Obviously I’m Important

So I don’t know how it works for people who weren’t raised in my Facebook generation, but I am always getting about a million invites to various things, including those auditorium style events where they bring in a well-known speaker whose talk is generated around their extremely generic and inoffensive life advice with the intent of getting you PUMPED about something.

And while there are some speakers I would love to hear, I feel that the introductions always leave something to be desired. The speakers are essentially selling themselves as if they were a product, for example, “come see this award winning, Harvard educated, Olympic silver medalist, gourmet chef, accomplished author, activist, humanitarian, radio-broadcasting, home-schooling mother of 8 who shares her tips on balancing family and career. Act now and enter for your chance to win a free copy of her new book. Lunch is provided.”

It’s a lot to digest (pun intended) because it places these successful people on pedestals
and tries to claim that the pedestal version is the reality. In fact, that lie/intentional smisperception for the purposes of marketing is often meant as the very basis to draw in the crowd, “come see this winner who wins constantly and learn how you can be a winner too.” And because we live in a world that makes success the condition for love people flock to these corny messages in spades. I’ve had honest conversations with intelligent people who come away from these events full of motivation and inspired to “take charge” of their lives. Whatever that means…

I have trouble with these types of events, partially because I subscribe wholeheartedly to Divine love which is unconditional, and partially because I’m a nerdy hipster who can’t allow myself to like anything so mainstream and group-y as a popular speaker. I’m sure that comes across in this blog.

However, my distaste for these things also comes from the fact that I know that there is so much more to be found and shared than the trite life advice of these smug and successful speakers, because back in the day when I used to listen to these types I’d be inspired and/or peaceful for maybe half a second and then I would need more, the restlessness would always come back. But as I pursued a growing faith and sought a deeper bond with God I knew I’d found the way home because I finally stopped searching for satisfaction in other places, as there was no longer a need to. And I would never speak about these experiences by selling myself as a product or brand to happy/balanced/peaceful (insert any buzzword you like) living, because the way I truly believe that goal is accomplished is not my way, it certainly was not my genius that invented it, and it is not just a natural result of good habits, but rather a way that existed long before me and will probably exist long after me and finding any piece of it is truly a gift. A gift I got because I asked for it and God is generous. A gift that anyone can have if they humble themselves for long enough to ask, I only wished more people believed me instead of wasting their money on people arrogant enough to want to inspire the world to become more like themselves.

I controversially chose to remain Catholic in a world hostile to religion not just because I’m edgy and cool like that, but because to me it is the way, the truth, and the life. I firmly believe it and the more I walk down the way, discover the truth, and live the life the more convicted (and more joyful) I am. To share this way is an act of love because I don’t want you to become more like me, in fact that thought is rather frightening, but I do hope you discover everything I have found there and more. And these cheesy speakers with their “transferable” tips from their successful business ventures to your life or their 3 secrets to achieving 10 times more than you (a mere average person) are such a shallow imitation and waste of human energy because often the purpose is to get you to conform to be someone that the world loves in order to gain the love of the world. I would recommend rejecting a love so fickle as that.

Because here’s the thing, every speaker regardless of popularity or topic has one thing in common. They are going to die. They can’t take their many achievements with them and I don’t buy into the lie perpetuated by many of my fawning English professors that notoriety after death is somehow a comfort and/or affirmation to them. I think it’s just a band-aid used to soften the fact that the reality of death scares a lot of people. However, it doesn’t scare me.

Because I’m not looking to achieve, I’m not looking to be better than the person sitting next to me, and I’m not looking to impress by my life or my legacy. I’ve been looking to love and be loved and the road to real love is not temporal or subject to change. It is instead an infinite and eternal gift which eliminates my fear of death, or even my fear of “failure” while alive, because I know that this love is Divine, both perfect and redemptive, and the only real thing to ever fear would be living my life in such a way as to not recognize it when it calls or worse, rejecting it when it is offered because I listened to one too many crappy speakers and believed the lie that the only type of love worth having is the love that I deserve.

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That One Time A Vegan Tried to Eat My Head Off

Incredibly, the title of this blog post is based on true events. One afternoon I was innocently eating copious amounts of cake, as I’m liable to do at office birthday parties,  and trying very hard not to fall asleep because I get sleepy after eating anything anymore it seems. I’m not sure if I should see a doctor or if it’s just adulthood.

