Sunday, June 14, 2009
My guess is that we're all familiar with the idea of escapism. After all our current culture is all about this disorder. No one wants to hear something negative, and if someone is suffering and reaching out from that darkness, people express they are " sending positive thoughts!".
Unless the bad news is titillating or scandalous gossip, no one wants to face real suffering, or real sacrifice. They want flowers and joy and sunshine all the time, and have an impression that if they just stay "positive" and "think happy thoughts" that nothing bad will ever come their way.
I must offer a disclaimer here: I am not
condemning the importance of a positive outlook, or joy in life, etc. etc. If we go around all the time as gloomy gus's expecting that everywhere we go we'll get bad service or experience disaster, well...it's not surprising that happens. I had a friend once who complained constantly about the bad service she received everywhere she went. I observed that she tended to take an imperious (not rude, exactly, just an "I've already judged you incompetent and I don't like you") attitude. She threw off such a wall towards others that they knew before they even spoke that they could not please her. And I watched them do their best, I even watched some of them fumble, likely from nervousness as they correctly perceived she was only waiting for them to screw up.
This made some people defensive, others just...bumble a bit. I can relate completely and it's one of the reasons I'm not in food service. If someone makes me defensive, there's a chance they'll be wearing whatever I happen to be holding at the time. If they make me bumble...same outcome.
She was always unhappy, and I think at her core, she was an unhappy, angry person, and as that was expressed in everything she did, others reacted to make sure she got exactly what she expected, even if they didn't realize that's what they were doing.
On the other hand, people who are joyful and truly happy tend to have an outlook on life that isn't contrived or purchased in paperback form at the airport in an overpriced shop. The truly joyful people may have their soup spilled all over them by a completely incompetent server, and yet they laugh and try to lessen the server's mortification. They give others the benefit of the doubt, they treat others with respect, and as a result, are in turn treated with respect. Their openness makes them approachable, and if they are pleased with the service they receive as they go about their day, they are sincerely thankful, make eye contact (even if they are shy and the contact is brief), and as a result...their experiences are positive.
It has nothing to do, you see, with "being positive". It has to do with the actual disposition in the heart of the individual. An angry person can read all the self help "be positive" motivator pulp that's been published since it became popular in the 60's or 70's, but the reality is that they don't need to learn to "think positive". They need to know themselves well enough to realize why they're so angry or unhappy or fearful, and get to the heart of that.
They need to recognize that their questions won't be answered through trendy paperbacks, but through addressing their very real suffering to the God who loves them and awaits them on the other side of the cross they refuse to bear.
Popular escapism has become the foundation of our current culture. The reality is that no one wants to face...well...reality. They want to live their lives in denial that bad things happen, and especially that they are a part of it, might have caused it, might be actually suffering from it.
In fact, escapism is actually...hedonism. Seeking fulfillment in THINGS or money or prestige, yet the people who have those things...aren't happy. Yet this crowd, in order to make their hedonism and constant seeking of self-fulfillment through their own actions, have re-defined our vocabulary, taking anything they think is "inconvenient" and warping it to make their actions and escapisms seem to be ordered.
The disorder of our day is in the improper definition of terms, and the relativism that has resulted from the deep defect and disorder of escapism run amok.
I'd love to hear from those of you who have discerned your Vocation, and either considered or entered the seminary or religious life. It may apply more to those who have looked to cloistered/contemplative communities, but I've noticed (as I mentioned in the last post) that people who are not Catholic or maybe anti-Catholic often ask strange questions of discerners of all sorts.
I know of priests who were asked what they were "escaping". I myself have been asked, even recently, why I'm trying to "escape". It tends to be the knee-jerk question of a disconnected person to immediately assume that someone who may want to die to themselves and the world is seeking to "escape".
My theory is that this question is one God is asking them in the deepest recesses of their souls, akin to "Why are you running from Me? Why do you persecute Me?".
The people who are immediately assuming that you are trying to escape something, at their very core, are envious. They are desperately desiring to escape, and the echo of God's own voice reverberating in their conscience finds an outlet when they meet someone who IS truly responding to God's call to know Him more deeply. They can't tolerate the sound of His knocking, and so they take out their confusion on those who recognize the knock.
How should we respond when someone asks if we are trying to escape?
My first answer is this: Consider the source and humbly search your own heart. ARE you trying to escape?
I dealt with this question a few years ago, and it could be that at the time, it would have been seeking "escape". Such a "vocation" doesn't survive, for there's nothing to hold it. Escaping the world doesn't make a good priest or religious. In fact, it creates a bitter ex-Catholic or schismatic or even an apostate. Be honest with yourself if the person who asks you this question is someone who is faithful to the teachings of the Church and knows you well (and doesn't have a personal agenda with regard to your future!)
But since often that question comes from someone who truly has no idea what they're talking about and certainly doesn't know you well enough to give them a dignified answer, well, sometimes it's fun to think about how to respond to such a query.
NOTE: I have edited this post: the humorous part can be found here. You may still want to check out the combox for responses to those questions, or simply click on the link. Many responses were captured in the new post.