On Simplicity

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This is one of the reasons that I am reading Paula Huston's book:

from The Holy Way
Paula Huston

. . . I've had to anchor myself in a single, central reality--my longing for God--an allow everything else to arrange itself accordingly.

In doing so, I 've made an interesting, if painful discovery: the path to simplicity runs right through the middle of me. In other words, the world may be a complicated and confusing place, but even if it were as serence as a Japanese garden, I'd manage to stir things up for myself. . . . Most of the clutter, in fact, has turned out to be internal rather than external, a result of the kind of person I am rather than the time and place in which I live.

Now, in point of fact, my internal lack of simplicity reflects itself all around me in my external environment. The interior environment inevitably leaves its marks on the exterior and the clutter I've mangaged to produce litters both landscapes.

Yesterday, praying a bit before Mass, I made the solid determination to return home and to weed out my collection of books. I was going to storm the shelves and relieve them of half of the clutter that simply remains there collecting dust. The reality was not so simple. Yes, they remain and to some extent collect dust--but what is left is too hard to narrow down. I was able to pull a few from the shelves, but really almost nothing in comparison to the huge stacks that fill the floor of one of the spare rooms.

Now logic dictates that even if I have read every one of those books (and I have not as more than half of them are Linda's and I tend to accumulate at a rate that greatly exceeds my reading speed) there is little likelihood of my return to them. And yet my past experience has been that every time I've gotten rid of some part of this core collection, I've spent a small fortune reacquiring it. Part of the collection exists because of the sheer beauty and interest of the books (old PBs of Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, Erle Stanley Gardner writing as A.A. Fair, etc.). These sixties paperbacks have panache, and interesting covers. I see nothing nearly as interesting as my circa 1968 cover of Agatha Chritiie's Sad Cypress. Covers that, in fact, greatly excel the contents of the books they cover. I also have a very painstakingly acquired nearly complete collection of John Dickson Carr and Carter Dickson. My interest here is the enormous numbers of ingenious ways Carr found to have murders commited in essential locked rooms. Of course both Dr. Gideon Fell and Sir Henry Merrivale are his images of G.K. Chesterton--how accurate, I haven't a clue. And the covers--once again the sixties cover of The Sleeping Sphinx or Til Death Do Us Part are simply magnificent.

So, I've identified a central material attachment, one that will require long labor and much prayer to do away with--and of course a central commitment to seeking God's grace in the matter. But it is not a matter of my will. In this matter my own will is vanishingly weak, it is only through the grace of God that I will be able to achieve the distance I need from these books and turn this passionate love (mentioned yesterday) to a better object, the Author of Love Himself. Until then, I wait in joyful hope, knowing that He will deliver me.

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It's obvious, reading between the lines, that you have come to the realization you should get rid of those old mysteries.

And, as obvious, I'm intended to receive them. (Except for the A.A. Fair books; I never got into them.)

Just mail them to me, and I'll reimburse you for postage.

Of course, Samuel will enjoy reading them in a few years...

(Sorry to muddy the waters)

Material attachments have always seemed just a short distance from addictions, and the source of both has made me curious for quite a while now. Why is it that we hold on to our attachments and addictions? What is at the base of them, driving us to hold on to something that we know is unhealthy? My only answer so far has been that fear and mistrust keep driving us back to the attachments and away from God. And when I think about that, it all seems to irrational.

Dear Steven,

"Part of the collection exists because........"

You've really brought to light the conundrum that many (or nearly all) of us must confront -- eventually. My last "cleanout" was in the Fall of 1999 when the criteria was: "what if Y2K precipitates a fallout of 'the civilization.'" That meant, of course, that practically everything stayed.

Mr. Bogner's response (above) was excellent, and I seek the time and fortitude to begin my own cleanout, starting with that marvelous collection of National Geographics going back to 1910.

All this baggage (I prefer the Latin: "impedimenta") must go if I expect to free my spirit and become fully presentable before the Lord. One of my heros is St. John Neumann, bishop, who was found dead in a snowbank by Philadelphia police--frozen, penniless, ragged clothes. There was a man who had truly "arrived."

I don't think this means you should abandon your various endeavors for Christ, Steven. Your blog gives witness and inspiration, and no doubt your many other exploits do the same in areas we know not. Surely, living in this civilization is far more perilous than one would ever expect.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 9, 2004 7:20 AM.

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