Sunday, October 18, 2015

"Have No Anxiety At All"

My wife gave me a familiar 'did you really say that?' look a few days ago, after I said I didn't understand why so many folks are upset about current events.

She had, as usual, reason on her side. I've gotten upset, a lot. I'm pretty much the opposite of phlegmatic.

But I don't see much point in contemplating cracked mirrors, or taking my cue from Yeats:
"...The mirror crack'd from side to side;
'The curse is come upon me,' cried
The Lady of Shalott....
"
("The Lady of Shalott," Tennyson (1842))

"...Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.


"Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand....
"
("The Second Coming," William Butler Yeats (1920))
I've quoted Yeats' "things fall apart; the centre cannot hold" quite a bit. (July 5, 2015; April 24, 2015; April 17, 2015)

Like quite a few other folks at the time, Yeats was getting over the Great War. Since then we've survived another global war, McCarthyism, the Beatles, and leisure suits. I won't enjoy my country's 2016 presidential election, but I'm pretty sure we'll survive that, too.

By some standards, this isn't a particularly 'religious' or 'relevant' blog. I don't rant about Armageddon, fur seals, or the crisis du jour.

Actually, I've come pretty close to ranting about the latter. (May 1, 2015; April 19, 2015)

Kvetching


The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference has taken a back seat to news about an unconscious celebrity found in a brothel and dire pronouncements about Synod 14.

The climate conference starts November 30, so kvetching about Laudato si' and climate change will probably pick up next month.

My take on the coming ice age, global warming, climate change, or whatever, is that Earth's climate has been changing for about 4,540,000,000 years, give or take 50,000,000, and will probably keep changing. (May 8, 2015February 20, 2015)

The natural world got along without us. But now that we're here, and have climate-affecting tech, we're responsible for its maintenance. (July 3, 2015; June 18, 2015)

Emotions and Reason


Getting back to Tennyson, Yeats, and angst, I care about what's going on — and I trust my feelings: within reason.

I think that's partly because living with undiagnosed depression and something on the autism spectrum for decades taught me that my emotions are unreliable guides.

Emotions are good, in the sense that they're part of being human. They're "...the connection between the life of the senses and the life of the mind...." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1764)

In another sense, emotions aren't good or bad by themselves. What matters is what we decide to do about them. (Catechism, 1762-1770)
"...since the sensitive appetite can obey reason, as stated above (Question [17], Article [7]), it belongs to the perfection of moral or human good, that the passions themselves also should be controlled by reason...."
("The Summa Theologica," First Part of the Second Part | Question: 24 | Article: 3, St. Thomas Aquinas) (translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province (Benziger Bros. edition, 1947)
Having a good, or bad, feeling about something may mean that it's good or evil — or not. That's why I should think before responding. (Catechism, 1765-1770)

I trust my feelings to let me know that something may be important. After that, it's up to my reason to decide what's happening and what — if anything — I should do.

Reason is part of being human, too. But because we have free will, thinking is an option: not a requirement. Like I said Friday, my experience has been that I'm better off if I think before I act. (Catechism, 1730, 1778, 1804, 2339)

The antics of loudly-religious folks notwithstanding, faith and reason get along fine. (Catechism, 156-159)

Why Take Jesus Seriously?


Jesus said that we should love God, love our neighbors, see everybody as our neighbor, and treat others as we want to be treated. (Matthew 5:43-44, 7:12, 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-31; Luke 6:31 10:25-27, 29-37)

I think the reciprocity principle we call the Golden Rule makes sense.

Something like it shows up in "The Eloquent Peasant," a story set in Egypt's Ninth or Tenth Dynasty. More than a dozen centuries later, Confucius (孔子) said pretty much the same thing.

But Jesus the Nazorean also claimed to be God: "...before Abraham came to be, I AM." (John 8:58)

Some folks have delusions of grandeur, but megalomania isn't wisdom: so why should I take Jesus seriously?

