It doesn’t interest me if there is one God
or many gods.
I want to know if you belong or feel
if you can know despair or see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with its harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes,
saying this is where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living,
the center of your longing. I want to know
if you are willing
to live, day by day, with the consequence of love
and the bitter
unwanted passion of your sure defeat.
I have heard, in that fierce embrace,
even the gods speak of God.
“Shyness is the first necessary crossroads on the path of becoming…Without shyness we cannot shape an identity ripe for revelation.
Shyness is the exquisite and vulnerable frontier between what we think is possible and what we think we deserve.
Without shyness it is not possible to apprehend the new. Total confidence at the beginning of a new phase of life means we are misinformed, that we are deeply mistaken, that we think we know what is about to occur and who we are about to become. Shyness is an invitation to a particular form of beauty, to qualities that are meant to be both practiced and cultivated; shyness is our friend; the annunciation that we are just about to walk through the door and through all our difficulties, attempt another beginning.”
“Autumn is a season of great beauty, but it is also a season of decline. The days grow shorter and summer’s abundance decays toward winter’s death. Faced with this inevitable winter, what does nature do? She scatters the seeds that will bring new life in the spring, scatters them with amazing abandon.
In the autumnal events of my own life, I’m rarely mindful of the fact that seeds are being planted. Instead I fixate on what I’m losing – on the decay of meaning, the decline of a relationship, the slow death of a vocation. If I were to look more deeply, I might see the myriad of possibilities that are being planted to bear fruit in some season to come.
In a culture that prefers the simplicity of either/or thinking to the complexity of paradox, we find it hard to hold opposites together. We want the glories of spring and summer without the demands of autumn and winter, gain without loss, light without darkness – and we end up making Faustian bargains that fail to sustain our lives.
Autumn constantly reminds me that my daily dyings are necessary precursors to new life. If I try to “make” a life that defies the diminishments of autumn, the life I end up with will be artificial and colorless. But when I yield to the endless, interplay of living and dying, the life I am given will – like autumn – be real and colorful, fruitful and whole.”
On Saturday afternoon I was pleasantly startled by the sight of nuns jogging in full nun apparel on the streets of Monona.
These must be the nuns that now live by Immaculate Heart of Mary Church; one of my daughters met them recently.
This sight immediately brought to mind the theory of “benign violation” in humor, whereby something is funny because it is outside the bounds of what we normally expect.
It also brought to mind a recent New York Times article about how a convent in New Jersey has succeeded in attracting several college-educated Millennials:
With all the technology, I think they’re just saturated,” she said of the curious. “And they see this life as really radical and they have a desire for it. Maybe their families are fractured and they see our life as really stable. Of course, people come to it from all different places. One of the friars told me his novice master decided to become a friar because friars had their own bedrooms and he hated sharing a room with his brothers at home. That is why he came, but it’s not why he stayed. If God is calling, you can’t be happy doing anything else.
“People may not share their doubts with friends, relatives, rabbis, pastors or imams. They inevitably share them with Google. Every year, in the United States, there are hundreds of thousands of pointed questions, most of them coming from the Bible Belt. The No. 1 question in the country is “who created God?” Second is why God allows suffering. This is the famous problem of evil. If God is all powerful and all good, how could he allow suffering? The third most-asked question is why does God hate me? The fourth is why God needs so much praise.
Not only is “who created God?” the top question nationally, it is also the top question in every state.
Some religious people, most famously Job, have asked why God has made their lives so difficult. Now we have evidence on what challenges elicit such questions.
What is the most common word to complete the following question: Why did God make me ___? No. 1, by far, is “ugly.” The other sad answers in the top three are “gay” and “black.”
Relative to the rest of the country, for every search I looked at, retirement communities search more about hell.
When very bad things happen around the world, people search for news; they do not search for prayers, the Bible, the Quran or anything related to religion.”
“Everyone has confusion… Simply by confronting paradoxes or difficulties within your life, designating a time to confront them several times a week, they seem to be not so important as they do when they’re weighing on your mind in the middle of the night, by yourself, with no one to talk to…
I went through a lot of changes about [therapy]. It’s like driving out your devils — do you drive out your angels as well, you know, that whole thing about the creative process. An artist needs a certain amount of turmoil and confusion, and I’ve created out of that. It’s been part of the creative force. I mean, even out of severe depression there comes insight, if you meditate on it. It’s sort of masochistic to dwell on it, but you do gain understanding.”