December 2009 Archives

Cultivated Europe


A friend of mine took a trip to Paris to visit her daughter. This friend's mother was flying in from Romania so that the whole family could be together. The friend is not in terrible health, but she has a heart condition that can be troublesome and other physical problems that make standing for long periods a problem.

She flew to Amsterdam where she was to catch a plane to Paris. Because of the weather, many flights, including her own, were canceled. It took them a long time to find her a place to stay and nothing was offered by way of compensation. The next day she stood for seven hours in line to rebook. While standing in line she tried to explain to someone who was patrolling the lines that she had a heart condition and other complicating factors and this wait was difficult as it was staged. The response, "I don't have any time for this."

My response, what can one expect from that haven of liberal values in which prostitution and marajuana sales thrive and laws allow for a kind of involuntary euthanasia to be administered to those who are not able to stand in line for seven hours.

I have to say that while I was very impressed with some aspects of European society, courtesy, thoughtfulness, and kindness never did seem to loom large in the spectrum. This merely confirms some preliminary impressions. While hardly an indictment of the society as a whole, it is symptomatic of the illness that lay at the heart.

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From Present Moment, Wonderful Moment

Thich Nhat Hanh

Sometimes when we are on the computer, it is as if we have turned off our mind and are absorbed into the computer for hours. Mind is consciousness. The two aspects of consciousness, subject and object, depend on each other in order to exist. When our mind is conscious of something, we are that thing. When we contemplate a snow-covered mountain, we are that mountain. When we watch a noisy film, we are that noisy film. And when we turn on the blue light of the computer, we become that computer.

I tend to read such things in a very metaphorical sense, and I must preface any further comments by saying that it may not be the intent of the author to be metaphorical. There may be some elusive sense in which he is being quite literal. Not being Buddhist, and reading this passage from a strictly Catholic point of view, I see exposed (metaphorically) a fundamental truth. Neuroscience has pretty clearly demonstrated that so called multitasking is no more multitasking than it was (or perhaps still is) on previous generations of Pentium chips. It simply isn't biologically possible to truly multitask--take the incidence of traffic accidents while using cell phones as an exemplar.

We become, not physically, but in some sense mentally, what we engage with. When we shoose to be a part of something, we give a part of ourselves to that something. This is a difficult truth and it is the truth that lay behind custody of the sense. When we give ourselves over to indulgence in the sense, we cannot rise above them and we find ourselves driven by them. This can be an ugly and fearsome thing. Thus, the investment of energy is a profound investment of a part of ourselves. In investing that energy, we become in some sense part of what we are investing in. We betray ourselves when the object is not worth the investment.

To paraphrase George Harrison, "You know that what you do, you are." And this is true in a very substantial way--do worthy and worthwhile things, you tend toward doing more of the same. Do less worthy things, the tendency towards less worthy becomes more pronounced.

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From the Cloud of Unknowing


At Dark Speech upon the Harp

Which goes to support a long-held contention that we MUST not judge a person by an action or even multiple actions, but we have a moral, religious obligation to condemn every evil action in the strongest possible terms.

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From a Sermon by St. Bernard, Abbot

Because this coming [the second of three] lies between the other two, it is like a road on which we travel from the first coming to the last. In the first Christ was our redemption; in the last, he will appear as our life; in this middle coming he is our rest and consolation.

. . . Where is God's word to be kept? Obviously in the heart as the prophet says: I have hidden your words in my heart, so that I may not sin against you.

Keep God's word in this way. Let it enter into your very being, let it take possession of your desires and your whole way of life. Feed on goodness, and your soul will delight in its richness. Remember to eat your bread, or your heart will wither away. Fill your soul with richness and strength.

What calls to me here is the image of the last line of paragraph 1--"he is our rest and consolation"--a wayside respite--a momentary taste of being fromt he Well amid the waste. How complex and full THAT poetic, echoic image. Our rest and our consolation--our Well amid the waste.

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This page is an archive of entries from December 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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