Realizing the Extraordinary in the Ordinary

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Jan 312014

Part of growing up at any age is recognizing the extraordinary in the ordinary activities of life. While reading recently, I find myself resonating with the following words in “Where God Happens: Discovering Christ in One Another “ from Rowan Williams:  “Here we are daily, not necessarily attractive and saintly people, along with other not very attractive and saintly people, managing the plain prose of our everyday service, deciding daily to recognize the prose of ourselves and each other as material for something unimaginably greater…”.

Why did I resonate? I used to fantasize about how life would be grand when I reached a certain goal or a certain age or a certain position. The unstated assumption in this fantasy was that life isn’t okay right now, just as it is, and this had the consequence of causing me to live in that fantasy future in which all that ails me will be set right when………… How would you fill in the blank?

What I have discovered is that joy and fulfillment are available in each moment when I approach life with a grateful heart. I am so inclined to take for granted life itself, but when I look more closely, I see what a miracle it is. The self-organizing, self-repairing body-system is a miracle beyond understanding. There are so many factors that must be in alignment to support life that it would seem improbable on first glance. However, my observation is that most of us simply accept life as nothing special or extraordinary, and in doing so overlook what is perhaps our greatest gift. And so it is with having children, or a relationship, or best friends, or…………….

As I see it an important part of growing up is being in the present moment, being mindful. There are many avenues to increased mindfulness including meditation, centering prayer, and chanting or sounding. Becoming more mindful is part of the process of introspection and self-identity. With clarity about self-identity, it becomes possible to have a life in which there is coherence between who one is and what one does in the world. Work becomes an expression of one’s identity, a sign that one has indeed grown up.

 Posted by at 5:22 pm

Pursing Truthfulness Rather Than Sincerity

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Jan 302014

One of the points that I made in my book is that growing up to a more complete realization of life involves developing greater self-understanding, and this involves a courageous level of self-inquiry. In this context, Henri de Lubac made an important distinction when he wrote: “It is not sincerity, it is truth which frees us…To seek sincerity above all things is perhaps, at bottom, not to want to be transformed.” His point is that sincerity, meaning a lack of hypocrisy, is always possible, but truthfulness is only possible when we know who we are. The desert fathers and mothers of the 4th century were Christian hermits and devoted their entire lives to the pursuit of self-identity. In today’s world, it is difficult to imagine the extent of their commitment to the pursuit of truth.

At this point you may be wondering why this matters or if it does. I pursued a corporate career for about 30 years often giving it priority over my personal life. I did this in sincerity. When I said to myself and others that I was giving priority to the most important parts of my life, I believed it. There was no hypocrisy. However, as I started to become more introspective, I saw that I had not given adequate priority to my family which was in fact the most important part. I missed many family events because I was pursuing my business career. To say I am a family man is a lot closer to the truth than to identify myself as a career man.

I regret the special times with my family that I missed, but I am glad I realized my error in time to make corrections and repair relationships. This is the potential payoff in pursuing self-identity and truth, rather than sincerity. In my book I describe the various steps that I took to become more self-aware. These are things that you too can do.

 Posted by at 11:21 pm