Monthly Archives: September 2008

Relativism in the Workplace

Some days, I feel like no matter how hard I work, my inbox grows faster than I can keep pace with it.  I am busy, busy, busy, all day, and it looks as if I didn’t do a thing.  I begin to despair over its overflowing and unruly state.  It starts to become so bad that I can’t even SEE my inbox:

 My Inbox -- DSCN3828

But then, I happen to catch a glance at my boss’s inbox and realize that it could be much, MUCH worse:

 His Inbox -- DSCN3830

And then, I feel better.  🙂

I Totally Flunked!


Take the test.

Have you ever gotten one of those quizzes where they asked you a series of questions to determine your survivability if you were ever a character in a horror flick?

Yeah, well I had a “horror flick” type of experience, and let me tell you, I broke every horror flick survival rule.  Here’s the story:

Yesterday, I got home after a talk at OLGC around 10 pm.  I parked my car up the driveway by the back door, as usual.  The motion light for the back door comes on, and I get out of the car.  I hear a male voice coming from the front yard/driveway call out, “Hello.”  I turn to look, but because I am in the light and everything is dark — I can’t see a thing.

So, I call back, “Hello?”

I hear nothing.

Critical error #1:  I start walking towards the voice.  I’m still kinda blind because of the light and can’t even see the location of the person.  But, I figure, I have to get the mail anyway, right?  I call out, “Who is it?  I can’t see you!”

No answer.  This is not good.  I have an unknown male at an unknown location not too far from me, who is not telling me who he is.

Critical error #2:  I continue to walk towards the mailbox/person.  He says something like “Hello” again.  Again, I say that I can’t see them, and ask who it is.  No reply. 

Critical error #3:  I continue walking, blindly, towards the person, who I see now as a shadowy male figure, whom I cannot identify.  I am a little concerned that it’s either the one neighbor, or the creepy neighbor.  Finally, a little sense enters my brain and I think to myself that maybe walking right up to this person is not the best decision to have made.  With this realization:

Critical error #4:  I keep going!  Whoo!  No sense of self-preservation in this girl!  I am such a good, cooperative little victim, eh?  It would probably serve me right if it were the Spawn of Chucky at the end of the driveway waiting for me with a machete.

So, I completely flunked my horror flick quiz.  When I finally got to the end of the driveway, I didn’t immediately recognize the man, since he normally walks around the block wearing a hat.  It was the nice Albanian gentleman who lives sort of across the street from me.  He doesn’t really speak English, so he probably didn’t know what I was asking him as I walked up the driveway.  He has 3 adult children with families who also have houses on my street.

He said “Hi” again when I got up to him.  Communication was a little hard, because I don’t speak Albanian, and he doesn’t speak English.  After a few hellos, he was still hanging at my driveway, and I didn’t know why he was there.  Did he need help with something?  I asked how he was doing — if he was good, and he said “Good.  Good.”  I became worried that I had cut him off or something when I had turned into my driveway when he was out for his walk, and tried to ask him about this, but I don’t think he understood what I was asking, and in any case did not appear to be upset or anything, just pleasant.  I asked what he had been doing, or how his day was, or something like that, and he replied, “8 o’clock – work; 4 o’clock – work; 8 o’clock – work; 10 o’clock,” and he shrugs.  I thought that he was talking about something in his day.  Then, I came to realize that he was making a comment about how I am never home.

He must have seen that I was confused or concerned or something, because then he was giving me a big bear hug and saying, “I sorry.  I sorry.”  Then, we just kind of smiled and laughed and he gave me another hug, and I grabbed my mail and we went our separate ways.

So, while it turned out to be a good experience, children, don’t try this at home!  Some alternative reactions that were suggested to me by my coworkers were:  1) stay/get back into the car or 2) call the police or 3) go inside your house as if you hadn’t heard the “Hello.”

Lessons on Love

I know that I’m messed up in many ways, but particularly in the area of love. I frequently think and feel that I have no value, sometimes even that I am not quite a person. Spiritually sick, I know. I’m working on it, but I’m not really sure how to go about getting better. For me, my worth and my loveableness (is that a word? well, it is now!) are entirely wrapped up in how useful I am to others. I have been so deeply mired in the culture of death that wrong-thinking follows me everywhere and colors all of my interactions, as I suspect it does for many people, if they really critically look at how they relate with others. But sadly, most people do not think and do not really examine their actions and thoughts except on a superficial level.

