I often talk about sexual things here, since this is one of my areas of personal struggle, interests, fascination, obsession, etc. As someone once described me, I am “obsessed with sex and religion” This is quite true.
Recently however other things have taken my attention. Two in particular: simplicity and pride. First, simplicity. As least for me, there is too much information out there: too many blogs, too many opinions, too much contention. I realized a while ago I needed to scale back on a lot of this, for my own sense of peace and happiness. I find so much of the blogosphere, or whatever it is called, especially when it comes to cultural, political or religious matters, hopelessly strident, contentious and pessimistic. The cacophony of voices is deafening. The absolute certainty of beliefs disheartening. For the amount of time one can spend reading such stuff, there is in the end little value to be gained, at least for me. I’d rather read a good poem, listen to a good piece of music, read a good novel, see a good movie, than immerse myself in the endless chat room like debates of various social ills that constitute so much of the blogosphere. I feel my brain frying after reading too much of this stuff. And where to people get the time to write and read all this stuff, especially in those endless comment sections? So simplifying my life in this area has been a great benefit to me. The internet in its own, strange and virtual way can be just as noisy as the busiest city street; mental, intellectual silence is as precious and rewarding as natural, physical silence too. I often crave it.
For me, there is too much information in our world. We have too many choices. Humans are not geared for such variety. For me, it can lead to a sort of paralysis.
What is the antidote to all this? In addition to simplicity, but related to it, is prayer. Prayer calms the soul. The simplicity of following God refreshes me. Again, I can only speak for myself here, but after reading so many blogs for a few years, the overload of information, the endless reworking of the same few basic principles of life leads to a certain despair. What you get out of so many of these blogs is this: the world is dark, evil and hopeless and we are all going to die in some great cataclysmic societal collapse in the near future. Be afraid, be very afraid. Abandon all hope. Believe only in yourself in this Darwinian struggle for survival. And hate as much as you can too. Yes, there is much darkness in the world, but there is much good and beauty too. Sometimes I even feel the need to write a few irreverent posts on scandalous topics as my own antidote to the hyper-serious, militant, apocalyptic discussions out there.
I need Faith, Hope and Love. Prayer helps instill in us these virtues, and makes life better. It calms the mind in ways that are hard to describe. I always feel better after prayer; I rarely feel better after reading much of the stuff out there. Even modern psychological studies show that prayer, or even meditation (for those who hold no religious beliefs) are beneficial to the mind.
In addition to tall this, I find many of the books, blogs, opinion pieces, etc., out there stem from pride. I know pride quite well. I realized it is one of my own failings. Pride. We want to be better than others. We want to feel superior. We know we are better than others. We feel we have a certain special knowledge about the world and we must share that with others because those ignorant fools we look down upon have to be saved by us. We are superior religiously. God favors us over others, because we are orthodox, or heterodox, or Catholic or Protestant or Muslim or whatever. We have the TRUTH and the unwashed masses don’t. And we have earned it, of course, because we are smart. Intelligence of course is considered the highest good, a moral value in itself, in our modern, credential loving, technologically driven world. Important institutions have patted us on the head, given us a gold star, and told us we are smart. And yet as the Catholic Church has taught since time immemorial, pride is the greatest of all sins. It was the sin of Lucifer, the most brilliant of all God’s creations before his fall. High intelligence and pride often go hand in hand.
One of the things I love about being Catholic is that the Catholic Church offers you a structured, time tested and proven approach to leading a simple, prayerful life. I need that sort of structure in my life. The wisdom of two millennia and more (given the Jewish roots of Christianity) of religious thought and practice cannot be ignored in these matters. The Psalms were written three thousand years ago and they are still the greatest religious poetry ever written. As far as dealing with pride, humility is the best antidote to pride. And Christ is our greatest model for this. The greatest example of humility in the world was God becoming man. The concept is so stunning it is still the most difficult religious concept to grasp and accept today and it is what separates all the other religions of the world from Christianity, especially Islam. And it will remain so until the end of time.