Those People Who Call Everything an Adventure

Recently I read something somewhere that was complaining about people who call everything an adventure. The tone from the author was a sort of mocking and directed towards, “those people who call everything an adventure and by that they mean going to get ice cream at 1 am”

I don’t know what the rest of the world was doing while in college, but that is an accurate description of many of my Friday night adventures with friends and I loved every minute of it. Moreover, I still fail to see the problem or why she felt the need to address this in the first place. I could tell her words were meant as a sort of loving critique but I feel like critiques are baseless if the alternative is not something better but something worse.

One of my favorite writers, G.K. Chesterton, once said,

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”

Chesterton defied his realist, naturalist, and materialist contemporaries by seeing adventure everywhere, even in the most mundane moments that strike others as insignificant, and his reward for living with the adventurous enthusiasm and curiosity of a child was a wisdom and a joy that far surpassed that of his contemporaries.

The fruits of the seeds planted in Chesterton’s age, the turn of the twentieth century, are fully grown and blossoming now and despite the pleasant picture such a metaphor may conjure I do not necessarily mean that as a positive thing.

The problem of realism, naturalism, and materialism is not that they are inherently bad but that when practiced to such a narrow and exulted degree they are confining. I know this to be true because their more zealous subscribers lose the very thing Chesterton had and the very thing I seek to have also: the mysterious and sublime adventure that can be discovered veiled amid the ordinary routine of everyday living. And the charm of the adventure comes not from knowing all the answers but seeking them and discovering them more profoundly as one goes about his ordinary life. The sense that there is more to the eye than what you can see with your eye.

And it almost saddens me that we live in a world that discourages silliness and imagination in favor of “growing up” into people who see but don’t see, hear but don’t listen, and live without living.

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Story Time

While hanging out a group of friends recently, I had an extremely flattering experience. Somehow somebody mentioned my blog in passing and the other three people chimed in with their opinions and how they liked it. And I was flabbergasted (that word deserves a comeback and it captures the emotions of that moment perfectly) to the point where the friend who brought it up asked me “did you not think anyone actually read it?”

Partially. I mean, I see the stats confirming that my site gets traffic, but I still don’t think I’ll ever get over the shock that people beyond my supportive family would actually take the time to read my writing. But the thing that shocks me the most is also my absolute favorite thing about this blog: that the people who read it are the never the type you’d expect.

What I mean by that is, most blogs that have any sort of religious affiliation/religious words in the title only get read by people in that niche, people looking to read something explicitly religious or dealing with a political issue from a religious perspective, etc. But the majority of people who read my blog aren’t Catholic- and that’s awesome! I mean I’m always willing to share my faith because I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s the best thing that ever happened to me, but so much Catholic/Christian writing is geared towards other Catholic/Christian readers. That is not in itself a bad thing, but I see no reason for exclusivity. Because when I read Catholic/Christian writing it makes sense to me because I come from that background, but I worry that to the atheists and agnostics and people with no identifiable religion such pieces would look like Mandarin (i.e. another language), and they give up on it/become as discouraged as I would be if someone ever asked me to learn fluent Mandarin. (I picked Mandarin as an example specifically because I’ve heard that it’s difficult to master and is not a romance language so the same rules I’ve always followed when learning a language in the past would not apply).

So when I write my blog I get so excited when non-Catholics read it because learning a religion is a lot like learning a language in that before you can speak it confidently you must first learn to decipher what it means from a variety of sources, written text, verbal communication, in context of culture and community, and often in light of the ancient origins as well.

And I’m glad that even non-Catholics can come and enjoy what I’ve translated so far because with God each chapter somehow becomes better than the last. And the adventures I chronicle on this blog I am happy to share with whoever wants to wander the path along with me. Because I’ve always believed that time is our vessel, not our dwelling place and that the essence of true religion is simply a soul’s journey home. And the more that share the road with me the better the better the story becomes.

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Can’t We All Just Get Along?

So in the chaos of modernity where the first world is aware of both global, national, and local news almost instantly I admit it can be difficult to hold on to hope. And in light of that statement I respect those people who care about others beyond just themselves and I think it’s admirable when people want to change the world for the better.

However, that does not excuse the laughably bad, yet socially acceptable, notion espoused by the media, those in office, and echoed in college campuses across the country which proposes that the solution to our chaotic world and the violence that we see before us is to demonize dissent with the hopes of eventually eliminating it entirely. This sentiment is echoed in President Obama’s recent speech calling for an end to Catholic and Protestant private schools.  To use his own words:

“… If towns remain divided — if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs — if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear or resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division… [and] discourages cooperation.”

