Hanging Ten

Living in the so-called “Digital Age”, it’s easy to become distracted and even overwhelmed by the constant influx of information from all sides: scientific studies, breaking news, spiritual teachings, economic reports, campaign ads, etc…  It seems like no sooner have I decided I know something for sure, some new study or book or information crosses my desk causing me to second-guess, effectively undermining what had been a well-researched opinion.  After a while, we may be tempted to dismiss or ignore new information in the interest of maintaining our point of view, and this is an understandable reaction. But make no mistake: it is a reaction.  Instead of closing down our analyzing, evaluating selves, we might try instead to remain even more open, trusting that God and our own intuition will guide us.

As an example, consider the contradictory studies concerning foods that are good for us and the foods that are considered bad for us.  There are abundant studies available to us, but at some point we have to decide for ourselves about how much coffee or tomatoes or fish are good for us—or  not. The answer is different for each individual, and this is something that a scientific studies, news reports and even Dr. Oz rarely take account of.  That means all we can do is take in the information and process it through our own systems of understanding. In the end, only we can decide what information, ideas, beliefs and concepts we will integrate. Remaining open allows us to continually change and shift by checking in with our spiritual natures as well as our intuition as we learn to accommodate the new information. This may sound like a lot of work, but it also keeps us flexible and alert—even though we may sometimes feel off balance. Openness is essential to the process of growth and development.

All of this pertains to our relationship with God as well.  When we were young children, with limited understandings and a much simpler view of the universe, our faith was something solid and there was satisfaction in “knowing” that we had it all figured out. And then life happened to us, and if we were paying the least bit of attention, we had to process a lot of new information as we came to realize that young men we knew could die in wars that made no sense, that babies could die of terrible cancers and AIDS, that people who looked the same could be filled with hatred toward each other.  The most disturbing realization, of course, came with the realization that evil could exist not only in the hearts of the Hitlers and Stalins and ISIS member, but that it sometimes took a place in our own heart. Some of our generation gave up all hope.  Some of our generation lost their faith in God.  Some converted to other religions. Some found meaning in the rituals and beliefs of antiquity; others found it by inventing their own rituals and beliefs. Others, and I include myself in this latter group, found a way to make peace with the idea that we will never figure everything out, that we will always have more questions than answers, that we will forever be challenged by our choice to believe in Order over belief in Chaos.

Throughout our lives we will find very few things that do not change; for the most part we will continue to be confronted by new information along with the choice of whether to integrate it or not. That is life.  That is part of being human. And it is one of the many reminders of Lent. If we see ourselves as static beings in a static universe with God as a distant, unchanging Force, we will surely die of thirst in the wasteland.  But if we choose to see ourselves as surfers riding the incoming waves of information and inspiration, always open and willing to attune ourselves to the continuous movement, we will see how blessed we are to have this opportunity to play on the waves and to actually enjoy the ride.

Wishing you a gnarly week of hanging ten,

Fr. Michel


About frmichelrcc

I have a degree in religious studies from the University of Wisconsin, did graduate work in theology at St. Norbert College, De Pere, Wisconsin, and also at St. Paul's University in Ottawa. I have been a Benedictine since I first professed as an oblate in 1982, making final profession in 2009. I have worked as vocations director in a large diocese in the mid-west and am a spiritual director in the Benedictine tradition. I have 3 sons, one of whom is now in God's loving embrace in eternity, and 2 grandsons, Bradley and Jacob.
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