Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Reaching for the Sycamore (or, A Slap on the Wrist)

Aphorism of the day: “He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.”  AESCHYLUS 525-456 B.C.

“Do you believe in God?” In a Gallup poll a couple of years ago, more than 9 in 10 Americans said "yes" when asked that basic question. I know . . . you never talk about sex, politics, or religion. I’ve heard that all my life; in one ear and out the other like many dogmatic rules forced on youth. Look at our literature, movies, and TV shows, all of them will have at least one of those topics, and most of them have all three.

My first six years of school were at Holy Names, mass every morning, then walked across the driveway from church to school and the first hour of the study was Catechism. But before that we had to pray again. I remember we all kneeled backward in our desk, my hands together in supplication, reciting the Lord’s Prayer and Hail Mary. A large sycamore tree grew outside a window close to my desk; its limbs I could reach through the window and touch. Every morning at the exact same time, I stared at that tree, mumbling my prayers, and waited for the sun hiding behind the sycamore to show its face. The sun highlighted the trees exfoliating bark, which was flaked off in great irregular masses, leaving a mottled, pure-white smooth surface, and in a blink of the eye the sun burst through my window. Millions of golden color cosmic dust particles blasted past my face riding on a shaft of sun rays; it was like God’s opening curtain of a play. I was lost in a dream world, started spitting, firing my artillery of miniscule spitballs into the invading cosmic dust as rockets and mortars exploded through the convoy of sunlight. It was a blitzkrieg, a battle for control of the sky. Then a bomb was dropped into the room, a loud slam of a wooden ruler onto my desktop, and from behind me, I heard an angry shout from Sister Agnes George, “James A. Carson, stick out your hands . . . NO, palms down!”  She brought the ruler down hard on my knuckles. I doubled over, my hands tucked and in a ball. I screamed loud enough to break the glass in the windows and followed that with a mournful cry, “You broke my hand.” She put her arms around me, smothering me with her huge boobs, “I’m so sorry, please forgive me,” she said. The whole classroom watched terrified, then uproarious laughter filled the room when the others saw the large grin on my face and heard my muffled giggles. Sister Agnes George pulled me by my ear out of the classroom, down the hall, and marched me into Father O’Brian’s office.

What does all this mean? Like Aeschylus above said, no matter how much we screw up, we can’t avoid God’s grace. And more than 3,000 years ago, King Solomon said, “We must search for meaning and purpose of life: How strange that people spend their lives striving for the very enjoyment that God gives freely, as a gift.” And lastly and more recently, the man that speaks to my mind and soul, whose writings guided me through my labyrinth studies of religions, Carl Jung: Among all my patients, from all civilized countries on the earth, there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because he had lost that which the living religions of every age have given to their followers and none of them has been really healed who did not regain his religious outlook.” And if all this is not enough, check out what this Harvard professor has to say:   

No comments:

Post a Comment