Monday, February 15, 2010
Think On These Things
"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and seen in me, do, and the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:8-9
When I was in high school and college I spent a good deal of time reading and praying about lessons from the Old and New Testaments. St. Paul's exhortation to the Philippians, noted above, has always held deep meaning for me. It teaches the way to a) maintain a positive attitude, b) is excellent advice for warding off depression, and c) is a wonderful first step for problem solving when one is confronted with problems.
This has all come to mind again recently as I have watched television take on darker and darker themes. There seems to be a marked increase in shows that deal with a non-Christian view of spirituality-- shows that elevate magic, and the afterlife or vampires, which, of course are very popular these days. There are increasingly gruesome crime scenes and an exploration into the psyche of those who torture or perform unthinkable acts on others. On a certain level it is fascinating. I admit that I am drawn to many of the shows that deal with crime. On the simplest level, they are about good and evil. Mixed in to even the best shows, however, are the little jabs against my beliefs.
There is very little to watch that inspires one to be a better person, but there is plenty to normalize our baser instincts. There are few times when Catholic virtues are supported, and many more times when their ideal is actually mocked. It's funny, too, because really, the argument against Catholic ideals doesn't have much to support it. Mocking virtue and idealizing vice hardly holds up to real scrutiny. But isn't that the idea? In a way, aren't we just being numbed or lulled into a torpor so we won't scrutinize. Taking the path of least resistance, we can drift further from our truest selves, further from our real capacities. It's like Western culture has become so adolescent that we stand as a group and laugh at things we don't even understand, but act in front of one another as though we have superiority. Western culture thinks it is pretty "cool".
We know better. What good parent doesn't hold up some sort of ideal for their children? Who wouldn't encourage their child to improve their soccer or reading skills, or to practice their violin? We know it takes effort to meet our goals. So maybe the problem is that we have lost sight of our spiritual and moral goals. Maybe the problem is that we have replaced the real and authentic, with something that is not real but counterfeit.
There is a story, and I don't know the source or I would give it. But it is the story of someone who works in the banking industry. He or she is an expert at identifying counterfeit bills. This individual was asked one time about how he got so good at identifying counterfeit bills, and if he didn't have to see a lot of counterfeit money as part of his education. His reply was that he didn't need to study the counterfeits. He studied the genuine bill. That is all he did. If you study and know the genuine, you can spot a counterfeit.
So this is the point I am making. If we submerge ourselves in what is base, we are likely to lose sight of the virtues and our moral compass may drift, over time, leading us down a path that we never really intended to travel. This doesn't happen because we are bad, but because we are human. We are easily influenced by what we hear and see, and if we are not paying attention, we may forget ourselves.
So St. Paul's words speak to me. And that is why I post this photo of the gladiolus. It is not the best picture of a flower that you will ever see. But it is good enough. And I hope it points you to consider something good, and true and beautiful.
As we approach Lent this coming Wednesday, may we all turn our hearts back to the One who made them. May we take each other's hands to guide us all back to the path if we have strayed. Our happiness truly comes from Him.
Peace to you, my friend.