The short answer is that a few days after our Lord was executed and buried, Jesus stopped being dead. After a series of meetings and working lunches, the 11 surviving disciples realized that they weren't seeing a ghost.
"And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them."

"With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight."
(Luke 24:30-31)

"While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, 'Have you anything here to eat?'

"They gave him a piece of baked fish;

"he took it and ate it in front of them."
(Luke 24:41-43)

"Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, 'Peace be with you.'

"Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.' "
(John 20:26-27)
I've talked about our Lord's final meeting with the 11, described in Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:10-11, before. (October 5, 2014)

Rejoice!


Not everybody wanted to hear that Jesus is alive, and will be coming back. Saint Stephen was the first Christian who got killed for saying something folks didn't want to hear. (Acts 7:57-60)

Keep an eye on the "young man named Saul," who looked after the cloaks of Stephen's killers. (Acts 9:3-6)

A couple chapters later, he's "still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord" when Jesus has a brief but meaningful dialog with him. (Acts 9:1-6)

Understandably, Ananias asked for clarification when the Lord told him to look up Saul. After that, Saul and Ananias finally convinced local Christians that Saul had changed his mind, and Saul's former associates tried to kill him. (Acts 9:13-25)

There are two other accounts of Saul's conversion, and that's another topic. Topics. (Acts 22:3-16, Acts 26:2-18)

Saul's Greco-Roman name is Paul. Yet more topics. (Acts 13:9, footnote 5)

Paul's letter to Christians in Rome includes a pretty good reminder:
"Who will condemn? It is Christ (Jesus) who died, rather, was raised, who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.

"What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?...

"...For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, 9 nor future things, nor powers,

"nor height, nor depth, 10 nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
(Romans 8:34-35, 38-39)
I'm concerned about the environment, politics, and dental hygiene. But I try to keep my priorities straight. Nothing — nothing — in this world will keep me from our Lord. I could walk away, but that would be my choice: and a daft decision. (July 27, 2014)

Finally, pretty good advice from another letter, and the best news humanity's ever had:
"Rejoice 4 in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!

"Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.

"Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 6 "
(Philippians 4:4, 6-8)

"For God so loved the world that he gave 7 his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn 8 the world, but that the world might be saved through him."
(John 3:16-17)
God loves us, and wants to adopt us. All of us. (John 3:17; Romans 8:15; Ephesians 1:3-5; Catechism, 1-3, 52, 1825)

More posts about life, death, and the big picture:

1 The Catechism uses technical terms, like "moral passions." Happily, there's a glossary:
"PASSIONS, MORAL: The emotions or dispositions which incline us to good or evil actions, such as love and hate, hope and fear, joy and sadness, and anger (1763)."
(Catechism, Glossary)
Emotions, feelings, "moral passions," are important. So is thinking:

2 comments:

nothing profound said...

I'm generally pretty indifferent to what's going on in the world. I haven't read a newspaper in over thirty years and don't own a TV set. I know there are a lot of crazy people out there doing a lot of crazy things, but I choose not to dwell on it. I prefer to fix my attention on my personal life and the things I love and be as happy and peaceful as I can.

Brian Gill said...

That's prudent, nothingprofound: and certainly wiser than cultivating anxiety over transitory phenomena.

You're familiar with my tendency to nitpick words, so - I'm "indifferent" to current events too - - - sort of.

My beliefs demand that I stay aware of political and social situations, so that I can be a responsible citizen. However, my beliefs also demand that I prioritize that awareness.

Who wins the next election, what diplomats decide when they meet, and all that, are important. But they're nowhere near the top of my priorities list, and in most cases are matters over which I have little or no control.

So I do what I've been doing: keeping track of major events, and remembering that humanity has been around for a very long time - and has endured and prevailed through far worse than anything going on in my lifetime, including Lamar Odom, climate change, and leisure suits. ;)

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I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

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