According to WordPress today marks the eighth birthday of this blog. Eight years in the blink of an eye. When I launched this blog I was winding down my time after several successful but highly stressful years at one company. During those years I spent six largely uneventful and unfulfilling years at another company, and two years ago went out on my own. Eight years ago my oldest son was still in junior high and my youngest child was a little girl of sixteen months. Now my oldest is twenty and serving his country overseas on deployment. I have received no word, text, Snapchat, or Facebook message from him in two weeks. Unless you’ve experienced it you’ve no idea the weight that comes with that. I seem to notice it every 3-4 days, being busy with life, and then realize 3-4 days have passed with no word from him and it’s as if the air pressure has increased all around me and gravity pulls harder. I’d swear that if you looked at my shadow it would be a figure hunched over. Not just because of the weeks without a sign, but because of life in general and the battles I now struggle to fight in other areas.
But enough of that. I’ve nothing original to write on this occasion marked only by me and by the algorithms at WordPress, but I did want to get out one more Friday Five. So I present a few quotes and thoughts I’ve sketched out over the past five months that never materialized into full-blown posts, but are still very much share-worthy.
— 1 —
I read something this morning that I wish I would have written down. It went something like “Those who advocate for change often do not understand what it is they are changing from.” I don’t believe that those who today are activists for change have a sense of history or they would realize that they are not the first generation to believe that they are the chosen generation to lead humanity out of the darkness of its past. Even worse, the majority are too distracted by their own problems, pop culture entertainment and video screens to have a clue about what’s going on around them. They remain disengaged entirely.
It is a characteristic of any decaying civilization that the great masses of the people are unaware of the tragedy. Humanity in a crisis is generally insensitive to the gravity of the times in which it lives. Men do not want to believe their own times are wicked, partly because they have no standard outside of themselves by which to measure their times. If there is no fixed concept of justice, how shall men know it is violated? Only those who live by faith really know what is happening in the world; the great masses without faith are unconscious of the destructive processes going on, because they have lost the vision of the heights from which they have fallen. – Bishop Fulton Sheen
At the same time being too involved and overly activist-driven, as Thomas Merton observed, can lead to this:
There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence.
The rush and pressures of modern life are a form of its innate violence.
To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns,
to surrender to too many projects,
to want to help everyone in everything,
to succumb to violence…
The frenzy of the activist…destroys our own inner capacity for peace.
It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work,
because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.
Source for Merton quote: Heather King
— 2 —
I find myself wanting this, and only this, more and more with each passing year.
The Lake Isle of Innisfree
By William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
— 3 —
Merton and theologian Von Balthasar remind me a sense of community is vital. Man was not meant to live alone, after all.
It is a law of man’s nature, written into his very essence, and just as much a part of him as the desire to build houses and cultivate the land and marry and have children and read books and sing songs, that he should want to stand together with other men in order to acknowledge their common dependence on God, their Father and Creator. In fact, this desire is much more fundamental than any purely physical necessity. – Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain
It is almost (or entirely impossible) to avoid the illusion that man knows from himself what love is, and how it is to be practiced. In truth, however, a sense for divine love first arises in man when he stands before God, in full readiness to allow himself to be led with Jesus Christ – in love – on the path of perfect renunciation and ultimately the cross. A path of renunciation of, not love … but all hidden egotism in eros and in the whole community of the family. – Hans Urs Von Balthasar
— 4 —
I do hope there is a sandlot nearby set aside for baseball. Because as I’ve learned once more this summer when I’m involved in watching my middle child play competitive baseball, or practice, or even as we travel to a game or out-of-town tournament, time slows down and I am able to forget the troubles of this world…if only for six innings at a time.
And baseball will heal you. Bring a box of tangled wire, a ball of knotted twine, a heap of broken heart, a clutter of twisted misery to the baseball diamond and spend enough time listening to the thump of the ball in the glove, the sound of the wind on the dust, and looking at the blue salute of the indivisible sky, and baseball will make you whole again. Bring your defeated soul to baseball, and baseball will, by the unchangeable truth of its geometry and the eternal vectors of its freedoms, speak to you, call you by name, and “not teach” but allow you to remember who you have always been.
Source: First Things
— 5 —
As I read what I’ve included above I find as an unprompted and unplanned common theme my desire for peace. I’m not sure if it’s the result of living the years I’ve managed to live or the state of where I am at this particular moment in time, but I’ve begun to think that the only time I shall find the peace I seek will be after I have breathed my last, come face to face with God, and can at last be healed of “my grievous wound” as King Arthur told Sir Bedivere he prayed he would be after passing from this world.
And slowly answer’d Arthur from the barge:
“The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils Himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.
Comfort thyself: what comfort is in me?
I have lived my life, and that which I have done
May He within Himself make pure! but thou,
If thou shouldst never see my face again,
Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friend?
For so the whole round earth is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God.
But now farewell. I am going a long way
With these thou seëst—if indeed I go—
(For all my mind is clouded with a doubt)
To the island-valley of Avilion;
Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,
Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies
Deep-meadow’d, happy, fair with orchard-lawns
And bowery hollows crown’d with summer sea,
Where I will heal me of my grievous wound.”
from “Morte D’Arthur”, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)