Religion

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

I found this quote online, and it really got me thinking.

To a young person, just entering on adult life, the world seems full of “insides,” full of delightful intimacies and confidentialities, and he desires to enter them. But if he follows that desire he will reach no “inside” that is worth reaching.

C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

C.S. Lewis might have been inspired by this (or a similar) Bible verse:

Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

1 John 2:15 NABRE

Sometimes the world is so all consuming and pervasive. We get attached to our creature comforts, but we must always remain detached because the path to heaven is not paved with cell phones, junk food, expensive clothes, and fancy cars.

Since I had my son, thoughts of my own mortality have been stomping through my head. Memento mori has become one of my mantras. You would think this would make me run to confession at the earliest opportunity, but to my detriment, my pride is stronger than the fear of being separated from God for all eternity if I do in fact die before I can get to confession.

This makes no sense logically. If I truly loved and believed in God, desired heaven, and dreaded hell, then I would swallow my pride. Otherwise, if I proceed down the path I’ve been taking, my actions state that God is not real and that when I die, my body will crumble into dust because that’s all I am: just a body, and the immortal soul is a fantastical thing invented to counteract humans’ number two fear (second only to public speaking): death.

The good news is that it has been easier to let go of material things. That new blouse? I don’t need it. Listen to Top 40 on the way to work? Don’t really want to anymore. Eat out tonight? Let’s save the money. Actually, I’ve been thinking more about money and the temptation to consider it a safety net. We’ll be OK. We have money in the bank in case something happens. But that is the wrong mentality to have. Money belongs to the world and can disappear in an instant. God doesn’t care how much material wealth we have; give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and all that. If we are truly meant for heaven, the real blessings are the virtues that will get us there, not the earthly trappings of a huge house and a gas-guzzling car.

However, the flip side of all that is we can get rid of all the material things in the world, but we are still stuck with ourselves and the sin that begins in our hearts. So it’s not as easy as locking ourselves in a cloister like a monk. The monks did exactly that and still struggled with sin!

Teenagers and young people inevitably get sucked into the world to some degree, as the C.S. Lewis quote says. They want to be like their friends, and they want the shiny new things their friends have. They want to be on the “inside” and will often go to great lengths to get there. All that stuff is a rite of passage, and parents can only hope and pray that their children will see the light and grow out of those phases. I worry about how we are going to raise our son in this technology-infested world, but I can’t worry too much. He has free will, so no matter what we do or how well we raise him, he could still go against what we would want for him.

Common wisdom states that children are influenced by what their parents do rather than what their parents say, so another good step would be to live the way we would like our son to live. Again, that brings me back to the subject of confession. There’s no getting around it, so I might as well face reality and go! A confession from the heart is good for the soul. 🙂

Writing

Under the Sofa

“Poems have a way of getting lost under sofas—it is one of their charms, and one of the reasons they endure.” —Stephen King, “The Breathing Method” (Different Seasons)

“The Breathing Method” was my least favorite story in Different Seasons, but it had the best quote. Sometimes you don’t find the perfect poem until exactly the moment when you need it the most. You could read the same poem millions of times and find that it never holds any meaning until that one moment when you need the poem… and there it is. The diamond of meaning you had been searching for, that small shimmer of truth you desperately needed to hear. Under the sofa all along.

The quote reminds me of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, which has a strange way of reappearing in my head at odd times.

Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
—But who is that on the other side of you?

In a sense, this particular poem could never get lost under anyone’s sofa because it is so well known and often taught in English classes, but to me losing a poem under the sofa (or anywhere) just means that it’s buried in your subconscious mind and will resurface whenever it darn well pleases.

The same is true if you write poems. They appear out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly. You can find them while searching under the sofa for that elusive quarter you could’ve sworn was there. You can find them while standing at the bus stop and breathing in the scent of another person’s cologne as he walks by.

But the poem will not endure unless you write it down.

Journal

Esse Quam Videri

Esse quam videri is North Carolina’s state motto, translated as “To be, rather than to seem.” (I guess the translation of the motto into “Southern-speak” would be something along the lines of, “Don’t y’all be two-faced now, ya hear!”) I never really knew what it meant when I was learning about the state’s history in school, and I never bothered to seriously think about it until just recently, when it popped into my head for no apparent reason.

I was also thinking of utility, and how in today’s society, people are often valued for what they can do rather than for who they are (e.g., elderly people no longer being valued because they can no longer “do” anything of value to society). At the same time, the world admires people who are “themselves” and countless self-help books encourage people to be the “best version of themselves.” It is about being rather than doing or seeming.

One can do every great thing in the world and still not know how to just be or to appreciate himself for who he is rather than for what he has done. One can seem to be a good person, but his being or doing may show a different side of him that he may not wish others to see. Or one can just be and not worry about how one’s being may be interpreted.