NaNoWriMo

Happy All Hallows and NaNo Eve!

I’m not a fan of Halloween. Even when I was a kid, I did not like dressing up and knocking on people’s doors asking for candy, and I did not trick-or-treat anymore after I turned 10. Better to wait until Christmas, when you got candy and treats without having to ask strangers for them. I also have a grudge against Halloween because my brother and I went out trick-or-treating one year, but Halloween had been celebrated the day before because of Protestant church services. No candy for us. You could imagine how that would break a kid’s heart. It’s stupid to hold a grudge, I know, but I still do.

I don’t plan to pass my Halloween grudge on to my son. When he gets old enough to walk and talk, it will be fun to take him around so he can get candy and show people his cute and/or scary costume. I will have to be mindful of the calendar because I think Halloween still gets rescheduled sometimes. (Grr…)

Anyway, tomorrow is All Saint’s Day, NaNoWriMo, and the beginning of November (my favorite month after April). Fall is nice because the weather finally cools down (although I’m sure by March, we’ll all be complaining about how the weather needs to hurry up and get warm again).

Hope everyone has a nice fall and a productive NaNoWrimo, if you are participating!

Religion

Don’t Get Too Comfortable

I was flipping channels on the radio while driving home from work a few days ago, and I came upon what must have been a contemporary Christian music station. A few of the lyrics from the song that was playing stuck out in my mind:

All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong

“Where I Belong” – Building 429

It reminded me of a few times when I was younger, when I said, in sadness or frustration, “I want to go home!” even when I was sitting in my house. What I meant by that must have been “I want to get out of here” or “I want to go somewhere else,” but perhaps my subconscious mind desired heaven, a place where none of the sadness or frustrations of the world exist.

The lyrics also made me think of older people in nursing homes or hospices who say they want to “go home,” but they’re not talking about any home they had on earth.

Maybe instead of (or in addition to) memento mori, we could think of something like “remember your true home.” (Wish I could translate that into Latin.)

We’re not comfortable on earth because it is not truly home for us, but that doesn’t stop us from trying to make ourselves comfortable and avoid any kind of pain or discomfort.

This also reminds me of when my husband and I attended the childbirth class before our son was born. I read or heard something like, “Women in the Western world are not used to pain in the way women in developing countries are. That’s why there are more elective C-sections in the United States than there used to be.”*

That made me feel guilty for some reason. We are quite spoiled. There are so many conveniences and perks in our coddled lives that we take them all for granted. Air conditioning, heat, indoor plumbing, medications for a myriad of painful health conditions, computers, ovens, stoves, dishwashers, washing machines, cars… so much to make our lives easier, and we still complain.

Were we born to be creatures of comfort? Were we born to suffer? A loving God would not want us to suffer, but I am not sure he would want us to become spoiled whiners and complainers either.

Faithful Catholics in the past would flagellate themselves for their sins, take vows of silence, and sometimes attempt to survive on just the Eucharist alone. Now our idea of penance in modern times is to take a social media fast or avoid eating meat on one day of the week. Is any of it “enough” for God? Is he happy with what we are doing?

I don’t think we do these things to make God happy, because he doesn’t take joy in our suffering. We do these things to make ourselves more pure and to strengthen ourselves for the final battle (which may be death or a literal battle, if we do end up living in the end of days).

So the real question is this: What will truly strengthen us, not just bring us comfort? Maybe if we get used to living with minor inconveniences like avoiding meat or perhaps taking cold showers instead of hot ones, we will be ready to face greater inconveniences and even pain. But choose your penances carefully, because an appropriate sacrifice for one person may not be appropriate for someone else.

That brings another question to mind: Are all offerings of suffering or penance equal in God’s eyes? I’m thinking of the story from Genesis where Cain and Abel offer sacrifices to God, but Abel’s is superior to Cain’s. If I’m remembering correctly, that was because Abel offered the “firstlings of his flock,” which is inherently better because you’re supposed to give God the best that you have. Abel just gave the “fruit of the ground,” which could have been any old fruit. (Or maybe God doesn’t like kiwis???)

I’m not sure that translates to the suffering issue; how can one give God his “best” suffering? The only thing I can think of is what I said earlier: the sacrifice or “suffering” has to be done for the right reason—to bring one closer to God.

*In my opinion, having a C-section would have been worse than giving birth the “natural” way. And I believe the facts state that in most cases, a C-section is actually more dangerous than letting nature take its course. But if the doctor had recommended that a C-section was the safer way to go for me, I would have done it.

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. 🙂