The marching music of the next century will undoubtedly be religion and nationalism. The choir practice has already started. Children of light and children of darkness are already being sorted out everywhere. Brutality, violence, and inhumanity, as Simone Weil knew, have always had an immense and secret prestige. We now only require a new superior morality to justify them.
– Charles Simic, writing in a 1995 essay “Orphan Factory,” from his collection of essays, The Life of Images
“Oh, God, we have been an exile in our own country
and a stranger in another land…” – Bruce “Utah” Phillips
anomie noun (Concise Encyclopedia)
In the social sciences, a condition of social instability or personal unrest resulting from a breakdown of standards and values or from a lack of purpose or ideals. The term was introduced in 1897 by Émile Durkheim, who believed that one type of suicide (anomic) resulted from the breakdown of social standards that people need and use to regulate their behavior. Robert K. Merton studied the causes of anomie in the U.S., finding it severest in persons who lack acceptable means of achieving their cultural goals. Delinquency, crime, and suicide are often reactions to anomie. See also alienation.
Hell is a concretization of your life experiences, a place where you’re stuck, the wasteland. In hell, you are so bound to yourself that grace cannot enter. The problem with hell is that the fire doesn’t consume you. The fires of transformation do. Fire is symbolic of the night sea journey, the upcoming of shadow – repressed biography, history and traumas – and the burning of the imps of malice. Purgatory is a place where that fire is turned into a purging fire that burns out the fear system, burns out the blockage so that it will open.
If hell is a wasteland, then purgatory would be the journey where you leave the place of pain. You are still in pain, but you’re in quest with a sense of possible realization. There is no longer despair. You really do not have a sacred place, a rescue land, until you can find some little field of action, or place to be, where it’s not a wasteland, where there is a little spring of ambrosia. It’s a joy that comes from inside. It is not something that puts the joy in you, but a place that lets you so experience your own will, your own intention, and your own wish that, in small, the joy is there. The sin against the Holy Ghost, I think is despair. The Holy Ghost is that which inspires you to realization, and despair is the feeling that nothing can come. That is absolute hell.
Find a place where there’s joy,
and the joy will burn out the pain.
– Joseph Campbell
There’s no sin in being overpowered by a deadly storm.
Beyond mental illness we can be defeated in life by many other things. Tragedy, heartbreaking loss, unrequited obsession, and crippling shame can at times break a heart, crush a will, kill a spirit, and bring death to a body. And our judgment on this should reflect our understanding of God: What all-loving, merciful God would condemn someone because he or she…could not weather the storm? Does God side with our own narrow notions where salvation is mostly reserved for the strong? Not if Jesus is to be believed.
Notice when Jesus points out sin he doesn’t point to where we are weak and defeated; rather he points to where we are strong, arrogant, indifferent, and judgmental. Search the Gospels and ask this question: On whom is Jesus hardest? The answer is clear: Jesus is hardest on those who are strong, judgmental, and have no feeling for those who are enduring the storm. Notice what he says about the rich man who ignores the poor man at his doorstep, what he says about the priest and scribe who ignore the man beaten in a ditch, and how critical he is of the scribes and Pharisees who are quick to define who falls under God’s judgment and who doesn’t.
– Ronald Rolheiser
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if I had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
Mohandas K. Gandhi: “When I despair, I remember that all through history, the way of truth and love has always won. There have been murderers and tyrants, and for a time they seem invincible. But in the end they always fall. Think of it, always.”
We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry. – William Butler Yeats
Photo: Lewiston, ME – February 2013
We cannot assert that someone who is well behaved, devout, and virtuous in ordinary life, is also already certain of surviving the great situations where it is a question of life or death. The grace of such endurance is a grace that no one can merit by good behavior in ordinary life. But ordinary life is indeed the way in which we must remain ready for the decisive situations; it can be the way in which God wants to give us the very grace—which we cannot demand—of surviving the great hours of our life. We must be faithful in little things in order to be permitted to hope that God in his grace will also send us faithfulness in great things. – Karl Rahner, Words of Faith
When a man’s self is hidden from everybody else . . . it seems also to become hidden even from himself, and it permits disease and death to gnaw into his substance without his clear knowledge. — Sidney Jourard