Monday, January 31, 2011

It's a Fact

The ground is covered with mush, and another storm is coming. The kids have cabin fever, and the snow has provided only limited relief. We are frustrated with our children and then frustrated with ourselves for being too frustrated. Or else its work. Its Monday. Now I work at home these days so I don't experience this regular hours/commute business, but I have been there and done that. Whatever we're doing, we wake up in the morning and wonder if there is anything in the day that we can look forward to. So where is God in all this? Well I have my "faith," of course. I say my morning prayer. I offer "everything" to God. But what is my daily experience? Basically, here is my religion over in this spot: what I believe, prayers to say, stuff I have to do (and not do), and a basic assumption that it really has more to do with the future than the present (I'm making little insurance payments for after I die). Then, over here, on this other spot, is my life today. Religion is "part" of it, and then there is all the other stuff, which involves getting throught the day as comfortably as possible, pleasing myself, avoiding problems as much as possible, attending to responsibilities and relationships, accomplishing my own goals, trying to "be happy." That's my experience. That, however, is not reality. God became man. God has inserted Himself into every circumstance of my life; He is present and all of those circumstances are His personal plan for me, His concrete shaping of my destiny here and now. Here is an important point: to say "He is present in my life" is not to lay on an additional moral weight, as though the awareness of this should lead me to say, "yeah, He is present and I am still screwing up." The point is this: "He is present" IS A FACT, before I interpret it, before I think about whether it makes me better or worse, before I do anything at all, He is present. He takes the initiative, He governs my life, He sees everything and shapes everything, and gives my life to me and lives it with me--provoking the response of my freedom as I act and struggle and suffer what is being given to me. He knows I'm going to screw up and He has provided for that too. He knows that I am largely unaware of His presence but that just makes Him more attentive. (How much are your kids aware of their dependence on you?) That is something worth stressing: His presence NOW in my life is a fact. It is reality. No matter how bad a day it has been, He is here. Not vague, not abstract, not in the clouds. Right here, with me, totally embracing my life, "nearer to me than I am to myself," loving me more than I love myself. But I want to be more aware of this, of course. We have to ask Him to make us more aware of the reality of His presence in our daily life. We must beg for this. It is reality, and therefore it is the only thing that is going to make us happy. I beg. But it doesn't seem to be happening. That means I have to beg more. He will deepen my awareness in His time, in His way, according to the mystery of the person He is making me to be. When we ask God to make us more aware of His loving presence in our lives, we have already begun to be more aware.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Why Does He Like Sports So Much????

The culture of sports in our society, like most things in our society, is OUT OF CONTROL. The physical and psychological pressure on athletes, the preposterous amounts of money involved, the 24/7 media hyper-analysis, the scandals, the fact that athletes sacrifice their real life for their careers, etc. I know all this and it causes me great sorrow. But I still love sports. Why?

The fact is that I haven't worked out all the reasons myself yet. I have always been a sports nut. I don't think it contradicts my philosophical side. I used to love to play sports. I can't do much in the way of sports anymore, but I do love to watch. There are many reasons, but one of them is this: Sports is, in our culture, a realm in which realism still prevails (at least on the field or court). You are not allowed to have a personal interpretation of whether or not it was a basket. You can't say, "well, it was a basket for me even though it might not have been a basket for you." It either went through the hoop or it didn't. Period. There are rules, boundaries, the need for effort, the need to pay attention to other people, the need to submit to objective facts that you can't bend with your own mind. This is fundamentally good and healthy.

At least on the field, sports have preserved the context necessary for some kind of real human drama, even if it is only play. We do, after all, need "play" in our lives. It is hard, however, to bracket out the monstrous business of the sports industry, and how it devours people (although it should also be said that many good people work in the sports profession, and sports on various levels make many positive contributions to our community--like everything else in our world, there is the good, the bad, and the ugly). And there are many things in our culture that are much worse.

As I said, the bottom line on the playing field is that you have to deal with reality. In my profession, academia, you can say anything you want about anything you want and call it "interpretation" (as long as you know how to manipulate the system, push the right buttons, ride the prevailing trends). In sports, you've got to sink that jump shot. The real ball has to go through a real hoop. When the game starts, there is no huckstering, politics, or distortion. There is a field or a court and you've got to use it. You've got to play by the rules. That's what I find refreshing and hopeful about sports.

I Bow to the Will of the People

Well, there were lots of votes for a blog, so here I go. I think that I shall begin very simply, with a quotation:

"No gesture exists that does not involve the whole world. That's why we get up every morning: to help Christ save the world, with the strength we have, with the light we possess, asking Christ to give us more light and more strength" (Luigi Giussani).