Reason vs. Altruism…Life vs. Death
I decided to drop in on my old friend Aging Child and donate my 2 cents (see how charitable I can be???) and give some romance advice…Here’s his response:
Sent: Monday, February 16, 2009 10:32 AM
Subject: RE: Comment: “It’s a Heart Ache”
Eric, there have got to be far better and more worthwhile sites and blogs out there for you to be reading in the wee hours of the morning than my own at-times-troubled musings and ponderings. And just about anything else out there is much more interesting.
The essence of the priesthood is to serve God and His people – both in the Church, and beyond – through bringing and opening up His word to them in the scripture, the Church’s teachings, its sacraments, and ministries. The world is hungry and badly, badly in need of God’s cleansing love and compassion; each priest serving Him stands as one more clear conduit of this love and compassion.
The key, pivotal word there is “serve”: the priest is serving people in need – all people – and the God who has put us here and is our ultimate destination. This kind of service must be one of selflessness: “Not my will, but yours”, “Ad majorem Dei gloriam (To the greater glory of God)”, and so on.
By blunt contrast, the pursuit of interpersonal, intimate love is by definition anything but selfless: it is seeking the pursuer’s worldly desires first, and not the needs of another person. Other than the massively ego-driven, who dates specifically to bring God’s love into the world? Those folks “on the market” are looking for one (or more) other person to “complete” their lives – and are in it for themselves first.
This is antithetical to selfless service.
In trying to be selfless, the aim isn’t to be a saint, or to be holy, or to clutch for a halo to wear proudly in public. The objective, rather, is simple humility.
The concept, in fact, is so simple and basic that most people can’t grasp it.
Here’s another one: that we have hearts and minds, feelings and dreams, clearly shows that we were not created for this world, and – as the cliché goes – are briefly passing through, entering empty-handed and leaving the same way. We are told, and not just by Christian teachings, that here we are to prepare ourselves for what comes next, and to not get lost in the distractions and demands of this life.
Most of us still get lost. Why? Through stubbornly casting and following our paths to serve our own wants and needs, putting others no higher than second place. By seeking what we see as our own greater good first.
So my struggle over Guinevere is to, first, ensure that the focus of my feelings and appreciation for her remain heavily on the non– self-serving side of the slate, that I be a trusted friend, sounding-board, advisor, confidant, listener, sharer-of-time. It’s not about me. (Try saying those four words yourself, Eric, about anything/anyone of importance in your life: “It’s Not About Me”. Say them again. And again. Can you? Do they sound stupid to you? Why do you think that is?)
It’s not about me. It must not be about me. Or I am not a friend.
Second, part of the struggle is, yes, to rein and direct my own, very human and understandable feelings of attraction over to more selfless ones of what I can do to make her own struggles more bearable, to lighten the things that worry her and keep her up at night, and to be of a good, positive, supportive role in her life.
That itself may be, or become, the environment within which a healthy, one-on-one love could indeed grow and be nurtured, if we both so desire it. Can it be done selflessly? I think so. But it takes two, and it’s not about me. It can’t be.
So: Conflict One for this Aging Child is to be a friend first and foremost, and not be focused on myself when I’m with her (whether in person, on the phone, online, and so on), or when just dwelling on my thought of her. This is not easy, not for anyone with genuine emotional depth, even with a clear inner commitment to respect her first… or how else am I to maturely respect myself?
Conflict Two follows on that: if Guinne and I both decide to open ourselves to something far deeper than the friendship we each need, then I cannot be the priest/monk I’ve wanted to be for some years now.
I want to skip that celibacy non-issue for now; you and I will have at it some other time – I’ve been meaning to for a good many months now; concerns of my mother’s health and my own intense job-search are of greater immediate need of my attention, as are other family issues, and pondering/taking further cautious steps (together with Guinevere, and alone) with this friendship I’ve been discussing.
For now, in a nutshell: A married/dating priest by definition cannot be a selfless servant. His life-partner will be shortchanged, or his God and destiny will be.
My challenge for you, Eric, is to do something today for someone else. Want to toughen the challenge, if that sounds easy? Do something particularly kind for someone who has been mean, rude, even hateful, to you. Further challenge: give something you value (money, property, time) to a complete stranger… especially someone in no position to give back.
Take a peek at selflessness. And then look more closely. Can you step up to it?
A. Gene Childe
Poor guy. (I can be condescending too!)
Here’s my response:
You’re probably right that there are better or more worthwhile blogs out there – but it appears that God has guided me to yours.
“It’s not about me. (Try saying those four words yourself, Phosphoro, about anything/anyone of importance in your life: “It’s Not About Me”. Say them again. And again. Can you? Do they sound stupid to you? Why do you think that is?)”
You are correct that these words sound stupid to me. And I know exactly why. Anything/anyone of importance in my life is a thing I regard as a value. It is a thing that I actively work to keep in my life because I have identified it as furthering my life. Certainly a thing that hurts me or seeks to destroy me would not be a value – by definition. Thus, for you to ask me to say something that I have identified as valuable in my life is in fact “not about me” – or NOT valuable to me – is a simple contradiction. We apparently have a different definition of value.
Let me ask you this, then. Think of something or someone of importance in YOUR life, Aging Child. Guinne, for instance. Why is she important to you? Do you value her? If so, what is valuable about her? The answer is that you have identified virtues in her that promote life – characteristics such as kindness, honesty, and intellect – You seek to spend time with her because it enriches your life. I hope you’re not so dishonest as to try and say that it is a one-way street – that you’re only Guinne’s friend because you’re providing some sort of sacrificial service to her that you derive no pleasure from…And I don’t think she would appreciate being told that she is the recipient of your charity, either. You seek her because IT’S ABOUT YOU, because she is VALUABLE and you NEED human beings of VALUE and VIRTUE in your life…No greater compliment to receive, in my opinion, than to be valued and sought after.
If I’m wrong, tell me now that it makes no difference to you whether you deal with a genius or a fool, whether you meet a hero or a thug, whether you marry an ideal woman or a slut.
“My challenge for you, Phosphoro, is to do something today for someone else. Want to toughen the challenge, if that sounds easy? Do something particularly kind for someone who has been mean, rude, even hateful, to you. Further challenge: give something you value (money, property, time) to a complete stranger… especially someone in no position to give back.”
You ask me to aide those who seek my destruction and to sacrifice my values to a non-value. You’re asking me to immolate myself, to approach death, to sip from the cup of altruism – that is, the cup of self-abnegation and self-destruction. WHY?
Unlike you, I love life, and have a rational code of values. Your morality is evil and spells doom for whoever consistently practices it. Take a peek at selflessness yourself, Aging Child. And tell me you don’t see death.