Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Romancing the Rocks

For the longest time, I misunderstood romantic love to be the love between a man and a woman. The love properly ordered toward marriage. But I am beginning to understand that there is romance in everything.

Also, along the same lines, romantic love is often tied in with sex, as if the two went hand-in-hand. It's not that the two are entirely unrelated, but properly ordered, most romance is not sexual in nature (or perhaps, as taught in John Paul II's Theology of the Body, it might be better to say that not all our sexuality is ordered toward sexual activity).

Romance starts with our experience of the beautiful, whether something looks beautiful, sounds beautiful, smells beautiful, and so on. But it is not only from the experience of the senses directly, but also the mind. We can experience a beautiful idea or a beautiful personality.

Thus, we can "fall in love" with things as well as people. We see a beautiful mountain in the distance, and we want to get closer and climb it or touch it. At the least we want to take its picture, so we can preserve a part of our experience with the mountain to bring with us.

One of the things that helped me realize the greater dimensions of romance was having children. You fall in love with the beautiful little faces, the cute voices, the new personalities. You want to hug them and kiss them. You can sit and stare lovingly at them (when they aren't driving you crazy).

Of course, each love, for each person and each thing, is unique, but they are not an entirely different kind of thing. They are different in intensity, they have different components, they are associated with different roles and duties, but they are all loves of the beautiful.

And properly ordered this all points to God. As Plato discovered using pre-Christian philosophy, God is the perfect beauty, and the source of all beauty. And as the the scriptures tell us, Christ came as Lover, to be the bridegroom of the Church, to unite himself with us in a kind of heavenly marriage.

So all that is beautiful, all that we love, should remind us of God. We should be thankful for all the good that he presents to us here on Earth. And when we marvel at the beautiful things he has given us, we should feel even greater awe, wondering how much greater is the source of all beauty and love.

Friday, February 7, 2014

This is Only a Text

A long time ago, in the far away land of California, I was in high school. I hated high school (I still tend to view it as false imprisonment), but there was one good thing about that time: I saw all my favorite people almost every day. I saw my two closest friends at school (and usually one or the other outside of school), and I saw my family back at home.

But there were plenty of times when I was alone, whether completely alone, or in a crowd. And I've always hated to be alone, except when it is by choice. I get lonely fast. I feel like an experience is hardly worthwhile unless it is shared, and then talked about afterward.

Now things are very different. I live in Arizona with my wife and kids. My wife is the best friend I've ever had, and I get to see more of her each day than any friend I had before, and I really can't remember how I survived without her.

But man does not live by wife alone, and my other close friends and family I hardly see. This makes my circle of more meaningful interaction very small. Usually I will see a friend for a few minutes here or there, but not long enough for a real conversation or to do anything together, or I'll get a visit from my family every few months. Strangely, I see my out-of-state family more than my in-state friends.

I have friends at my jobs, but not close friends I really connect with. I still spend a lot of time alone. And, most of the time, I still hate to be alone.

But, text-messaging has offered some help. With texting I've been able to keep in touch with a few of my family members and closest friends almost every day. I feel a bit more connected, and a little less alone. And it seems a few of my friends might hardly remember I existed if I stopped texting.

But, as much of a blessing as it can be, I wonder if it's also a problem. Am I a bit of a texting addict? I don't act like those teenagers you see, interrupting or just avoiding most conversations to send messages, and if I need to check my phone while with company, I try to apologize.

But still, I don't know... am I missing something? Is forced alone time good for me? Am I reducing the amount of time I'd spend in prayer by chatting about nonsense? Am I forgetting the people around me I could be talking to? And if I want to keep in touch with my friends, should I be more willing to take my own advice, and talk on the phone with my voice?

Probably. But like so many other things in life, will I ever be able to truly balance my habit between the extremes of too much and not at all?

Maybe it'll help if I remember the limitations of texting. It's relatively slow, kind of shallow, easy to misinterpret, and it sometimes feels like I'm sending messages into the void, not knowing if they've been read, how they were received, or if they will ever be answered. Texting would work so much better with ESP.

For now I'll just work on developing my ESP.

Monday, February 3, 2014

In the World

A while back I immersed myself in Catholic books (along with Catholic CDs, web sites, and smoke signals). I left behind ordinary television, deciding there wasn't anything good enough to watch to be worth the level of negative influence found in the worldly experience of the shows and their commercials. I also switched to primarily listening to Christian rock instead of popular rock, or whatever I listened to before. I didn't give up movies or other forms of entertainment, but I at least picked things where I might have more control (and by the way, if you can watch five movies, all five should be Man of Steel).

These days this means I'll watch things on Netflix, Hulu, or YouTube, but no broadcast TV. The flexibility and control works better with demanding children ("snack, water, snack!)", and when I'm sensible it allows me to still protect myself from the negative influences I prefer to avoid (except some violence-provoking toddler shows, which I just can't avoid).

I'm mostly happy with the setup, but there are some problems. First, I seem to have burnt out on Catholic media, and to an extent, my interest in the faith in general (though I still try to pray frequently throughout the day). I don't know if this is because the adventure of conversion is gone, and I am bored by the ordinary, or if it's because of disappointments in my experience of Catholic life and with my fellow Catholics, or something else. I do think I need to bring some of that adventure back by engaging in some ministries, maybe evangelization (because the faith is still true, whether I'm interested or not), and hopefully I can change my own heart, and also spend more time with engaging Catholics. Then, perhaps I will find a greater, more lasting, interest in the faith. I don't know.

Another problem is that by avoiding TV and radio and their commercials, I feel a greater disconnect with people. I'm slow to hear news, or discover the new shows and movies. And I don't have a liking for sports, so that's out too. In short, I don't know what people are talking about half the time (people, come on, what are you talking about??), and I get left out of conversations or I just seem weird and uninteresting (in reality, I'm weird and moderately interesting, come on!). Also, I am perhaps bothered too much by people who talk in a worldly manner, with lots of crudity, swearing, or other kinds of annoying immaturity.

In this respect am I living in the world while not being of the world, as I'm supposed to? Or am I managing, through my failings to just end up being of the world in a less common way, while avoiding my mission out in the world?

Don't answer that.