Sunday, August 13, 2017

Less is not more

It’s not about how little we can do. It’s not about how much we can get away with without having to face consequences. The world is far too often operated by people skirting various lines. And that’s not how it should be.

“I know that was a little passive-aggressive, but at least I wasn’t downright mean or anything.”

“I mean, she’s kind of my friend, but it’s not like I owe her anything.”

“Well, it’s not like anybody cares if I argue in the comment section.”

               “That wasn’t really racist.”

              “Well, cussing isn’t exactly a sin. It’s not that hurtful.”

              If you have to rationalize, compare, or question whether or not to do it, you probably shouldn’t.

I mean, shouldn’t we be trying to be the brightest, cleanest, kindest human beings we can? Shouldn’t we be giving each other the most love and help possible? It won’t do to compare notes on ‘what, exactly, constitutes as an inappropriate joke’. Is there a line? Yes, absolutely. But if you find yourself questioning whether or not your joke crosses it, it probably does.

              Don’t ask whether what you’re doing is crossing over into the land of wrongdoings. Ask if it’s the best you can give, or if you’d be proud of it later. Don’t ask whether it’s exactly wrong to say passive aggressive things to that poor cashier, ask if it’s the best you can do. Nobody cares whether arguing online is wrong or not, but we all know it’s not anybody’s finest moment. And sure, maybe road rage is satisfying, but are you ever proud of it later? Is that the best you can do? Is that all you have to offer the world? Odds are, it’s not.

              Why are we constantly questioning whether we have to do things for each other, instead of just doing them because it’s kind? Why can’t we shower love and joy on everyone, whether we owe it to them or not? Whether we even know them or not? Our life shouldn’t be about skirting around rules and questioning whether what we want to say is mean or just a little bit rude. Life isn’t about how much we get, it’s how much we give. And why question who deserves what we have to give? Give everything you have to everyone you see, even if (or especially if) they wouldn’t give you the time of day.

              As for my fellow Christians, our relationship with our Lord and Lover should not be about asking ourselves, “But is that really a mortal sin?” or “I mean, I don’t have to pray every day to be a good Christian, right?” It should be about cherishing every moment we have with Him. It should be about wanting Him so desperately and deeply that we can’t wait for a spare moment of prayer. It should be about always wanting to give Him our very best, about wanting to be our cleanest and purest for Him always and at all times. It shouldn’t be about whether or not He expressly forbid doing whatever that fishy thing you want to do is. It shouldn’t be about whether He requires exactly fifteen minutes of prayer each day. It should be a romance of stealing away to whisper to Him. It should be a quick, hidden glance of love and intimacy with Him in a roomful of people. It should be running away from a formal dance to search for the adoration chapel, and returning from your tryst with starry eyes and blushing cheeks! (cough cough somebody I know <3) Your relationship shouldn’t be you following His rules because He said to. It should be you desperate to follow the rules and give Him your best effort because you would hate to disappoint and hurt your Lover’s heart.

              Give everybody all the love and joy and kindness you can muster. Be the brightest person.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Little Lights

I know your heart is breaking now
For things I didn’t do
But in good time you’ll come to see
That you’ll know what to do

The glassy tears your eyes have shed
Are lenses for the world
They’ll help you see in clearer light
The things you’ve always heard

Tears turn lights into diadems
Of sparkling starlit hues
And like a fractal, break the night
Into a million views

They’ve always said that tears will blur
And make you see awry
But you’ll see the softer edge of things
Without having to try

Yes, hearts will often make a mess
And tears drip from their sides
But the wetness on your cheeks will dry
And you’ll see that it’s alright

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Forgive to Forget

When I was younger
I thought forgiveness was
A decision
That you made once
And that the words
“I forgive you”
Were all it took
To forgive and forget
But I’m starting to realize
Forgiveness is
A decision
Yes, that’s true
But sometimes
You have to forgive
The same person
The same situation
The same fault
The same pain
Every day every hour every moment
For far too long
You think you’ve forgiven
And then you realize you haven’t
And you have to forgive again
It turns out
That you don’t
Forgive and forget
You keep forgiving
And then at some point
You forget
And it’s only when you’ve forgotten
That you’ve forgiven all the way
You don’t forgive and forget
You forgive to forget

