This may seem a joke but seriously, coffee really helps me to rise above some of the creepy stuff lurking in the so-called collective unconscious.
Ever since I converted to Catholicism back in 2001, I found it was a two-sided experience. I had been going through a challenging time after living in India for a couple of years. The West seemed strange, and I learned what they mean by the term, reverse culture shock.
Some people take their hard shell selves with them when they travel. And they return home as if they’d just watched a nice slide show. They know a little more about the world but remain fundamentally unchanged. Not so with me. I was going through a tremendous time of transition. So I was soaking up Indian ways – and vibes – more than most.
I was very open. This openness and sensitivity is a good thing. But I needed something to get me back to my truest self. My core.
Funnily enough, as a former Protestant who never went to church growing up, I found that Catholicism was the path that brought me back to myself. Not just to my Western ego. For me, that’s necessary but secondary. No, I mean my genuine, created self. The one who stands before God in humility and full realization of his human imperfection.
So all fine and dandy, right? I found my spiritual home after years of searching. And I didn’t have to travel miles and miles to exotic lands to feel well. Catholic churches are ubiquitous. In fact, where I live, I tend to rotate among seven, all within about 15 minutes of home. A taste of heaven in 15 minutes. Not bad.
So what’s the problem? Is there a problem?
Well, yes and no.
No, if I keep rotating and don’t get too invested in any single parish. Yes, if I try to be like regular churchgoers.
I’m sure a mean-spirited psychiatrist would have a field day with that. “He cannot settle down in any one parish. He needs to constantly escape to feel anonymous,” etc. etc.
But it’s really not that simple. And I think some people just don’t get why I have to do Catholicism my own way.
It gets back to my sensitivity. In any parish there is good and not so good. There are nice and not so nice people. There are priests who seem en route to heaven and others who might be in for a rude surprise when they die.
And I tend to sense vibes from all of this. Not just the heavenly graces, but also the very real human stuff. It’s always a balancing act. If I frequent one parish too often, there’s a kind of build up of the same stuff. It’s like watching the same movie over and over again. But worse, you’re also picking up the same vibes ad nauseam.
So I rotate.
Sometimes I grow disenchanted or fatigued by the overall Catholic scene. Several times I’ve tried just staying away. But after a week or two, I’m always happy to get back.
It’s a funny thing, similar to a plant needing water, but not too much water. Too much and the plant drowns, just as being dehydrated can kill too. And if you always draw your water from the same well, the same assortment of trace pollutants could build up. So it’s better to draw your water from different wells.
Today I’m feeling slightly over-watered, so to speak, by the same type of water. Last week I did a little experiment. I went to the same parish every day. There were nice things, nice people and nice conversations. But toward the end of the week, the buildup was happening again. The same old vibes, the same old stuff. And the same texture of the Holy Spirit (for me, each parish differs that way too).
I don’t really know why I’m sharing this publicly. For years I’ve kept my private experience to myself or only shared with my intimate friends. But today I confess: I can’t be a perfectly conventional Catholic but at the same time, I can’t be without Catholicism.
Perhaps some of you can relate in your own way, in your own circles.
When I tell people that I like to go to catholic mass I often sense some kind of inner reservation from the other person. I’m not surprised. I know why. Or I have a pretty good idea. The Inquisitions, the child abuse, the corruption. Or maybe just the regimentation. Not to forget the sexism.
I know all about that stuff but regardless, still feel the Holy Spirit active in the Mass. Some folks give me a blank or hard look when I say that. To me, that just tells me something about where they are. Many people think they are open minded but imo are just as narrow and regimented in their thinking as any hardcore Catholic.
Myself, I just go on what I feel. And that leaves me open to a whole new vista that I didn’t even know existed, prior to recognizing the call.
From the very start the flower intuitively knows to follow the sunlight, and so it does. As it continues to grow it quickly realizes that it is a harsh environment to grow in.
Sometimes I imagine myself as a flower. Beautiful but fragile.
As the flower grows stronger, taller, it learns how to protect itself, still aiming for the sunlight.
As the years go by, more and more walls are built around the flowers core, until one day it is completely closed off from the world surrounding it. It is closed off from the sun.
Everything is now dark. The sunlight isn’t allowed to shine at the flowers core anymore, it is too risky opening up to it.
The flower remains closed for years. Hiding its own beauty and forgetting all about the sunlight. Instead of growing towards the sun the flower turns the other way, hitting the ground.
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Was up early this morning with the sun streaming through our back window.
The philosophy book features prominently in this shot because I just picked it up last night at the secondhand bookstore. After passing it by once, I went home and saw that it was selling on the internet for way more than $1.99. So I drove back to the store and grabbed it. Turned out I already had a copy buried in the basement. That happens sometimes when you haven’t indexed your library! But I don’t care. This copy has nicer print. And it was a steal at that price.
The other book, with the library tag, is a critique of the religious studies scholar Bart Ehrman, who looks at the historical Jesus without really giving any credence to the idea that Jesus is the son of God. This book is interesting. It’s like a team a smart Christian guys got together and said, “okay, how are we going to trash Ehrman!” And they do a pretty good job. Still, I like Ehrman. He’s provocative and a great speaker. I suppose I’m comfortable enough in my belief/experience/reflection that intelligent critique doesn’t throw me. But clearly Ehrman has really annoyed these Christian guys.
Carl Jung would have had a field day with all this. Ehrman being the shadow and the Christian guys being the forceful defendants reacting to the shadow’s provocations. At least, I imagine that’s how Jung might have seen it.
Anyhow, I believe that Jesus is incredibly special. And I have reason to believe. But that’s about all I can really say. If ideas like the “Trinity” were revealed to me in a way that was beyond a shadow of a doubt, I’d talk about that too.
Happy Easter everyone!
Here’s a Q&A I did last month at Allexperts.com, where I’ve been volunteering for many years. The Q&A deals with meditation and other factors contributing to a sense of unwellness or wellness.
I can’t reproduce the post here for copyright reasons. But I can link to it.