Bloom

Rigid, narrow-visioned.

Frozen, cold

hardened ice,

face etched from marble

stone features.

Heart hardened. Words and emotion break against

like waves against rocky shores.

 

Wildness, the fall from such height,

breaks upon the rocks

shattering most of what was known.

All he can do is stare into the pool of glassy water.

Broken apart, cursed …

 

But in the emptiness, in the wandering, a seed is planted

and white and yellow daisies bloom along the path

of his wandering journey.

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Loss of soul

“When soul is neglected, it doesn’t just go away; it appears in obsessions, addictions, violence, and loss of meaning. … Soul is revealed in attachment, love, and community, as well as in retreat on behalf of inner communing and intimacy.”

Every single person has been unfaithful either in action or in heart. Every person has been faithful in some respect as well.

We fall back on our word. We go behind a friend’s back, a spouse, a significant one, a family member, a loved one. We betray, back stab, slander, lust, confuse friendship or affection for Eros. On and on and on.

There is not one who is innocent either in action or in thinking these things. Which tend to lead to the action.

But, I wonder if Thomas Moore is correct in his book Care of the Soul that cultivating the whole person is what assists in helping a person be faithful–well, he’s talking more about being whole and living well in a moral and Christian point of view. But I think faithfulness has something to do with care of the soul.

What kinds of things care for the soul? Friendship, good food, good drink, family, art, religion, meaning and richness of life. According to Moore, our soul is built up by these things. Religion and art most especially. And as we cultivate our souls, we will desire to follow the morals a religion presents not in a moralistic way, but out of love–love for God and love for the neighbor.

Moore doesn’t talk so much about personality, but making sense of life through living and story. Our families shape us, religion shapes us, what we like shapes us. But we are not bound by these things. There are well documented disorders out there: borderline, narcissistic for example. They are serious disorders. But we are all disordered in some way. Some more severe than others. This is the result of many factors. It is the state of human existence. But these disorders are never to be used as excuses. And shouldn’t be excuses to exploit others and get what we want. We are quite selfish–every one of us.

Moore goes on to say that families are wonderful because it is the place a person can be himself/herself. But he also points out a broader definition of family since some don’t have any living relatives or are estranged. But many of us have family whether blood related or not. People we go to, whom we trust, where we can be ourselves no matter how dysfunctional or “healthy” we are. We work through things together in family and community and friendship: births, deaths, divorce, separation, the good and the bad. And it’s not always rose-colored nor should it be. Moore says (as well as many, many other professionals) families are the measure of how well or not well a society is doing. Breakdowns in family don’t affect just that family, but all facets of the community.

Human beings are a mess. Cultivation of the soul, learning to live well, to love God, to love others in the right way. These are things that help keep a person whole. God is the one who is perfect in faithfulness and love. He is the one who gives us the grace to love well and live well. But we don’t always want to, our choice causes all kinds of disorders.

God, help me cultivate my soul, help us to do so in the light of your wisdom and grace. Only you are the one who puts all things in right order.

The Last Jedi: overwhelming evil and the tiny spark of Good

The opening of the newest Star Wars film was excellent. It was a World War II style battle. The slow, lumbering bombers and their fast A-Wings protecting them. But the lumbering B-Wings fail. All of them are wiped out to take one ship out.

The First Order has unlimited supply of weaponry and nearly wipes out the Resistance. Movies are a reflection of our time. We are overwhelmed with evil that is unrelenting and tends to destroy far more than we’d like to admit.

Every great war story is immense amounts of the enemy versus a small amount of Resistance. The dark nearly always overwhelming and extinguishing the light.

Christ’s Passion was the same. A great good extinguished. The hope that the apostles had extinguished. But that wasn’t the end of the story.

This is the middle of the current Star Wars trilogy. There is only a small spark of the Resistance left. Even their great hope sacrifices himself at the end of the story. But to the end of the Good. It was not for nothing. It wasn’t a meaningless sacrifice.

The epilogue of the Last Jedi cuts to the Casino planet where child-slaves are. They tell the stories of Luke and keep the hope alive. It is in the little ones where the hope lies. An unexpected, unknown that lights the fire once again. That destroys evil, because evil cannot look past itself. Like in the Lord of Rings, the Hobbits–a group that meant nothing and was no threat to Sauron are the ones who are the main thrust in destroying that evil. The small, unexpected things the enemy never looks at.

