Friday, August 5, 2011

Neglecting Our Own Interests

Man’s natural center of gravity draws him towards the visible, to what he can take in his hand and hold as his own. He has to turn round inwardly to see how badly he is neglecting his own interests by letting himself be drawn along in this way by his natural center of gravity.
Introduction to Christianity,  25

Reflection – Eve saw that the tree was good for food, and pleasing to the eye, and much to be desired for the wisdom it offered.’ (Gen 3:6). And she grabbed it, ate it, and gave it to Adam, and he did the same. And ever since, we have been a tribe of ‘grabbers’. As Fr. Ratzinger wrote in this, one of his earliest books, our center of gravity goes that way.
The story of the tree and the fall of Adam and Eve helps us understand this, though. Eve had the tree and its enticing fruit before her – the visible, the immediate, the ‘grab-able’. The invisible reality was her inner knowledge, her memory of God’s command. ‘Do not eat this fruit, for you will surely die.’ The visible is always the sense-object, the concrete piece of reality before us. It seems to me that the invisible reality we need to ‘turn round inwardly’ to behold is wisdom.
I want to grab that extra food, that next drink (one more round!). I want to get more money, a bigger house, car, TV. I want to go to bed with this one or that one. These are all the immediate, the visible, the obvious good things to grab at and consume. It is only the acquisition of wisdom, that interior invisible insight into the whole of reality, that tells us what we should or should not do. Eat this much, and no more; live with this much material goods and no more; do not commit adultery or fornication…
But this heeding of invisible wisdom requires an inner life, a commit to interiority, a certain quietness of mind and heart. The technological revolution of the last 20 years, whatever else one might say about it, seems to be at war with precisely this interiority. The constant presence of information technology and all its noise is driving people, especially young people, towards a way of life almost entirely geared to the visible, the immediate, the sensible. This is a serious challenge; leaving all questions of religion and spirituality aside, a capacity to think deeply, searchingly, critically about life has always been understood as fundamental to authentic human flourishing. A life reduced to the sensory level is an animal life, a reversion to barbarism.
In Madonna House, we ask our guests to turn off their gadgets and phones and be silent. We send them to poustinia for 24 hours with God, only a Bible to read, and bread and water for food. We all have to find some way to do this; we have to learn to ‘turn around inwardly’ towards the deeper truths, the Wisdom that awaits us. As Catherine put it, we have to journey inward to meet God who is dwelling in our hearts.

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