Sunday, September 28, 2008

Stereograms and the Relationship Between Love and Lust

I have always had a difficult time seeing the image behind a stereogram. You know those pictures that at the surface look like colored static, but “behind” all the seemingly chaotic colors lay a concrete image? I attempted to get behind this grand mystery of the allusive image through a little research. I learned that I was engaging the picture too actively. Instead of staring at the picture intently, I was suppose to relax my eyes and see “through” the picture. With this new information in place, I approached the picture again under full expectation that I would see this hidden treasure. Low and behold, I saw nothing yet once again. Needless to say, I was a little disappointed at my ability to see beyond the surface of these seeming entertaining stereograms.

All this being said, I am quite surprised how closely the human body reflects a stereogram. In the same way the seemingly random colors on a stereogram actually reflect a concrete image to those who have eyes to see, so to does the human body reflect the person beautifully to those who have the eyes to see! Unfortunately, sin has twisted and darkened our ability to see the person reflected in the body perfectly. Instead of relaxing the eyes and seeing “through” the body, we may catch ourselves starring intently at another person with the desire to take that person to ourselves. In other words, we find ourselves starring for the sole reason to feed a passion that has arisen in our own body.

This is the distinction between love and lust. Lust is simply love turned inward. With respect to the stereogram, if we look at the picture too intensely with the purpose to “grasp” the image behind the picture we will never see it; we will simply have to do with looking at random colors. However, if we can train ourselves to relax the eyes so as to receive the picture, thus freeing us to see through the picture, we will find the hidden treasure which is reflected in the seemingly random colors. This is love!

Each of us is called to see through the body so that we may behold what the body is reflecting: a unique person worthy of love! Unfortunately, due to sin, our eyes gravitate toward viewing another through the lens of “grasping” rather than “gifting.” Similar to what I have to do with the stereogram I long to view properly, we must retrain ourselves to see beauty in its entirety. The road to this freedom to love may be long for some, but it is certainly worth it.

Jesus Christ has given His life for us so that we may live life abundantly (cf. Jn. 10.10). He wants was to be able to fulfill our deepest desires to love and to be loved. Christ continually gives Himself to the Church through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass so that those who cling to the Church may love as Christ loved: a passion­-filled love overflowing with a love that is stronger than death. We are called to love greatly, and we have the ability only because we are greatly loved by Jesus Christ. If it hasn’t been considered already, maybe try daily Mass as a way to see the Lord “behind” things that seem like bread and wine.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Reconciling Two Ideologies in Jesus Christ

Growing up as a child, my father would repeat to me over and over again his belief that the overwhelming majority of conflicts between people originated from one initial problem: a lack of communication. This familial mantra had (and continues to have) a profound impact on my life. In fact, one might say that I have become somewhat hypersensitive to “miscommunication” in light of this teaching. Honestly, my nearly OCD attention to communication may have less to do with the “familial mantra” and more to do with the fact that while I was inculcated with this lesson early on in my life, I did not always see it lived out in our own home. While I believe my family did in fact value communication, it was not something always passionately lived out. 

I say all this because I have become increasingly aware of the ideological polarity between the generations that surround me and the “baby-boomer” generations. On one end of the spectrum lay the belief that life is preeminently lived through duty, obligation, and responsibility. On the other end of the spectrum lay the conviction that life is all about living according to one’s own desires and passions. One generation gravitates toward the objective measure of happiness in exclusion to the subjective, while the other embraces the subjective reality of life in exclusion to the objective. While this is an over-simplification of the generational differences, I believe the general conclusions are accurate.

Both generational ideologies are inadequate and are in need of redemption. In the process of excluding the subjective for the objective, the older generations have potentially diminished their ability to have genuine self-knowledge, inhibiting their ability to communicate themselves deeply, freely, and lovingly. Such relationships have a tendency to be stable but passionless. On the other hand, the younger generations have whole-heartedly embraced the subjective in rejection of the objective. This is the generation of “self-help” books which call the individual into deep introspection and self-knowledge.  Unfortunately, while full of passion, many relationships are incredibly unstable going through multiple breakups. The rejection of the objective has led to consumer-based relationships which is ultimately unfulfilling.

All of this may sound rather dismal and depressing, but there is GREAT news! St. Paul always would acknowledge the problem before proclaiming the solution from the rooftops. The problem has been articulated and now we await the solution which is here if only we are willing to receive it. We have been wrestling with the deeply personal problem between what we ought to do and what we actually feel like doing. However, in the beginning, it was NOT so (cf. Mat. 19.8). Our passions and the truth of our humanity were originally perfectly integrated, and Christ has come in the flesh to reintegrate our fleshly desires with the truth of our humanity.

Christianity is not some pie-in-the-sky dream, but rather a here-and-now reality of transformation. Christ desires to redeem our passions so that we may be free to love passionately all that is true, good, and beautiful. The ideologies above are genuine but inadequate solutions to the problem of our humanity. It is only in Christ that we will be able to be loved and to love others as we were created to love; passionately and with complete self-donation! The more we find ourselves before the Blessed Sacrament, the more this dream will become a reality. May God be Praised!