self examination

I am finding that movies and books, even at times music is not enough entertainment to keep me from thinking about myself. I am in the process of recovery still from my dissertation, completed over a year ago. I am smarter, more capable, but as one friend Ray said, “Now that I am a Doctor, people expect more of me.” That’s OK. They do, and the investment of their lives in patience for the fruits of my labor should be worth it.

I think some of the fascination with myself as an object, and a subject, is complicated by the material of my dissertation, (get it here.) Complicated because it is a challenge of truth about the reality of my Christian experience, my married life, my children, and all the other relations that require my time. The critique implied in my work brings a rich dialectic about my life. So it is more entertaining thinking about how I will become a better person than it is thinking about my work. Sometimes, the engine of my critique bowls over all other intended activity.

I remember years ago, while I lived in Alabama, that I began to read SF and adventure novels at night before I went to sleep so that I wouldn’t have to process my day, obsessively mark each detail and make a judgment about it. I’m still reading novels before bed, but I find myself thinking about my relation with the novels, the characters, and the scenarios they are in. There is something instructive in the musings of writers who make their characters dance through a plausible world, especially those great ones who are both so human that their failings are understandable, and so good that their life is to be emulated.

This is the classic setup for an Aristotelian tragedy. But it still works. The good ones struggle to keep their integrity, even if their integrity depends on a dark hope, or an absurd end. The struggle is engaging inside the hope that it will resolve itself without the emergence of our worst selves. Being thrown (Heideggerian thrown-ness) into the world that cares nothing for me, or my local clan, involves making peace in a Stoic way with the things that I cannot change. But that’s not enough.

I’ve been reading Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus and coming to the conclusion that our circumstances, whatever they appear to be are worth more than any mourning we might put into it. The experience itself is its own reward. I’ve also been reading something of the ecstasy of St. Teresa of Avila. Oh my God, I open myself to an experience of being pierced like her. The pain and the transfinite pleasures not available anywhere else. I remember Thomas a Kempis saying, and I paraphrase, “How many of us would not prefer spiritual pleasures over material ones if they were always available to us?” This rhetorical question makes it obvious that we would choose those pleasures, except that they are not readily available, cannot be conjured up, and leave us a slave of our passion for them. One taste and you will be hooked for life. The funny thing is, that ordinary, everyday freedom, that expressed by the wino, techie, lover, or politician, distracts us.

Not a bad metaphor, addiction to Christ. But God wants more of a relationship than the metaphor of addiction can serve. The objective God, the one that can be sequestered in a box, is not one that can be shown to the skeptic. The enduring God needs no proof, nor does he need our services. He is, however, interested in a relationship, and has sacrificed his son to make that possible.

What’s next? Explore! We don’t need someone to tell us that good things come to those who wait. We need to go out and engage our world.

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