A baby born 2000 years ago was passed over by many as insignificant. Yet, Jesus is the Savior. His death was not meaningless, but was for the life of the world.

These stories run deep in our blood and bones. The very matter we are made of. Unexpected things in the face of great overwhelming evil odds are what turn the tide. Our finite plans and doings are part of the story, but we never know what decision, action, person, event will alter things. And behind all these altering things is Providence, an orchestration in the things we cannot make sense of; putting chaos to order. Good coming in the midst of evil. A meaning for all things happening–the good and the unknown, the things that hurt, suffering, pain.

We do not know the bigger picture. But through free will, which screws things up all the time, something carries out the intended purpose of all things. Things we won’t fully understand in this life time.

In the Last Jedi, there were so many times where it seemed all hope was lost, all good would be destroyed, only evil would prevail. But that is not the story of Star Wars, of this world, of our lives. The intention for things is a Good end. The Telos is Good. As we aim for good, good will triumph (really by grace). When we aim for evil, evil will triumph.

I think Star Wars puts these things well and these things resonate with us because it is what is in the human heart all through the ages. Making sense of our world which is painful to live in. Yet small sparks of good and hope are there in the midst of great darkness.

Canto 32 Inferno: Ice

Dante comes upon a lake of ice where the souls of the traitors are encapsulated. “If evil is nothing in itself but the absence of or corruption of good, then the fittest punishment for the worst sinners should not be fire but ice. For fire is an image of the divine potency, while ice is an image not of rest but of inert stasis, as far from freedom and power of God as a thing can be. As Hell grows narrower, the souls grow more cramped, until finally all power to move is taken away” (Esolen, 511).

The souls are the farthest from the fire of the stars and the God of light that moves all things in divine love. They are frozen in their sin with no consolation. No comfort. Numb. Frozen in unrepentant misery.

A depression of guilt for one’s sin can leave one frozen. Unable or unwilling to break free from the stasis of one’s sin. Some suffer from seasonal effectiveness disorder and perpetuates the feeling of being stuck and unable or unwilling to turn away from the sin that makes one co-dependent. But this is an aside.

Sin is debilitating. In contrast, Dante acknowledges his sin in Purgatory and is washed clean from it in the waters of Lethe. In Hell even one’s weeping is frozen and keeps one in a state of immobility–unable to turn from one’s evil ways. The just punishment.

Canto 31 Purgatory: waters of renewal

“As far as the east is from the west, so far away will the Lord put our sins from His memory, says the prophet. When the ancients dreamed of drinking of the waters of Lethe, it was to forget this life itself, with all its trials and sufferings; but the Lord’s ‘forgetting’ of our sins enables us to remember the innocent life we have lost. Thus, when Dante enters Lethe, it is not to wipe away even a part of his life but to cleanse the whole life, to make it new. … He does not so much forget as regain” (Esolen, 491).

Dante is immersed in the waters of Lethe; he is baptized into Christ’s death and is raised to new life … living as the innocent one before the fall of all of humanity. Before he enters the waters, Dante acknowledges his sin and faints in grief over it. As the saints have said, to have tears, to weep over our own iniquity.

In repentance, we are renewed. The waters of baptism cleansing us of impurity. That we may stand before the just judge and be blameless. The pain of our sin removed.

Golden; red calf

Golden calf, red calf

Our golden idols we hold high
atop high places.
Lofting our elusive happiness high.
Golden shackles; our wills free to choose destruction.

Until the red calf comes
ushering in the Finality of all things.
A justice never seen.
Perfection present
to our lofted sins.

Like ash we become
unless we turn away from iniquity
at the arrival of the red calf.

In the meantime, the golden calf
the idol we worship.
Guised in happiness
dealings with ourselves and others numbed
loving ourselves despite others.

Love your neighbor as long as it serves Self.
This is the golden calf’s mantra.

But the red calf comes. Our fantasy of happiness burned away with Reality.
Love’s consuming fire. A presence only saints can withstand. Just barely.