Don’t think that I am exempt from this! Ha! But, I want to work on going deeper than just superficial things to really attack the heart of the matter. I don’t want to be sick, but I suppose that I can’t keep my head in the sand when it comes to my sins and the various ways in which I just don’t get it.

It is pretty much safe to say that I am messed up, topically, on anything that has to do with the Theology of the Body. It’s very hard to give a gift of yourself when you don’t think that your self is anything worth giving. If I am nothing important, than giving me to someone else isn’t that great of a gift.

Okay, that’s definitely a work in progress, and one that is just beginning at that. On to love, since that topic is intermeshed in the whole Theology of the Body topic. Obviously, I need a lot of help to learn what it means to truly love another person as God loves. Sure, I’ve had experience with the warm fuzzies, and with wanting good things for others, but to truly love as God loves, it needs to go beyond that.

Truly, thanks be to God, for He is helping me with this. It has long been the case, (or at least nearly as long as I’ve been Catholic, so about a year and a half or so) that I’ve felt that God has given me a specific person to teach me what it means to love another. I didn’t want to like this person, much less love him. I would have been perfectly happy to avoid this person and interact with him on a need-only basis. Nothing against the person at all, but I was uncomfortable in his presence and a little frightened of him — for no reason — and had made up my mind to minimize interaction.

Well, we all know what happens when we tell God our plans. I think He’s still laughing at me.

So, God made it so that I came to love this person. He is my example and my lesson. It isn’t just that by watching how he interacts with people that I learn what it is like to give of yourself to others, even though he is a good example in his own actions as far as I can tell. But it is more that God has so put him on my heart, that I can’t help but learn, despite how messed up I am. Believe me when I say that I can objectify anyone and take anyone for granted and be as mean and self-centered as anyone else. Except with this person.

And, because I am just that sick, I tried. That’s right, I’ve tried to see if I could think bad things or fantasize inappropriately or something like this. Not that I particularly wanted to sin, or to invite temptation or anything — that wasn’t my intention — but I didn’t know what this was and I wanted, I suppose, to probe the depths of my sickness and see just how sick I was. “Am I **this** bad??” But no. Yes, with other people, there is no end to my imagination. But with this person, I cannot go there. I try to think of these things, and the thought just slips away from me like a greased bubble. What an awesome grace that is! Truly! I wish I had that for everyone! I was concerned, too, for a while that I had some sort of sick obsession or fixation, but this has absolutely nothing to do with romantic love and doesn’t have a selfish aspect to it that I can tell. It doesn’t have anything to do with what I can “get” from the relationship. I am just thrilled with the fact that he exists. And how wonderful it is to know that even through death, there is the possibility of seeing that person again in Heaven. Assuming that I make that Purgatory cut-off.

For this person, I always want what is good for him, even if that is not what is also good for me. I have true concern for him and he is the only person that I automatically pray for every day. Not that there aren’t other people that I pray for every day, because I do have several people that I pray for on a daily basis.  The difference is, for this person, it’s not something that I think about. I can’t help but pray for him daily. It’s not a burden or a box to check or an afterthought or a list or anything like that, but a concern to make sure that God knows to take care of this person. I am constantly bringing him before the Lord in prayer. God probably laughs at me for that, too. 🙂

Truly, Thank You, Lord, for this. If I am paying attention, I can try to catch myself in my interactions with others and substitute this other person to see if my actions and thoughts are truly loving. If I would react differently, then I know that I am being less than truly loving, and that I need to adjust what it is that I am doing.

So, what prompts me to write all of this today?  Not really for the sake of telling you all this.  Actually, it is quite embarrassing to me. I think people will take it the wrong way, or think that I do have some weird, disordered attachment. So, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t say anything. But, this morning, I think I was taught another lesson, and if I am to relate that to you, then I needed to give you some background. Sorry it took so long, but that’s the way I roll. 🙂

Not too long ago, I was in a conversation with a group of people, and the topic eventually came around to this person. Nothing was said which was bad, and everyone there truly liked and cared for this person, but for some reason it was unsettling to me. I didn’t really have anything to contribute to the conversation, and was mostly listening, and maybe, somehow that was worse. Like I was hearing things I didn’t need to hear. Again, not that I was hearing dark secrets or anything like that, but just — I don’t know — personal things that either should come from him directly, or not at all. It was a passing feeling that I managed to brush off. Feelings come and go, and I know that the people there loved him as well, so it must just be that I was being silly, because it was all benign.

Then, this morning on the way to Mass, I was recalling this conversation, and for whatever reason, I just felt heartsick about it and felt like I should apologize to him. For exactly what, I wasn’t sure, but it felt a little bit like…a violation, perhaps. Ooh, just typing that sounds so harsh. And it wasn’t like that. Don’t think anything bad about the people in the conversation. I think it has much less to do with them, because their comments really were benign, and more to do with the fact that God is using (again) this person in this situation to teach me a lesson about love.

It has been said that if you truly love a person, then you have an infinite desire to know everything about that person. I know that is true for me, but this felt like the wrong way to go about getting information. Again, completely benign, but it cut that person out of it. If love is to have a relationship with another person, than some information should come out of interaction with that person directly. Kind of like if I decide to have a relationship with a particular saint, and I research the saint and talk to people about that saint, but never actually engage that saint in conversation or pray to him or her. There’s something wrong with that interaction. Not that the research or the conversation about the saint was bad, but that there was something lacking. An absence of intimacy. Or a detachment which shouldn’t be there.

A lesson to me that a person is not a thing to be loved, but a person to be loved — which is a particular lesson for me. Let me say again, how truly glad I am that I God gave me this person, and that He is using him in this way. Please, Lord, bless him and keep him in Your love.

A New Semester Begins!

This year, Lindsay, Terry and I are studying Jeff Cavins‘s Adventures in Matthew, part of the Great Adventure series.  I am so excited to be starting Bible study again!  I have really missed it since last year.  We started off the “school year” right, with Lindsay bringing a delicious dinner of lasagna with home-grown veggies, and grapes to snack on during class.  I thought it was hilarious.  Less than 2 years ago, I wasn’t even thinking of joining the Church.  1 year ago, I was just starting going to daily Mass and getting more involved.  Now, we are taking over the social hall dining room/silverware for our dinner — we are moving in!  🙂

Here is the scene this morning, as I have taken the day off to **finally** have my dryer delivered (Yay!  I can actually do my laundry at home!  Read more on the laundry saga here):
A New Semester Begins!
As you can see, I have my Bible (kind of important, you know, for a Bible study), my Catechism (hiding under the Matthew binder), the binder for Adventures in Matthew containing the Questions and the Answers (promise, I won’t cheat — except if you count it to be cheating to answer your questions in front of the Tabernacle), paper/notes, and the ever-necessary Starbucks!

 Yippee!  I’m so excited to see what we will learn this year!  Last year’s Great Adventure Bible Timeline was a great, great course for me, and really helped me to understand the stories of the Bible and to get some idea of the history (coming from no background at all, it gave me a MUCH needed foundation).  I highly recommend this series to anyone wanting to get to know the Bible better. 

Meme of the Day

Thanks to Ironic Catholic, who has saved me from bludgeoning my head against “Confessions” for another 10 minutes while I try to figure out what kind of person I am.  I call it Remote Spiritual Direction….  🙂

You are a Dynamic Leader.

Dynamic Leader

about you

You are a Leader

  • Your solid grounding in the practicalities of life, along with your self-assuredness and your willingness to appreciate new things make you a LEADER.
  • You’re in touch with what is going on around you and adept at remaining down-to-earth and logical.
  • Although you’re detail-oriented, this doesn’t mean that you lose the big picture.
  • You tend to find beauty in form and efficiency, as opposed to finding it in broad-based, abstract concepts.
  • Never one to pass on an adventure, you’re consistently seeking and finding new things, even in your immediate surroundings.
  • Because of this eagerness to pursue new experiences, you’ve learned a lot; your attention to detail means that you gain a great deal from your adventures.
  • The intellectual curiosity that drives you leads you to seek out causes of and reasons behind things.
  • Your confidence gives you the potential to take your general awareness and channel it into leadership.
  • You’re not set on one way of doing things, and you often have the skills and persistence to find innovative ways of facing challenges.
  • You are well-attuned to your talents, and can deal with most problems that you face.
  • You do your own thing when it comes to clothing, guided more by practical concerns than by other people’s notions of style.
  • Generally, you believe that you control your life, and that external forces only play a limited role in determining what happens to you.
  • If you want to be different:

  • There’s more to life than the practical – take some time to daydream and explore the aesthetic sides of things.
  • how you relate to others

    You are Dynamic

  • As someone who is DYNAMIC, you do not have a hard time meeting new people, and you have a bunch of close friends.
  • You are not overly concerned with what others may think about you, which leaves you free to be thoroughly involved in the world around you.
  • There are those who find being around people exhausting—but not you! Interacting with others, whether at a party or in conversation, gives you energy.
  • You have a strong sense of what the world is like and how it should be.
  • You have enormous respect for those who have earned their success, and have little patience for those who try to bend the rules or ride on the coattails of others’ hard work.
  • Believing in the importance of integrity and hard work doesn’t stop you from believing that people will do the right thing—you know that people are good at heart.
  • You sometimes have trouble understanding why others feel the way they do, but it doesn’t stop you from having faith and trust in those around you.
  • Part of what makes engaging with people so interesting for you is that you occasionally learn something new about yourself or about a problem you’re having when discussing things with others.
  • Your strong worldview leads you to believe that people shouldn’t rely on their emotions so much when making decisions.
  • If you want to be different:

  • Taking some time to explore others’ perspectives could make spending time with people even more compelling than it already is.
  • Making an effort to see the complexities of situations might open your eyes to alternative perspectives of how the world works.
  • Those who are as outgoing as you are often need to remind themselves that time alone can be just as fulfilling—take some time for yourself and you might find that there are many things in your inner world that are just as compelling as the world outside your window.

    Just Which Jane Austen Character *Am* I?

    Of course, I am not all that well versed in Jane Austen, but well, sometimes I like to do these little memes anyway. Thanks to Kasia, for posting the link on her blog.

    I am Catherine Morland!

    You are Catherine Morland of Northanger Abbey! You love a good Gothic romance – so much, in fact, that you’ll fool yourself into thinking you’re living one! You are imaginative and naive, which is at once endearing and perplexing. Perhaps your heart is TOO pure…but it is adventurous. After all, you love a trip to Bath or a stay at an ancient Abbey.

    Racking Up Time in Purgatory, I’m Sure….

    Okay, those screams you have been hearing for the past two weeks?  The screams of frustration?  Those have been mine.  I’ve been reading St. Augustine, and he’s been driving me absolutely bonkers.  Yup, that’s right.  I’m having issues with a saint.  So, obviously I’m going to get some extra time in Purgatory for that.  I’m pretty sure I “yelled” at him, and it’s quite possible that there may have been some banging of my little fist.

    What, you ask, has been irritating me so much?  Well, okay, I get that he used to belong to the Manicheans and that they had this whole dualistic good/bad soul/body thing going on.  And, somehow, this ties in with matter being bad and the spirit being good.  For a lot of the book, St. Augustine keeps going on asking about how God can be matter and is He matter and maybe He can’t be matter, since matter is by nature finite and he is infinite, but that maybe in a non-matter way he surrounds and permeates all of creation.

    I’m like, “What does it matter?!?  Get on with it already!”  It doesn’t do, for me, to keep questioning the same thing over and over if you never seem to make any progress with the question.  (And he *knew* there were going to be people reading the book, he even says so at one point.  So, you can’t say that it was his personal thing — I mean it was, but he also knew he had an audience.)  Now you know that I have very little patience for repetition, especially repetition that I don’t find to be personally useful.  (What was that?  Pride and no patience?  Getting lower on the Purgatory food-scale by the minute, you say?)

    At this point, I’m more than halfway through the book.  And I’m thinking that St. Augustine is really going to need a good pool-noodling, that is if I ever manage to make it into Heaven.  THEN!  He starts talking about memory!  Again with the matter and substance.  I’m not sure why everything has to be a tangible object with him, but he starts off with talking about memory in these concrete terms.  Okay, so he’s trying to conceptualize this.  I can give him a few pages to work this out, all right, but I’m still irritated about the whole God/matter/substance issue, so my patience is thin.

    One particular passage which irritated me was:

    “When, therefore, I remember memory, then memory is present to itself by itself, but when I remember forgetfulness then both memory and forgetfulness are present together – the memory by which I remember the forgetfulness which I remember.”  — St. Augustine, “Confessions”

     He kept talking about the paradoxical nature of remembering an absence, and to me, the answer was so simple, the fact that he didn’t think of it was irritating.  Me:  “It’s not that you are remembering an absence of remembering, but that you are remembering the awareness of the absence of remembering, which is an entirely different thing, and one which does not cause a paradoxical event.”

    It’s so simple!  Why doesn’t he get it?!  Well, I’m sure he’s sitting up there in Heaven saying much the same things about me….

    Enough with the memory issue.  Now…let’s move on to time!  Oh yes, we can really irritate Jenn speaking about time!  And how past and future cannot exist, since we only exist and can act in the present.  He makes this statement, “The past increases by the diminuation of the future until by the consumption of all the future all is past.”

    This is now irritating me so much that I am squawking about St. Augustine to everyone:  Fr. John, Lynn, my boss, coworkers, friends….  An excerpt from an e-mail discussion, me speaking, “Here he is more stating the phenomenon of how the future becomes the past, through the passage of the present.”

    Donny:  “You are probably right since I don’t have the context. I think now I will check my college for the book. Then we can discuss it properly.  It is astonishing! I think it it one of the most extraordinary phenomenon that we can direct, and ceaselessly, experience. I like the word diminuation (great choice here) meaning decline: change toward something smaller or lower (after I looked it up).  But it still seems to me that he is indicating a resolution in time, that it is not cyclical (a big bang to singularity over and over, although another theory is that space will expand and never contract) or infinite.”

    Me:  “I think he is more to questioning the paradoxical question of how can time be ever turning from future to present to past, when we can ever only be in a present, for a past has already happened and a future is yet to come, and how, in that manner, can we come to measure either time, since time is a subjective reality and unable to be measured in a finite quantity since every fraction of ‘now’ can only ever be experienced ‘now’.”

    Donny:  “Well put. I think he is, like all of, trying the grapple with the concept of time. We have had to give time measurement to give greater relevance to the passage of our lives. Birthdays, a good example. This is fine for us but does not explain time. Although what phenomenon can be considered explained. We have only theories about those observations.”

    It does help me a lot to have someone to bounce ideas off of, but St. Augustine is still really irritating me.  Now that I have been irritated by matter, memory and time, those plate glass windows behind me look awfully tempting for smacking my head into in frustration.  When expressing my vexation to a coworker, she kindly points out to me the location of the paper shredder and suggests that maybe I would like some nice Eastern religion books on metaphysics.

    Well, that’s not going to help!  I’ll still be frustrated, and moreso that I didn’t make it through the book! 

    Then, at the height of my vexation, I read this,

    “And I shall not have to endure the questions of those people who, as if in a morbid disease, thirst for more than they can hold and say, ‘What did god make before he made heaven and earth?’ or, ‘How did it come into his mind to make something when he had never before made anything?'”

    WHAT?!?!?  How can he be irritated at other people’s questions when HIS questions are so irritating?!?  I can almost hear him snortling at me.  Is it funny that I’m getting so upset?  Probably.  🙂

    I’m now really hoping that Fr. John will be able to help me with this, because I can’t think that being so irritated with a saint can be a good thing, and I really don’t like being irritated.  In the meantime, I’ve prayed for understanding.  One night, I decided to put down the book, and I picked up “Spe Salvi” instead.  And here I found:

    “Saint Thomas Aquinas, using the terminology of the philosophical tradition to which he belonged, explains it as follows:  faith is a habitus, that is, a stable disposition of the spirit, through which eternal life takes root in us and reason is led to consent to what it does not see.  The concept of ‘substance’ is therefore modified in the sense that through faith, in a tentative way, or as we might say, ‘in embryo’ — and thus according to the ‘substance’ — there are already present in us the things that are hoped for:  the whole, true life.  And precisely because the thing itself is already present, this presence of what is to come also creates certainty:  this ‘thing’ which must come is not yet visible in the external world (it does not ‘appear’), but because of the fact that, as an initial and dynamic reality, we carry it within us, a certain perception of it has even now come into existence.”  — Pope Benedict XVI

    Okay, this helps a little with the irritation.  Perhaps he is so wrapped up with the substance of things because of this notion of faith as a stable disposition of the spirit — a substance, so to say, in which we can let the Truth of eternal life take root in us and grow.  Even though St. Augustine goes about it oddly for the purposes of my own understanding, perhaps his struggle with the substantial or unsubstantial nature of God is more to the point a struggle with understanding how it is that a God who is infinite interacts with us who are body/soul mixes in a concrete way, speaking to us as he made us.  In short, sacrament.

    So, maybe it’s not an empty question to wonder about the concrete nature of God, but perhaps in so doing we delve deeper into the mystery of the sacraments.

    And this post can now be re-titled, “Why I Am Not (yet) a Saint.”