“The Mass of Men Lead Lives of Quiet Desperation. …”

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. …” . This is probably the most famous quote from Henry David Thoreau. The quote comes from the first chapter `Economy` in the book Walden. It is not unusual to read a misquotation of this. Some believe the misquote comes from Oliver Wendell Holmes’s The Voiceless. Here we find: “….Alas for those that never sing, But die with all their music in them.” The combined thoughts will often be attributed to Thoreau.: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” Frankly, the erroneous misquote has more meaning to me.

Now, suddenly finding myself in old age – not without a vain detour to recapture the feelings of youth – I find that my anxieties have changed from “What will I do”, and “What will I be”. My anxieties for the bottom of this last quarter are more like: “What have I become”. This very serious introspection I try to answer with prayer.

For many years now, Sunday Mass is the one hour of the week that I know for sure that I am at the place where I should be and doing what I should do……. PRAYING.    At times, I have gone to Church for joy and pleasure, and in those superficial times I have forfeited and been diverted from the opportunity to improve myself in the eyes of God. As the saying goes, “Church is a place to comfort the inflected and inflict the comfortable”. God’s Church is a place for serious reverent worship, hard prayer, and listening for the whisper of God’s Will. God’s Church is not a place for having a hand clapping, foot stomping good old time. Church is a place to confess sins. Church, during the Mass, is a place to gain strength by receiving the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

The comfort from knowing I am doing right by going to Church is outweighed by the discomfort of prayerful introspection, for this thought process confronts me with my weaknesses and regrets. I am forced to resolve to work at becoming a better person. This change is always painful. It can be most discouraging to sacrifice, confess, and amend my life to become a more perfect person when knowing I’ll never be even close to perfection. The most I can hope for is to be less imperfect. One might say that this is desperation.

Community then is a most important aspect of a prayerful life. For praying in community, we get to know and understand our fellow travelers in life. Each and every one is combating personal weaknesses, erroneous thinking, and always Satan. We learn that everybody is having a life of quiet desperation. Everyone in that community has his/her own “Crosses to bear”. Helping one another to carry our crosses makes the burden easier and helps us to focus better on how we have hurt God as opposed to how we have been hurt.

People, even with the best of intentions, make mistakes. People will, because of this, sometimes, let us down. Prayer to God is important as He will never let us down or abandon us. We should have more faith in our fellow travelers, we must have more Faith in God.

We are all wounded.

“How strange that we should ordinarily feel compelled to hide our wounds when we are all wounded! Community requires the ability to expose our wounds and weaknesses to our fellow creatures. It also requires the ability to be affected by the wounds of others… But even more important is the love that arises among us when we share, both ways, our woundedness.”
– M. Scott Peck

God intends for life to be difficult. Life is a battle and when in battle we get wounded. We learn best from adversity. Keeping our ship in safe harbor does not teach seamanship. We gain nothing. Bringing our ship into the sea and fighting the elements teaches us how to sail. When the ship is our soul and the sea is the trials of life, we use God’s Words as a guide to battle the waves of evil. In this storm, our soul gets strengthened and prepared for eternity with our loving God. Wounds, mistakes, even sin are part of the battle. Only by bringing these “weaknesses” out into the open can we correct and grow to be worthy of Heaven. A weakness is not to be hidden in shame. Revealing our weakness provides help from God, the Church, and our true friends.

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

1. Remember that your Character should always be stronger than your Circumstances.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
2. Remember that your Struggles always lead to Strength.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
3. Remember that God’s timing is always perfect.
“For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
4. Remember that God will never leave your side.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

Dealing With Pain First

This story goes back well over three decades. My youngest daughter, maybe five years old at the time, was running as fast as she could on the front lawn of our home in Boca Raton. Running laughing twisting and having a great time on a beautiful sunny day. Typically of little children, she was not watching where she was going. Her little toes were exposed on the front of her sandals. Suddenly, her toes got caught under a water sprinkler head. As she was running as fast as she could, she fell forward hitting her knees and arms. Of course, in panic and pain she cried out distressingly loud.. I panicked as I ran towards her not knowing how badly she was hurt.

When I got to her, I picked her up and started checking for injuries. Seeing only some bloody toes from the metal sprinkler head, and a dirty scrapped knee, I started to lecture her on how important it is to watch where you’re running. (That’s right, I’m a Monday Morning Genius.) She was still crying when her Mom got to us. Mom picked her up, hugged her tightly and told her she would fix the “boo-boo”. The injured child stopped crying and went back to play.

I thought I learned an important lesson that day. When a child is hurting, they need love, comfort and a feeling of security. They do not need a lecture. It is said that women need to talk about a problem. Men need to take charge and fix the problem. As a general rule, the ladies have it right.

Now more than thirty years later, I still try to help with logic, reason, and action when all that is really necessary is to keep my mouth shut and listen. It would be helpful if the reader of this could say a prayer asking that I and all the other misguided men of the world gain the wisdom found from a little girl’s tripping on a sprinkler head.

Exterminate Reminders of Our Imperfection

The ability to effectively communicate the dynamics of a weakness or failure to a person with an imperfection for the purpose of helping that person overcome the problem is difficult even when that person is aware of the imperfection and has asked for help. I apparently DO NOT HAVE this ability to help these people. I cannot point out ketchup on side of person’s mouth without making a new enemy for life – voodoo dolls and pins being stuck in my doll forever.. Sadly when one makes an enemy the only gain is having …. one more enemy. Yes, I did read: “How To Win Friends and Influence People” – it did not help. I apparently do not have the DNA to learn a foreign language or to help a person through a personal crisis. Candidly, I never tried hard with the foreign language thing.

