I am living for the day that I have no fear of what others think of me or what others are capable of doing to me. Then I would enter fully into the dark night of my soul. Fear and anxiety seem to be keeping me from living fully the mystery and adventure of each day as if it were my first, only and last. I have managed an hour or two, but the unreality of reality roars into my fleeting ecstasies. Allow me to share an example.
When I wake up each morning, I have to debate whether I am going to shave or not. My reasoning is shallow, very patterned on my reactivity and emotions, and mundane. Before I was a teenager, my hormones kicked in the facial hair, which my older brothers affectionately called peach hair. My parents and siblings insisted that I do something about this unsightly phenomenon. I obliged to please them and began the daily shave of the very faithful stubble. During my first year at the U. S. Merchant Marine Academy, I was harassed to the point I had to shave two or three times a day. My five-o’clock shadow showed up by lunchtime. The demerits added up to restriction. During the first years as a line officer in the Coast Guard I was encouraged to grow a beard (to make me look more authoritative) for my work in Korea, but even that required daily trimming and primping, which seemed even more tedious. When I switched to the Navy reserves, the beard was out. Jesus could have a beard, but not an officer and a gentleman in the Navy. I still shave because of what I perceive that others prefer. However, it could be what I do not like to see in the mirror.
Compounding matters, at twenty-four the bald spot began to grow…painfully slow. The first words out of friends, family or acquaintances I had not seen in more than a month were, “You have lost more hair!” I wonder if my wanting to be ordained a priest before I was thirty was more about wanting to live the father-what-a-waste dream for at least a few years. Finally, I took a deep breath and shaved it all off because I did not want to pay the full price of a haircut for less than a third of a full head of hair, but even that requires maintenance on a daily basis…and courage to stand symbolically in the darkness.
Today, it does not matter to anyone whether I shave or not. My obsessing over it causes me much anxiety that prevents me from living in the present. My anxieties choke the life out of my freedom to move away from the security of my expected emotions, to explore the depths of my soul, and to take the risks required for solitude. I keep asking God to remove this thorn. God is silent. I guess that translates to, “My grace is sufficient for you to figure it out for yourself.”
This reflection caused me to think and reflect on Matthieu Ricard’s book, Happiness.
Imagine that you were born blind and someone attempted to explain and share with you the beauty and joy of a rainbow, how it even changed their mood. Even though the rainbow is real to many, to you it does very little except maybe peak your interest. Then questions arise like, “Why can’t I see the rainbow? Why do I feel so left out? Where is my anger or rage coming from?” If it were I, I would begin to think I did something wrong because I cannot see what others see.
People often talk about heaven as if they had been there, as if they had seen it. When St. John described heaven in the book of Revelation, he was describing the rainbow. Words are useful in describing things that others cannot see, but they are also inadequate. When I hear about counselors describing and diagnosing clients, I am amazed at how different the clients really are when I meet them in person.
And then the sun is too much and causes the rainbow to cease to exist. What if the person who describes the rainbow has cataracts of the eyes or is colorblind? If my eyes were suspended for an hour or a day, would I cry out in pain or would I journey deeper into the inner world that may be more real or not? Usually my complaining and blaming takes precedence and prevents me from taking the inner journey.
If I could not read, there would be no sense to writing books or stories. O yes, we now have computers that generate and record my words to be played back, especially if I am blind. But how do I see and listen below the earth, below the storms, within and beyond my own existence?
Often I enter a peaceful state by lighting a candle or taking in nature. However, without my eyesight, would I be as passionate about seeking the insight within the darkness?
I am passionately living for that which I cannot see. There is a longing in my heart for justice, for freedom and for mercy, in sorrow and in grief. I ache for wisdom, for courage, and for comfort, in weakness and in fear. My soul pines for healing, for wholeness and for new life, in sickness and in death. I live for intercourse with God today…physically, spiritually, psychologically, emotionally and soulfully. What prevents me from living passionately? I speak about things of which I cannot see. I worry about what others think of me.