Friday, April 14, 2017

Suffering is Gross

"By following Jesus on the way of his Passion we not only see the Passion of Jesus, but we also see all the suffering in the world, and this is the profound intention of the prayer of the Way of the Cross:  to open our hearts and to help us to see with our heart...He was made man to give us a heart of flesh and to reawaken within us love for the suffering, for the destitute. "
-Benedict XVI, Way of the Cross

Suffering is an ugly thing: contorted trembling limbs, bodily fluids leaking from every whichwhere (gross!), wan faces with dulled over eyes - unpleasant to look at, uncomfortable to be near, hideous to experience.

The euthanasia movement is firmly established within U.S. - it used to be that if you asked someone about euthanasia they would, hesitantly, say they were against. The inverse is now true, at least in the SF Bay Area.

If someone is in excruciating pain or suffering from a terminal illness or from an illness that would slowly and agonizingly rip their mind or body away from them, why don't we allow them to die with some modicum of dignity - quietly slipping away into the dusky eternity?

We're so overcome at the idea of suffering that we hand someone a loaded gun and sentimentally sniffle into our handkerchiefs about it being a merciful thing to do.

Where were you when I needed a ride to the doctor?

Where were you when I was hungry and couldn't cook for myself or find the energy to even order delivery?

Where were you when I was crying and scared as the test results came back?

Were you there?

To have real compassion is not to allow people to think that their lives are worthless. The way to do that is to be with them in the darkness as bearers of Christ's light. When we feel loved by others, we want to stay with them even though we are in pain.

The Passion is not something to remotely contemplate once a year as a Gloriously Sorrowful Thing that opened the Gates of Heaven and aren't we all turrible sinners and whatnot -- and then be done with it because - BAM! EASTER! Rejoicing for 50 days!

The Passion is a template to follow in our daily lives: the example of Christ, of the women, and of Simon (reluctant though he was). Do not let others be alone. Christ came to us and "...was made flesh precisely to be able to suffer with us and to be with us in our suffering." And we, like Him, are to go out to others and be with them in theirs.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Friendship has benefits.

I wouldn't characterize myself as an adventurous person.

Sure, I moved abroad to take classes in a foreign language after only having studied it for one month (#yolo), threw my lot in with a Great Books program that lasted two years before imploding, go to improv classes, and am down to try pretty much any strange food or experience you throw at me. Bugs? Done. Animal nasty bits? Done. Horse? Yusss. Delicious. Tastes like Black Beauty. Toss me some o' that cheese you need to wear goggles with while eating lest the worms leap out at you - I'm down.

In some ways, I am the first to jump.

But when it comes to forming friendships, I am exceedingly cautious. Doubly so when it comes to forming friendships with men.

It was only after two months of knowing some college-mates that I started drinking when going out to party with them on windy San Francisco beaches, sitting by a bonfire, sucking down cheap beer. In shock, they said: "But... You don't drink!" I'd waited until I was dead certain they were the sort of people who took care of their friends IF they drank too much and needed help staggering home. It was only after knowing one person for ten years that he actually started to feel like we were good friends. Usually, people see me as background, devoid of personality.

I don't expose much of me in person to relative strangers, faccia a faccia - what if someone discovers my Achilles' heel and hurt me or I them? What if they get the wrong idea? What if I reveal myself and am rejected?

One of the effects of the Fall was to break bonds between man and creation, between man and woman, between self and other. We still cover ourselves with fig leaves. But man is a social animal. Most of us, even we introverts, have a strong desire to be among others and give of ourselves to them as we are capable. This desire is checked against our knowledge that sometimes people will deliberately hurt us after we open up to them and that the people we're closest to have the greatest power to effect such hurt. Dante puts the treacherous into the deepest circle of hell - they are the most inhuman who turn their back on friends, family, and God. Backstabbing no-goodniks.

Forming friendships comes easily for some, harder for others depending on...many, many things.

Forming friendships with the opposite sex is naturally a bit more delicate since affection/intimacy is present and there's the whole concupiscence and "T'EH SEX" (!?!?!?) thing. But human nature is not broken to the point where we are incapable of having a pure friendship with a member of the opposite sex. To say otherwise would be the equivalent of asserting reason cannot hold sway over our passions, that we are primarily bestial and secondarily rational -- or to assert that having friendships with the opposite sex are meaningless unless they exist or terminate in some familial bond.

R.H. Benson wrote:
[Friendship] is not a manifestation of sex, for David can cry to Jonathan "Thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women"; it is not a sympathy arising from common interests, for the sage and the fool can form a friendship at least as strong as any between two sages or two fools; it is not a relationship based on the exchange of ideas, for the deepest friendships thrive better in silence than in speech. "No man is truly my friend," says Maeterlinck, "until we have each learned to be silent in one another's company."


The essence of a perfect friendship is that each friend reveals himself utterly to the other, flings aside his reserves, and shows himself for what he truly is...It is tolerably true to say that the difference between our behaviour respectively to an acquaintance and to a friend, is that in the first case we seek to conceal ourselves, to present an agreeable or a convenient image of our own character, to use language as a disguise, to use conversation as we might use counters; and in the second case that we put aside conventions and makeshifts, and seek to express ourselves as we are, and not as we would have our friend to think us to be.
-The Friendship of Christ
In our imperfect world, we rub off on each other until we're smooth like polished stone.We benefit both from revealing ourselves and having others reveal themselves to us. Our rough edges get worn away as we support, encourage, and bear burdens for each other. Friendships do not simply reveal who we are, but also allow us to be in a different way, to make real what was only potential before in our characters. We may choose to be courageous and patiently be with others in times of distress, or we may fade away when things get difficult or they make too many demands of our time and energy. Each friendship is an opportunity to love more and to love in manifestly different ways.

Human friendships are like Divine Friendship. When we become friends with Christ, then our human friendships are centered in the bosom of the Trinity. Our final end is seen and we want out friends to meet Him and He is:
...the one Friend who cannot fail. This is the one Friendship for whose sake we cannot humiliate ourselves too much, cannot expose ourselves too much, cannot give too intimate confidences or offer too great sacrifices. It is in the cause of this one Friend only and of His Friendship that the words of one of His intimates are completely justified in which he tells us that for His sake it is good to "count all things to be but loss" -- "and count them but as dung, that I may gain Christ."
-The Friendship of Christ
C.S. Lewis put it aptly in one of his lesser-read novels Till We Have Faces:
When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you'll not talk about the joy of words. I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?