Anyway, the birthday girl and her vegan friend were sitting across from me and having a conversation about cow milk versus the million other types of “milk” that exist these days. They made the mistake of thinking that I was listening to them when in fact I was, as I just admitted, eating copious amounts of cake and trying not to fall asleep.

Suddenly the vegan proceeded to put all these judgmental words in my mouth as she narrated what she supposed I was thinking as I sat eating my cake and hearing the two of them speak. It was hardly accurate, but I let it pass with a smile and opted not to say anything.

But she was not to be ignored. The conversation somehow transitioned to a discussion of doing laundry in the homes of exes and binge drinking. And the process repeated itself.

It was certainly something to behold because over the course of our conversation she spoke of her restrictive diet, daily life, and love of getting drunk and assumed I would judge her on all counts.

And it struck me as ironic because even though this girl struck me as comfortable in who she is, it was an almost frightening process watching all of these insecurities come to light as she laid all this judgment on herself in my name. She assumed that I had been silent because I had nothing nice to say and that if I had chosen to speak I would have been as harsh to her as she had just been to herself. And her eyes glistened with this reverse condemnation as she kept trying to bait me into saying something to prove her theory right.

It was a crazy moment for me because I knew that this outburst was not a result of anything I have ever said to this woman but rather a direct result of how I choose to live my life. That’s right, this person was offended by how I choose to live my life because my actionscheese conflict with her worldview and belief systems. She assumed that I’ve never done laundry at an ex’s house because she assumed that I lead a chaste life. She assumed that I don’t spend my evenings getting drunk or going to trendy clubs. She also assumed (incorrectly) that I would mock her diet choices because she knows I eat cheese and have an affinity for most dairy products. In short, she was mad at me for being me because she read my decline of a more stereotypical twentysomething existence as a judgment and rejection of herself. She saw me as a living embodiment of total condemnation and she was absolutely defiant in the face of this perception. I could see it in her eyes.

Believe it or not, I run into these kinds of attitudes a lot. I try to lead a holy life because I love God and I really would like to be a Saint when I die because I really want the beatific vision. Most people think that’s nothing short of crazy, especially for someone my age who is expected to be as shallow and aimless as the pervading millennial stereotype would suggest. However, this desire affects how I choose to live my life and sometimes it makes me stick out like a sore thumb. Especially when I am around people with no discernable religion who think that I act this way because I somehow think I am better than them. That I decline to partake in these actions just so I can arrogantly lord it over those who do as a way to feel good about myself.

This saddens me on many levels. The first level being that I really don’t have any ill will towards others even those whose lifestyles are vastly different from my own and it upsets me when people assume I do, not because of anything I’ve ever done, but because they don’t understand the love or belief system that motivates me and instead simplify it to a belief system they do understand: elitism and condescension. The second being that my generation is truly one that revels in bad behavior to a large degree because it is the cultural norm and fitting in is a huge temptation, especially for those who feel lost and/or long for a purpose. Even though society paints the glittering road to partying, hookups, and careers (wealth) as the road to success, fulfillment, and happiness I have come to believe through my experience that most who subscribe to that model do so as a distraction from a deeper pain or because they are still in the cycle of believing that once they finally attain those elusive things they will achieve the success, fulfilment, and happiness promised. And that makes me sad too because I believe that promise to be absolutely empty, a bold faced lie that leads to dissatisfaction if not total ruin.

Furthermore, I’ve never understood the general defensiveness of the worldly model. This girl puts on a cool and content demeanor but the words she used to judge herself were not mine they were her own. She had cooked up all these accusations against herself and dared me to step in to play the part of her accuser. In other words, beneath all of that bravado she was angry at herself and while she was not expressly happy with her life choices she was at least comforted in the fact that they are common and therefore, according to the world, excusable choices. But my presence stood in the way of that. My presence was a threat because it made those choices less common and consequently less acceptable, and she proceeded to get as defensive as you might expect.

