Monday, December 14, 2009

Horizontal transmission

How much do you believe? Do you trust God? Where do you draw the line between relying on your faith and using "common sense"?

I bring all of this up because the bishop of my diocese has made an official statement that we should not hold hands during mass.

At first it didn't seem like big deal. However, going to mass alone has made me realize how important a faith community is. It's a place where you trust others just because they have made the same commitment that you have. You come to say, "I believe," and this creates a unique bond between you. You trust these other people to value this personal, private thing that is your faith.

But is being present together enough to make a connection? The mass has always been a social sacrament, designed for a group of people to celebrate together. Father Mayzik always called mass a meal that we were sharing. This was easy to imagine when we experienced it in a small, 10-20 person group on Sunday nights, with the lights dimmed, passing around the dish during communion. But how to translate that into a well-lit church on Sunday morning, filled with 300 people? We share our faith but avoid each others eyes.

That is, until we come to the Our Father, and join hands to pray, lifting them at the end of the prayer. Until we come to the kiss of peace, telling each other, "Peace be with you." It is a moving experience, this simple wishing of good things to others which you do not know in the "outside world". You make a connection. You say hello, we are both children in faith.

Now when I go to mass, I am alone. I go by myself, pray by myself, and leave by myself. I never thought that those two minutes of contact each would mean so much. But they somehow transform the entire experience from something solitary to something that makes you part of a larger whole.

So I ask, is it really worth giving this up, to avoid making contact with our fellow human beings?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Power of a Good Lie

No I would not sleep in this bed of lies
So toss me out and turn in
And there’ll be no rest for these tired eyes
I’m marking it down to learning

I am

There are little white lies, which aren't supposed to hurt anyone. There are big lies, designed to keep someone (whether the liar or the lie-ee) safe from the truth. There are lies that we tell ourselves, and those are the ones that hurt the most.

And then there are the lies with the lowest self-esteem; the lies that no one believes. Sometimes they are called manners, politeness, or decency. Sometimes they are important, sometimes not. Other times these lies are called politics- whether flown out of the mouth a servant of the state or not- and usually are made to protect oneself. And then there is the king of the lies which no one believes; the lie that is easier than the truth.

The ladder is the most common kind of lie. People use it every day. How is your day? Good, and yours? These are the lies we have to use, and accept, every day, whether to keep our private lives private, to stay out of others, or to prevent the overwhelming storm of emotion that the truth would release. The lies we tell our friends when at work (the alternative being a whispered I'll tell you later) and relatives or casual acquaintances met unexpectedly. Lies to stay on the surface, lies to hide the personal truth of your world.

I am personally against most lies. I don't mind giving someone a shock once in a while, and I certainly don't mind letting my friends in on my emotions. But there are some situations when the most common lie cannot be avoided. Whether situational, or because there is just nothing left to say about the truth, the lie comes out. I have used one in particular quite commonly in the recent past. It's the lie, "I'm ok."

There have seldom been times in my life when this was less true.

However, I still said it. I couldn't help it. At some point, you can't just keep telling people how much you're hurting. Even the best of friends will grow tired of it or will start to seriously worry. You need to break the monotony. Say you're ok.

I have proceeded as such for the past two months, minus a few particularly bad times. And then this week I ran into a friend I hadn't seen in a while. We proceeded with small talk and catching up, when he asked the dreaded question, "How are you doing?" to which I answered, "I'm doing ok." I paused and then went on about things I had been doing at work, what I've been doing in my free time, and some exciting plans for this spring. We laughed and talked some more and I left with a smile on my face. And then I realized... that maybe I had not lied at all.

A good lie is hard to come by.

Mostly because a good lie is one that is not a lie at all.

image from
lyrics from Matchbox Twenty, Bed of Lies

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Getting your feet wet isn't enough

I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing.

Listening to Learning to Fly after a time of hardship or pain always challenges me to reflect on the song's message. The song invites one to ask what it means to fly in their life, and when flying is hardest. It's easy to lose that ability to fly after a period of loss or a traumatic event. Even after you have gotten through the hard time, what are you left with? An empty feeling, and nothing but the memory of how you used to be vivacious and happy. How do you get there again? You think you've gotten through the hard part, but then you realize that you're not the same. You just sit on the couch at night. You stay in, or you're with people but you're still inside of yourself. What's the difference? You're doing well, you're doing fine, you assure everyone. And they tell you how strong you're being to carry on and keep up with your life.

But if you really think about it, you know the difference. You're cautious. You keep things simple. You don't take risks. You tell yourself you're not ready. But you begin to wonder why you're not the same as you used to be. What used to make you happy? What were the things you used to do? What did you look forward to? What's different now? Are you on tiptoes, walking on eggshells, making sure to stay on solid ground? Are you nourishing and coddling yourself at the risk of putting on blinders to the rest of life?

Since the beginning of this fall, my passions have been in hibernation. They're on the back burner, and I ignore the fact that they haven't been brought out to play in too long. But tonight, I went to a seminar on how to go to an interview. And one of the panelists said, "If you have that time, do everything you can with it, because you don't know what will come in the future."

And then I remembered that I love my job. I love the crazy hours and hard work and the way it permeates my life. But I've been afraid to stay too late. Afraid to dedicate myself to it. Like so many others, I've been scared to give it my all, in case something goes wrong. The fear of failure lurks in the too-close shadows. The same rings true for hobbies. I know I'm not the only one who sits at home all night instead of putting on a pair of running shoes. We're guilty of making excuses not to do yoga, and only allowing oneself activities within easy walking distance of the television, just in case a sinking mood needs to be replaced by that of someone else who is undoubtedly feeling more perky. There is an acute fear of feeling things strongly. I was almost too afraid to write this entry. It's better to try not to get too excited, so you can't get too let down. Because the last down was a pretty big fall.

But every fall is not a deep one. I know that after disappointment and heartbreak, for every step forward there is also a step back. And in the beginning that step back is almost as big as the one going ahead! But then, somehow, exponentially slowly, the steps back get smaller and the ones going forward actually move you forward. And when you're finally ready to take those last few steps, to become normal again and release everything into the past, the hurt bursts brilliant again as you realize all that you've been through. You look back. And then you move on, realizing that you have a future. That's learning to fly.

Learning to Fly- Tom Petty- Into the Great Wide Open
Well I started out down a dirty road
Started out all alone
And the sun went down, as I crossed the hill
And the town lit up, the world got still

I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing

Well the good ol' days, may not return
And the rocks might melt & the sea may burn

I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing

Well some say life will beat you down,break your heart, steal your crown
So I've started out, for God knows where
I guess I'll know when I get there

I'm learning to fly, around the clouds,
But what goes up must come down

I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing