Monday, March 10, 2008

A Talk in the Park about the Paradoxes Related to Experience and Work

Last Sunday I met with Dr. Cotton. After sharing a sandwich at Crispers, we walked out to a bench in Munn Park to dialogue. It was warm and breezy. Among the things we discussed was a chapter by Robert Inchausti called "Postmodern Merton?" Park of our conversation went like this:

Inchausti said (for Merton): "We experience our true selves, our silent selves, only in those moments when grace redeems existence from within our own despair. This is not a theoretical or even conscious achievement, but rather a flash of recognition, followed by a humbling sense that as bad as things may seem to us, all things are in their rightful place."

I said: "A flash of recognition implies conscious experience. I don't think that this should be considered the universal standard. Unless as Inchausti says on the page before, 'This awareness of Being is totally different from an awareness of self-consciousness.' If its totally different, than okay, it isn't necessarily experiential, and 'flash' is just a way of saying what is hard to describe.

"This is important to me because I don't want to feel less spiritual if, say, this past week I was tired and busy. And I didn't make time for silence and prayer, and I wasn't as 'aware.' I don't want to live like that, but I don't want to feel guilty or like less of a Christian."

And Cotton said: "But because the spiritual is totally different from the mental, you don't even know what it is until you experience it. And aren't there 'saints' and 'sages' who we would benefit from being in the presence of? They have a more continual awareness. Jesus lived and ministered with a great level of awareness.

"Paradox is necessary for the Christian life. What you've said, what Inchausti says, what I've said: these are all true."

We strive not. But practicing our spiritual disciplines with discipline is good to do. Awareness of the spiritual is good. But slipping into distraction is not worse. Cotton pointed out to me that Keating says, There is no journey: once we've entered the kingdom of God, we're there. But we keep on going.

--Paul Corrigan

1 comment:

RC said...

Paul, thank you for this great reflection. Very important insights for mature spiritual living. I thoroughly enjoyed our lunch that Sunday, and this renewed my enjoyment of it. Thank you!

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