People often don’t believe me when I say that my Catholic faith is very freeing because they see morality as “restrictive” and “repressive” to every “natural” urge and not nearly as exciting as the freedom to do whatever the heck you want whenever you feel like it. However, I would argue that one of the biggest freedoms of morality is that the process I described above does not happen in reverse. People don’t chastity-shame me (not for lack of trying!) but because it is a decision that does not cause me inward shame and I don’t ever regret practicing it. It does not cause me shame because I believe it to be right and I believe it to be a fundamentally good thing whereas when I experience shame it is typically because I believed myself to be in the wrong but went and did it anyway because I’m a weak and sinful person. And I choose chastity, for example, not because I feel like I have to or because God would send me straight to hell if I didn’t, but because honestly I like to practice the presence of God in each moment and the more I do that the less other pleasures of a more earthly variety appeal to me. It’s true. So it is hardly a personal victory when I turn down things that are no longer appealing to me in the first place. No one congratulates me when I opt to drink craft beer over Natural Light…

People often incorrectly assume that you have to be good and then God comes to you, but I have always done it in reverse, by virtue of my profound neediness, by inviting God to love me however He finds me in a given moment and letting Him love me to perfection. Because sometimes in my weakness the only thing I have to offer is a desire to be better (or even a desire to desire to be better). And the Trinitarian Christian God is so loving that even the smallest desires of this nature prove enough every time.

And my continuing down this path is not something I do to be “prudish” or something that stems from a desire to be superior to everyone else in the room, it is a choice I make because once you take the leap and invite God into your life He really will give you His healing and His love. And I persist in this endeavor for the very human reason that this simple yet profound love makes me happier and more joyful than all the other things of Earth combined. And that includes all those things the world insists you MUST HAVE in order to be happy such as material wealth, multiple sexual partners, nights of binge drinking in trendy clubs and yes, even cheese. And therein lies the freedom. Because if you believe you must have wealth, for example, to be happy then you become something of a slave to it because to lose your wealth would be to lose your happiness. But having God as my happiness is secure because not only is He faithful, He is the only thing in life or death that I can never lose.

Your Daily Dose of Inspiration

lol

So, as you perhaps gleaned from the picture above, I am not a fan of trite inspirational quotes.

I read a lot and I have to confess that there are certain articles and authors I have read that were recommended to me and have substantial readerships- and the writing is absolute garbage.

The style that gets to me the most is the one embodied in those cheesy lifestyle quotes like the one crossed out above. Media that glosses over life and makes it seem like the purpose of life is nothing more than to create a never ending series of enviable Instagram photos. And we measure success by this glossy materialism. Because “successful” people are the ones who manage to convince us that they live like that full time and graciously agree to share their “secret” as they spread their message “if you were just awesome like me you too could be awesome!” And people just eat this up like, “YES! This man is brilliant how shall we thank him for sharing his wisdom?” I mean, I can feel myself tearing up over that piece of profundity as I write.

But in all seriousness, to illustrate my point better I recently came across this delightful article about a man who made twenty-five million before he turned thirty. One of those internet start-up whiz kids from the sound of it. He has a very fancy, visually fetching promotion claiming to share his success story, but do you know what he doesn’t tell you? How he actually made his money or what his company actually does. Instead, he opts to offer advice that’s “transferable” to your life and your business. Gems like, “character is what makes a leader worth following.”

K

And he’s going to make even more millions from the millions he gets by encouraging the masses to become millionaires too!

And then he’ll humbly tell us that money and success isn’t the most important thing…

I suppose it’s a nice gimmick if you can get it, but this cycle drives me crazy.

I went through the cycle a lot as I was learning to blog because there really isn’t a secret to success, but everyone tries to market like they have it and can get you 100,000 readers overnight.  It’s like they’re afraid of honesty, admitting that much of success is a matter of chance and nothing teaches quite like experience. And, while I’m happy this guy achieved his goals, I need a more substantial role model to meet my goals because they far exceed the world of business.

I guess what I’m saying is I suppose it bothers me because I’m a Christian and I’m used to ancient wisdom, not just empty phrases featuring feel good “life-pro” tips or shallow tales of successful businessmen who all look the same, but a genuine, life-altering worldview that gets perpetually more beautiful the more I discover it. And when I hear these watered down sugar shots of happy sunshine and instant success (like literary Red Bull) I can’t help but roll my eyes a little, because it’s like opting to stand ankle deep in the kiddie pool when you could be swimming in the ocean (or at least the adult pool with the diving board if you don’t like saltwater and sand.)

Maybe my lousy metaphors don’t do anything for you, but you’ll just have to take my word for it when I say there’s nothing quite like the real thing and these flashy imitations are a waste of your time. So don’t live, laugh, love. Live the life abundant, a life that comprises each moment of time and spans through all eternity. And live each moment well.