyone) where no human being can. It is the experience of being His, alone, existing in reference only to Him. This is the only place I become who I truly am. I cannot find the way to become who I am in any other way but in this intimate embrace with my Beloved. I cannot cling to a group identity or hide behind others. It is, in the most fitting truth of it, He and I, as the book celebrates.

Now the story I was initially going to tell to illustrate this I contemplated calling "Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned Being an Alto." It's got a ring to it. But think of it. An alto, for those who don't know, is a woman's voice part in a choir that generally is harmony as opposed to melody. An alto line, sung alone, sounds somewhere between boring and weird. But as Joe has told us altos in choir occasionally, "Without you, we don't know who we are." In other words, the note the altos hit often make a chord either major or minor or just messy. I remember the first time Joe said that, because it sort of peeled me to my core. It is hard to articulate why, but it has to do with not only being able to embrace uniquity (here represented by singing alto) but also for it to be needed by others to make the whole, whole. Mix that into my realization that it is Christ who makes me myself, and I suppose that comes close to why that struck me so hard. Christ's aim is always, as Mt. 10:27 says "What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the housetops." Just as parents introduce their children to the world, so that which the Lord plants deep in our hearts is meant for the world.

I've also been thinking about that which originally drew me to the Catholic Faith, before I was drawn to the Catholic Church. It was the mystics, like St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa of Avila. I've been reading again the poems of St. John of the Cross and finding that tremendous resonance in my heart. He is all about that solitary, interior place which is not solitary at all.

Sum of all perfection:
oblivion of the world,
remembrance of the Maker.
Look to your inner life,
ever loving the Beloved.
--St. John of the Cross

Oh, and now I feel another post coming on about the Christian mystics. For another time.


Suzanne said...

Okay, I don't mind being Suzanne the Irritating (but I'd prefer Suzanne the Terrible), as long as I get to call you Breezy Mareezy. ;)

Christian Mysticism said...

I agree about the mystics and how we must slow down the destructive pace of modern life so we can get a solitary glimpse of the inner life of consciousness and the awesome power of clear thought.