Granted his speech was given in Ireland, where Catholic and Protestant divisions run deep, yet I see this school of thought gaining momentum everywhere. It is a response to a problem based on the following set of ideas:

  1. People who disagree don’t like each other
  2. People who don’t like each other don’t respect each other
  3. People who don’t respect each other can feel justified in hating each other
  4. If people feel justified in hating each other they can become violent
  5. If all people choose to become violent the world will become a very violent place

These observations are fairly true in my limited experience on this planet, but the problem is not the competing viewpoints it is the choice made by the individual. Our belief systems certainly influence our actions, but it absurd to propose the solution of imposing the same set of beliefs on everyone in order to get the same predictable actions and outcomes, especially if you believe in freedom.

In fact, if the President truly believes his own assertion that the problem is not individual (or even collective) behavior but instead the freedom of thought in the first place, then by this same logic we should also eliminate American political parties because their existence and emotionally-charged opposition hinders us from “seeing ourselves in one another” and the mutual resentment stirred up on both sides of the aisle “encourages division and…discourages cooperation.”

Furthermore this quote, while seemingly innocent, places religious freedom in very dangerous waters because he betrays his feelings that Catholic and Protestant schools that are allowed to exist separately from the state promote and foster the violence and hatred that are contributing factors to the hostile political, social, and economic environment we live in. He is essentially revealing that in his mind the existence of these schools threatens the “peace,” “tolerance,” and “equality” that are at the core of his administration and the goal of all “progressive” moderns who encompass the left. Look out Catholic and Protestant schools, because this logic is laden with bias and the conclusion he draws from his biased logic is false, but that has never stopped any politician with a mission and good campaign funding.

And before you think I hate Obama and all politicians, I do not. I merely disagree with the way they handle true diversity and differences in opinion. They may be in earnest when they say they want peace, but they are willing to compromise their (but mostly my) freedom in order to get it whereas I am not. Because I have experienced that type of “peace” and it’s a lie. The sort of “peace” they want is a tolerance full of concessions where no one speaks up or gets angry or gets their feathers ruffled, a compromise where all agree to subscribe to a new narrative that has no specific religion, race, creed or distinction of any kind, but is instead a secular social code rather like the manual used at the beginning of the Lego Movie. 

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A world that opts for conformity rather than diversity, an urbane and suburban existence where everyone shops at Whole Foods, watches Good Morning America, uses a condemn, exercises, has very few children (if any), overpays for coffee, dresses like a catalog, and doesn’t go to Church on Sunday. It’s the new American dream of peace by materialism, prosperity at the expense of humanity. It is an existence whose only concern is appearances and surface level status quos, rather than true human community based on mutual respect and love of neighbor. 

It’s like the “peace” of relatives who hate each other but put on a good show for the holidays, bragging that it was a good holiday not because it was truly good but simply because both sides of the family managed not to kill each other. This is how the politicians want us to relate to each other, forget a true dialogue, just everybody take it easy and smile for the photo.

And this is a problem because this false peace masquerades as a high ideal, something that we should all be striving for as a societal virtue when in fact it will destroy us. It is the John Lennon lyrics of imagining a world without religious wars, the lingering sadness in wake of all the violent shootings, the disenchanted American populace in light of the political acrimony between Republicans and Democrats, and the fear of global terrorism that wears on us and makes this lie of false peace seem appealing. The idea that if we all gave up everything about us that makes us unique or passionate (like religion or politics) and trusted the universal state to dictate our lives then things would be different, simpler, more peaceful. The ugly dissent that gets everybody all riled up will be gone, and there will be no more violence- and then we would be free to create a better world…Forget the means, think of the glorious ends of universal brotherhood, world peace, and prosperity for all. So tempting, isn’t it? Especially in situations like ours, that feel so desperate and disheartening.

There’s only one problem. It will never work. I’m not saying I don’t believe in those glorious things, I’m saying I merely don’t subscribe to the ideals of earthly paradise. I am a Catholic and I want the paradise of heaven, to finally be home with God where all those high ideals of genuine virtue become a living reality. Becuase the world is a fallen place. I’m not saying that to be bleak or because I’ve given up on it. But it is made up of imperfect people and giving the state authority to rid the world of dissent will not solve the problem, merely silence it, and that is not true peace. True peace begins in love, love of God and love of people. And the choice to do that cannot be mandated by any government, only put into practice by those who choose to believe it. And as much people get cynical these days when it comes to believing in people’s capacity for love, I think they are misguided. Because true love is hard, perhaps the hardest thing that humans can take it upon themselves to do, and I cannot condemn those brave enough to try because I am the type that would rather fail at something glorious than succeed at something meaningless.

And I would argue that this call to love is important because the absence of genuine Christian love is noticeable in our world today. Because it is not Christian love, but worldly love that separates, that loves by degrees and draws distinctions between “us” and “them.” It is the worldly love of the new atheism that is tainted with pride and is taught to love only when it sees a reflection of itself in the other. It is worldly love that only cares about its own feelings and the vanity of how things appear on the surface. This is the love that permeates our world and this is why the world is currently the way it is, not because of the failure of Christian love or the presence of Christian schools.

And it is high time that we remembered how to truly love each other once more, to re-ignite the spirit that unites us all as the true brothers and sisters that we are.