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Slave to Hope

I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other day. This person, who I will call X, was contemplating the worth of living and whether or not committing suicide would be better. X said that death would be freedom from the bondage of life. That embracing death as a friend is the result of a sudden clarity of thought.
I replied that it was not freedom, but slavery, to feel that death is the only way to happiness and peace. It's not freedom to believe that you can only be at peace by killing yourself.
X proceeded to tell me I was a slave to hope. That slavery is only a term used to denote something humanity deems inappropriate. That just because something makes you feel good doesn't mean it doesn't have mastery over you. That slavery is slavery, whether it's to something generally deemed good or to something generally deemed bad.
At the time, I was distraught and only replied that if that were so, I would rather be a slave to hope than death. Which is true.
However, it was a thought provoking moment. I started to wonder whether one really could be a slave to hope. And I've decided that you can't.
To back up a bit for perspective, all things that are good are hard. Everything of worth is hard to attain. Everything that is desirable takes effort. It is easy to settle for less and sin. It is easy to be apathetic and full of vice. It is far too easy to give into temptation. But it is hard to be a person of virtue. It takes a lifetime of repetitive struggling in what seems to be a futile fight against temptation to become a saint. It often seems like a one-step-forward-two-steps-back situation. Nobody ever said it would be easy to be good.
Hope is a virtue. Hope is inherently good. And yet hope is one of the hardest virtues, at least for me, but I think for most. It is hard to hope. Can you be a slave to something that requires a dirty struggle every time you reach for it?
I'd argue no.
Most mental slaveries you hear about are only slaveries because of how easy it is to get caught. Porn, drugs, self-harm, lust, despair, they're all far too easy to give in to. It is so easy to get caught in one of these traps, because it feels good, it's simple and straightforward, and takes almost no effort. You rarely have to exert personal emotional effort to get addicted. You only need personal emotional effort to get out of one of these addictions. They are easy to get into and hard to get out of. But hope is hard to get into and easy to get out of. Hope takes the hard work first, with no promise of a return of happy feelings.
Now, I suppose you can be a slave to an ideal of hope. The feeling most people equate with hope. But real hope is so hard to come by. I doubt anyone is capable of being a slave to something so hard to fight for.
In fact, if you have progressed so far in you life that you can summon real, raw hope often enough to be "addicted" to it, then I argue that you are, in fact,  the master, not the slave.

Such a Pity

We're all searching for the same thing
Running in circles
Breathing out
Endless questions
Of purpose and pain
We're all searching for something
Such a pity
Such a pity only a few of us
Ever see what it is
We're looking for

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Truest Romance

I have often wondered why it is that Christians, and particularly Catholics, are often considered to be close-minded, while atheists are generally considered open-minded. I am not criticizing atheists; I understand the thought process most people go through to make their decisions, and I can respect that without agreeing with them. But logically speaking, it seems to be backwards. One group of people holds that life is what we know with our five sense, that logic and our minds are the highest powers and the most trustworthy, and that life is nothing more than a few decades. And one group of people believes that there are greater things out there, that there are things we cannot sense or grasp, and that life has an infinite, greater meaning.

I know that as a Catholic, I may be biased. But it seems to me that the first group is more close-minded than the second.

People who believe the Catholic faith is harsh and rigid and suffocating don't know Catholicism. That could not be farther from the truth. Catholicism is not binding, it's freeing. Catholics are the truest and most starry-eyed of romantics.

We believe that there is a world out there full of power and light and blinding love and pure awe. A world that we couldn't begin to imagine. A world of infinite peace and eternal love. We believe that a Being, with power beyond anyone's imagination, created our world, that is so vast to us, and put each of us in it on an individual level. That He looked at the world and thought it needed a me, and a you. That this Being, this Lord of all Lords, looked at his infinitesimally tiny, dirty little creations, and loved us so much that He became as low and tiny and dirty and insignificant as we are. Just to secure our happiness. And that after becoming that low, and willingly suffering a terrible death, He ensured a miracle, every day, every moment, in the Eucharist, just to remind us.