Dr. M. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled and People of the Lie discusses how people deal with their own “weaknesses”. As a psychiatrist while in the armed forces, Dr Peck was assigned the task of studying very successful military officers. These were men that advanced through the ranks quickly. They were liked by their peers and had a successful family life. Everything they touched seem to turn to gold. The military wanted to understand the reasons for their success.

On one day Dr. Peck took these very successful people to a classroom and asked them to independently write down on a piece of paper the three things that were most important to them in their lives. Dr. Peck was taken-aback at how seriously these men took their assignment – taking 45 minutes to over an hour to write three words. Not surprising the #2 and #3 most important thing was a varied array of interests and experiences. HOWEVER, for all twelve of these very successful officers the #1 most important thing they wrote down was: “MYSELF”. Now this manifested itself into the discipline these people had for self improvement. When these people saw something in themselves that was a “weakness” or an “imperfection” they worked diligently to improve themselves in that area.

Several years later, Dr. Peck was working with inmates at a prison. One prisoner, guilty of many evil actions, became comfortable with talking to the doctor. Dr Peck asked this man: “What is the most important thing in your life?” The man replied: “My self-esteem” How close to the answers from several years earlier!  Not-withstanding, “Self-esteem” as a priority manifested itself in a much different manner. When this man of many evil actions saw some “weakness” or “imperfection” in himself he would EXTERMINATE from his life the person or thing that reminded him of that weakness or imperfection..

I tend to think of people that do evil things -on purpose, frequently, and without remorse – as being evil people. I am told I SHOULD look at them as being Children of God – made in His likeness – who do not have the knowledge to do good. This is a hard ideal for me to be comfortable. A concept that I have no problem with is that sometimes good people -even very good people – do something “Bad” THIS DOES NOT MAKE THEM A BAD PERSON. It does not. It does NOT. IT DOES NOT! There was one very good man that never did anything bad. His name is Jesus Christ. The rest of us, all of us, do bad things. We sin. We try harder. We ask for forgiveness. We ask for help. We ask for God’s help and we ask trusted friends for help. That said, only God will never let us down.

In closing I’d like to add one addendum to Dr. Peck’s “Extermination Observation”. Frequent evil doers are not alone in exterminating from their lives reminders of their “Weaknesses”. Sometimes even the best among us -God’s most gifted and devout- will shun friends that tried to help by stressing their weaknesses too much and their talents not enough. Sometimes Satan is involved by confusing us when we are in crisis. When this is the case, prayer is the answer. God will not let us down. It is never too late to re-evaluate our reality, our self-worth, or the value of our friends.

Welcome

Prayer can be a difficult task to do correctly. Prayer involves not just reciting words, but listening for answers that usually come as a whisper. One does not say a prayer and then move on to the next task. After prayer a time for reflection is necessary to hear the whisper.

Discernment can be most tricky.  When seeking the Will of God in our times of reflection, are we hearing God’s Will, our own selfish desires projected as God’s Will, or deceptions from Satan? Discernment is difficult as is understanding and accepting God’s plan.

Much of this BLOG will be devoted to seeking “Truth”.

Love One Another – God’s Words – Our Truth

Even in LOVE will sometimes come disagreement, anger, and hurt. Now what do we do?  Especially in this YEAR OF MERCY how do we follow the Will of God?

FORGIVENESS

Our Father, Who art in heaven Hallowed be Thy Name;
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Trespasses: “To pass over, to go beyond one’s right in place or act; to injure another; to do that which annoys or inconveniences another; any violation of law, civil or moral; it may relate to a person, a community, or the state, or to offenses against God. “

Maybe I never thought about this before, but when I pray the words “….Forgive us our trespasses….” I’m asking God to forgive me. I’m not asking the person I offended to forgive me. Is it not important to seek forgiveness from the person I offended? Well, of course it is very important to ask the offended party’s forgiveness, but the saving of my soul does not depend on actions where I have no control. Therefore, the offended party may have temporary control of my feelings of guilt and remorse, but no control over the health of my soul. This seemingly paradoxical statement is emotionally confounding.

When I sin, it is necessary for me to confess my sin to God. As a Catholic, I do this through the Sacrament of Confession. A good Confession will include my true remorse for my sin. I must be sincere in my resolve to “Amend my life” so as to avoid this sin in the future. I must make amends by repairing (or truly trying to repair) the damage I caused. Asking the offended party’s forgiveness is a most important element in the making of amends. However in the GOOD Confession, God has forgiven me and my soul is repaired and cleansed. It is sad and sometimes even tragic when forgiveness from the offended person is not received. At this point all I can do – all I should do – is pray that this person will find graces to forgive. This equation is valid for any trespass – big or small.

The other important element in FORGIVENESS is written “ …As we forgive those who trespass against us“. This aspect is the primary element to forgiveness where the whole is truly greater [other] than the sum of its parts. God demands that I forgive others. My forgiving those that trespass against me is necessary for me to be in the right mindset to ask God’s forgiveness and to be able to forgive myself. In the discipline of forgiveness, there is no place for a cold heart.

By practicing forgiveness I should be able to anticipate my task of forgiving to become easier – as a good habit always does. Being in the habit of easily forgiving will make me more sensitive to my offensive behaviors or trespasses. This makes it more likely that I’ll be “Delivered from evil” – AVOIDING TEMPTATION.  As people see me Witness by forgiving, I am making it easier for them to forgive me my trespasses and maybe making it easier for them to forgive others also.

Much good comes from a small forgiveness. The whole of our interactions with others is always greater than the sum of its parts. This synergism is more experience and Faith than logic or science. We need faith. We need to forgive one another.