“Do not fear the conflict, and do not flee from it: where there is no struggle, there is no virtue; where there are no temptations for faithfulness and love, it is uncertain whether there is really any faithfulness and love for the Lord. Our faith, trust, and love are proved and revealed in adversities, that is, in difficult and grievous outward and inward circumstances, during sickness, sorrow, and privations.”
—St. John of Kronstadt (1829-1909)
In my recent series of articles on the sacramental imagination I have been exploring how it’s possible to recognize God’s presence in all of life. I have been urging my readers to begin seeing all of life—from when we get out of bed in the morning to when we brush our teeth at night—as occasions for communion with God. I have suggested that we can begin to great all our experiences—from a baby’s laugh to a splash of rain on our cheek—as occasions of wonder and grace. It is possible to learn to hear God’s voice, not just in times of prayer, but in a stranger reaching out to us in need, or even in our own heartbeat and silent breathing. Even by simply being physical we can participate in the life of God, for as David Fagerberg beautifully puts it, “the Incarnation was a sanctification of our bodies as well as our souls, and the supernatural settles, as a dewfall, upon every natural thing.”
If you are new to this blog and haven’t been keeping up on this series, here are links to the main articles in this series on the sacramental imagination.
In the present article, I want to take things in a new direction and apply some of these principles to the issue of pain and emotional discomfort. I will be suggesting that the invitation to be fully present in whatever we are experiencing (a point I developed in ‘Eating and Breathing Sacramentally‘) is something we can apply to times of pain no less than experiences of joy.
For most of its history, clinical psychology has been preoccupied with neurosis, psychosis and everything that can go wrong. In the twentieth-century, however, many psychologists began to shift their emphasis and take an interest in studying health and normality. A central question they began asking is, “what do things look like when everything is working properly and can that be learned and replicated?” This has led to extensive research into the brains and behaviors of people who report high levels of happiness and well-being.
A few weeks ago I got into a friendly argument with friends at church about whether President Trump is a liberal or conservative. I said that Trump was a liberal while my friends said that he was a conservative.
Today, as I went to vote in the midterms, I thought back to our conversation at church. I found myself wondering if perhaps Trump is actually “conservative” but in a new sense. Perhaps we are seeing a metamorphosis of what it means to be conservative, as the classic conservativism of thinkers like Russell Kirk and Edmund Burke recedes into anachronism.
David Brook’s made some insightful observations about the strategy of the Democrat Party leading up to the midterms.
…we’ve learned that when Democrats do raise a moral argument, it tends to be of the social justice warrior variety. The core argument in this mode is that the oppressive structures of society marginalize women, minorities and members of the L.G.B.T.Q. communities.
It turns out that if your basic logic is that distinct identity groups are under threat from an oppressive society, it’s very hard to then turn around and defend that society from authoritarian attack, or to articulate any notion of what even unites that society. You can appeal to women as women and to ethnic groups as ethnic groups, but it’s very hard to make a universal appeal to Americans as Americans, or defend the basic American norms that Trump calls into question. It’s a messaging vulnerability that Democrats have imposed upon themselves.
I was recently blessed to listen to the recordings of a three-part series offered by His Grace, Bishop Irenei (Steenberg), Ph.D. These talks are both inspiring and challenging, pressing us into deeper love of God and obedience to His commands. Ancient Faith Radio has made this three-part series available for free at the following links. I offer them here for the edification of my readers.
One of the recurring themes on this blog is the importance of gratitude. I believe gratitude is so important that I’m even writing a book about it. So it may come as a surprise to my readers that this morning I am publishing a post on the virtue of complaining. But hear me out.
One of my favorite movies is the 2002 science fiction film Equilibrium. Written and directed by Kurt Wimme, the film is set in a future society called Libria. In Libria it is against the law to feel.
The main character of the film named John Preston (played by Christian Bale) is a law enforcement officer. He is tasked with destroying objects that could incite emotion, including art, poetry and classical music. He is also required to kill rebels, known as “Sense Offenders”, who choose to experience illegal emotions.
The citizens of Libria have been brainwashed into believing that feelings are the cause of war, suffering and conflict. Accordingly, most of the citizens in Libria willingly participate in their own enslavement by taking a daily injection of a drug, known as Prozium II, which suppresses all emotion.
From my article ‘George MacDonald and The Anthropology of Love‘
…human identity is not first and foremost a question of doctrines (what we think) like the rationalists would maintain, nor is it first and foremost a matter of morals (what we do); rather, the deepest seat of human identity is located first and foremost in what we love. Love precedes both doing and thinking and is the energizing principle behind both things. This recognizes that our ultimate loves are tied to a certain vision of what we think human flourishing looks like which unconsciously orients us to consider certain things worthy of our adoration. But that vision is often affective and implicit before it becomes the material of direct cognition. It is an inchoate vision that grabs our unconscious with an aesthetic pull in a way similar to how David Brooks described the formation of political preferences in his book The Social Animal.
This post was originally published at the Taylor Study Method and is reprinted here with permission of the author (me).
I still remember the night that convinced me I finally needed to join the twenty-first century.
I had just finished a long day helping as a judge for a debate tournament. By the time I finally headed home it was dark. Or at least, I thought I was headed home. However, the further I drove, the less I recognized of my surroundings. As the road progressed further and further up into the mountains, I remembered my young children waiting at a friends’ house for me to collect them. Finally, the road abruptly ended. Literally, it just ended. I had no choice but to turn around and start over.
At about midnight I finally pulled into the drive-way of my friends’ house to collect my tired children. I determined never to let myself get lost again: I would finally invest in a GPS.
A few weeks later I went into an electronics store and asked for a device that had GPS capabilities. They sold me an Android tablet. I quickly discovered that the tablet was more than just a GPS: it was also an audio player, a camera, a gaming device, even a flashlight. Moreover, the tablet had a perpetual connection so it was always online.