We believe that mercy can be infinite and forgiveness always available. That there is always a higher power watching our back. That our life here on earth is full of pain and suffering because it's just a test. It's just a tiny test of a few decades to see whether we can choose eternal joy, and if we can do our best with what we're given, we'll receive an infinite amount of perfection. That all the dirtiness and ugliness on this earth is there for a reason, and a very good reason. That suffering is cleansing, strengthening.

We believe that true love is a tie that's eternal. That what is bound in love can't be broken, no matter what. That sexual love is something so sacred and beautiful at its purest that it reflects the Trinity. That humans are like tiny little mirrors, little windows, whose sole purpose is to let God shine through them. That with help, we can let through a ray of light so bright it blinds the world, and shines out into the eternal world beyond that. That the God who made all that exists chooses to use us how He pleases.

We believe that no one is ever too far gone to turn around. No villain is beyond a perfect redemption arc. We believe that it is the lowliest, the most downtrodden, who will be the highest in the end.  That the littlest things in life, done with the most love and intent, end up meaning just as much as bigger things. That you can change the world just a tiny bit at a time. That kindness and virtue are always noticed and rewarded.

We believe that there is something- Someone- out there, who is full of so much beauty and power and love, that He is obliged to keep Himself from us to keep from overwhelming us. That He can show us the tiniest corner of Him, and we will be consumed for days, years, even lifetimes, with unimaginable joy and strength. That the tiniest closeness from Him strikes peace deep within us.

That there is a Love so deep, so chillingly, strikingly deep, that it will always, always take us back, always choose us, with open arms and joy.

Catholicism's deepest nature is joy and romance and the unthinkably beautiful.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Hope and twenty-one pilots

A while ago, I read this fantastic blog post on LifeTeen:

And it set me to thinking, as usual. It's something that had never occurred to me, that hope might not feel hopeful. That maybe I don't have to feel bubbly and happy to be hopeful. It's only been in the last couple years that I'm realizing emotions aren't as straightforward as they maybe ought to be. That maybe you can practice a virtue without feeling the virtue. That maybe you don't have to feel anything for it to be real. That maybe God withholds emotional reward as a test, a trial.

I've always been convinced that love is a choice and not a feeling. I think that also applies to hope, and probably a lot of other abstract ideas and emotions. I think hope is more of a gritty determination to cling to something than a floaty feeling. I think it maybe doesn't even fully feel like determination. I think hope is the subtlest abstract idea, sneaking in before you can realize you're being hopeful and then disappearing when you think you are hopeful. I think most of the time, it feels like nothing. After all, hope isn't wholeheartedly itself until you're hoping against the odds. And if you feel happy and hopeful, then how easy is it to hope?? Too easy. I have a strange conviction that things don't begin to honestly count until they're hard and begin to hurt. That may be hope, but if it is, it's a lesser hope, a not-quite-full hope. I heard somewhere that hope is the only thing that's stronger than fear. I'm not sure I agree with that, but I do think hope is too linked to fear to be just a happy feeling. As the linked blogpost says, "hope belongs in darkness".

I think hope is a conscious decision that fear is temporary, even if it doesn't feel temporary. Deciding that fear doesn't have to affect your life, take over and shove you aside. That you can out-wait it, outlive it, and come out at the end. That it can get inside your head but it can't get to your soul. Hope is recognizing the beauty in suffering. Hope is recognizing that even if life sucks, you can come out of it better. Hope is retaining yourself, your blind trust in God, through the stuff life throws at you. And I think most of the time, hope doesn't feel like anything, let alone something good.

In contemplating this, I realized the answer to a question I've long wondered: why do I like twenty-one pilots? They are absolutely unlike any of the music I usually like. They're loud, and bleak, and a little insane sometimes. They're not my moody indie coffeehouse music or cutesie ukulele love songs, even if their lyrics are genius and gorgeous. And I only listen to them in my worst moods.
I think it's because they're a little bit like hope. There is such a disconnect between what they say explicitly, what they say implicitly, and what they sound like. Not always in the same way. But they're always a conundrum. At first glance, they're depressing, and harsh, and a little insane. But lots of their music has hopeful undertones. Lots of "nothing's okay, but that's okay, it's not supposed to be, so hang in there until it is".

It doesn't feel hopeful. It doesn't look hopeful. It doesn't smell hopeful. But it is.