Just Call Me Stretch

So today I had a moment where my age, while still young, really caught up with me. I have been noticing lately that I am not as resilient as I once was. For example, now when I stretch after periods of exercising (or long periods of inactivity) it actually hurts sometimes. Such a bummer. Normally I just kind of do some internal cross between a whine and a groan but today was special because my internal response to stretching my back and shoulders was “crap.” Except it wasn’t internal. I said it quietly out loud as I stretched, no doubt disturbing the only other guy in the library sitting a few chairs down who, for a brief moment, thought I had actually said something important. But I felt bad for breaking his concentration. This is that danger of listening to music via headphones while you work, it puts you in your own little world where you forget you’re not just randomly in your room enjoying full sweat-pants wearing freedom.

music

I blame Mumford and Sons it’s not the first time they’ve had this type of effect on me, their sound just sucks me in.  Pandora was alternating between them, Sam Smith, and the Lumineers, with no small amount of Ed Sheeran interspersed in there too, so I should really stop complaining it was a lovely morning. But before I leave you to let you get back to your life I have just one request/warning: if you are a Spotify snob who hates Pandora then you might as well stop reading this blog now because I have used Spotify and I just can’t get into it, and I’m a pretty regular Pandora listener so there is a strong chance it will get mentioned in the future because I just love music and my musing knows no bounds.

And with that said I am always down for links to new artists if you feel inspired to leave any in the comments section. (But be warned I have a very Pandora way of listening where I give it my thumbs up or thumbs down, but should you get the thumbs up it’s a thumbs up forever! I’m loyal like that.)

Happy Friday!

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Tale as old as Time

So today I got to thinking (have you missed that hook? Because I sure have!) that the movie Beauty and the Beast can be used as a perfect metaphor for why I find it so difficult to defend the faith sometimes. Just to be clear this is not an admission to shortcomings in Catholic doctrine- quite the opposite in fact. I find the truth of the Gospel and the rich mysteries of the church so compelling, in such perfect harmony with natural law and what I’ve experienced to be true, that it breaks my heart when others don’t see it too. I guess I should explain that a lot of my debates have been with the well-informed, well-educated, and extremely skeptical (bordering on the cynical and apathetic for some- but not all). They are extremely comfortable in the realm of what can be proven and submit to human authorities like doctors (either of medicine or in the realm of academia), scientists, philosophers, public figures/celebrities and the like. And this path can only get you so far. Herein lies our metaphor for Beauty and the Beast. (I’ll bet you’re really curious now but bear with me I’ll explain in full.)

In Beauty and the Beast the prince and all the other servants of his castle are plunged into a spell when he fails to be kind to an elderly woman seeking his help. (Let’s compare this loosely to the fall of mankind from our spots in Heaven into our earthly exile as punishment for our own sin.) So with our first comparison in place, it’s time for another. In today’s modern age something weird is happening. As our culture becomes more and more wealthy, materialistic, and atheistic we are encouraged to live our curse (if you will) to the fullest, instead of dreaming about the day when we will be free of that curse- which is always the day (if you know your fairy tales) when you fall in love, when you get what your heart desires most of all, above all other things. So what this means for debate is that when I come from my perspective of freedom and restoration or, to continue our metaphor, being “human again” I’m met with arguments of how great it is being a chair or a table. How living in the enchanted castle is pretty sweet (at least it’s rent free!) and having the beast for a master is not so bad. It’s a denial that will ultimately keep them from the thing their heart wants most of all, simply to have the freedom to love and be loved in turn.

To drop the metaphor now, an atheist can tell me that this life is all there is and accuse me that my belief in God is just my way to shield myself and deny the cold realities of life. An agnostic can tell me that they are “spiritual” and like the light, generalized feelings of love, but that the deep, ritualistic and sacrificial love of religion is not worth pursuing. A cynic can tell me in exasperation that I’m neither smart nor discerning and that I believe a pack of lies. A hurting soul or a person with a bad experience of the church can simply let their actions speak and walk away. A person trapped in sin can simply never come at all, believing the lie that they are unworthy of love in the first place. And all I can ask any of them at that point is that they look past the tables and chairs and try, for just a moment, to believe with the heart of a child. To embark on the greatest adventure of all, what I think should be the very definition of life in the dictionary: the process of learning how to love. A difficult, arduous, exciting, romantic, and ultimately worthwhile pursuit because, whether we are willing to admit it or not, whether we have discovered it yet or not, the path of love always leads us to the thing our heart desires the most, above all other things: God.

Hefty, but true. Because when we really try to walk down that path, begging through prayer for the graces to do what we cannot do ourselves, that enchanting transformation begins to occur. Our eyes begin to see, our ears begin to hear, and our hearts begin to soften, and eventually overflow with love. And the further you walk down this path the more you get to experience the greatest gift of joy and freedom possible while still in exile: the opportunity to share everything you have discovered on the path with your neighbors. This is the simple truth of the gospel, the moral of the greatest story ever told.

rose

The millionaire

Today I overheard an extremely interesting encounter between two people at the public library’s computer section. (One of those conversations that are loud in a quiet place and you can’t help but hear.) Anyway, this lady was talking to this guy about jobs when I heard her exclaim, “people would rather steal a dollar from you than have a million dollars of their own.” The man countered this negative world view not by getting annoyed, discouraged, or frustrated. Instead, he simply said, “I guess I’ll have to make a million dollars then.” It was such an innocent and genuinely Christian thing to say and, while this man probably had no intention of witnessing anything to anyone that day, I was moved that he refused to give up on his neighbor (both literally and figuratively). The woman he was speaking to changed her whole attitude, laughingly surrendering her cynicism, and told him “we’ll split it.”

Now I’m no expert, but I think that the new evangelization the church has been talking about and trying to implement should look like that. Because in that moment as I listened to those two it inspired something in me that made me profoundly happy to be alive, and I think that’s what love is all about.