Now and then, needing a quick, short-hand description of what I'm doing in Holly Springs (for example, responding to the question I am asked most frequently these days: "What brought you to Holly Springs?), I have used the term "community development." It's a little embarrassing hearing myself say it, aloud, to a witness.
It sounds so ... focused and intentional.
People who do "community development" have "talking points"....don't they? Buzz words or keywords or boilerplate verbiage, for use in interviews and conversations, press releases and web page copy.
They know what they're doing and they can talk about it, explain it. They have clear objectives. A game plan.
A mission statement.
The term implies a confidence and commitment and....a clarity that I do not have. .
The ground shifts. I've been here for almost six months now. People and relationships come into sharp focus and then fade. Routines are short-lived and driven by an ever-changing set of circumstances.
Life is always like this but I feel it with a particular intensity in unfamiliar environments. In a new town or a new job/gig the learning curve is steep because there are fewer reliable points of reference. Climate, geography, speech patterns, food, social protocol, fashion, population density...everything is unfamiliar. Everything is being learned.
Who can save this war child? Who will heal his wounds? Victimise by man's contending strife His heart ripped out His dreams are daunting still Like a flower trampled on the ground Scars of thorns be cloud his soul Aimlessly he roams in search of hope Trapped in life's delusions His wings bear burdens of endless grieve Who can save this war child?
THE ABOLITIONIST PROJECT - Suffering and how to get rid of it.
By David Pearce
This talk is about suffering and how to get rid of it. I predict we will abolish suffering throughout the living world. Our descendants will be animated by gradients of genetically preprogrammed well-being that are orders of magnitude richer than today’s peak experiences. First, I’m going to outline why it’s technically feasible to abolish the biological substrates of any kind of unpleasant experience - psychological pain as well as physical pain. Secondly, I’m going to argue for the overriding moral urgency of the abolitionist project, whether or not one is any kind of ethical utilitarian. Thirdly, I’m going to argue why a revolution in biotechnology means it’s going to happen, albeit not nearly as fast as it should.
1: WHY IT IS TECHNICALLY FEASIBLE
Sadly, what won’t abolish suffering, or at least not on its own, is socio-economic reform, or exponential economic growth, or technological progress in the usual sense, or any of the traditional panaceas for solving the world’s ills. Improving the external environment is admirable and important; but such improvement can’t recalibrate our hedonic treadmill above a genetically constrained ceiling. Twin studies confirm there is a [partially] heritable set-point of well-being - or ill-being - around which we all tend to fluctuate over the course of a lifetime. This set-point varies between individuals. [It’s possible to lower our hedonic set-point by inflicting prolonged uncontrolled stress; but even this re-set is not as easy as it sounds: suicide-rates typically go down in wartime; and six months after a quadriplegia-inducing accident, studies1 suggest that we are typically neither more nor less unhappy than we were before the catastrophic event.] Unfortunately, attempts to build an ideal society can’t overcome this biological ceiling, whether utopias of the left or right, free-market or socialist, religious or secular, futuristic high-tech or simply cultivating one’s garden. Even if everything that traditional futurists have asked for is delivered - eternal youth, unlimited material wealth, morphological freedom, superintelligence, immersive VR, molecular nanotechnology, etc - there is no evidence that our subjective quality of life would on average significantly surpass the quality of life of our hunter-gatherer ancestors - or a New Guinea tribesman today - in the absence of reward pathway enrichment. This claim is difficult to prove in the absence of sophisticated neuroscanning; but objective indices of psychological distress e.g. suicide rates, bear it out. Unenhanced humans will still be prey to the spectrum of Darwinian emotions, ranging from terrible suffering to petty disappointments and frustrations - sadness, anxiety, jealousy, existential angst. Their biology is part of “what it means to be human”. Subjectively unpleasant states of consciousness exist because they were genetically adaptive. Each of our core emotions had a distinct signalling role in our evolutionary past: they tended to promote behaviours which enhanced the inclusive fitness of our genes in the ancestral environment.
So if manipulating our external environment alone can never abolish suffering and malaise, what does technically work?
Here are three scenarios in ascending order of sociological plausibility: a) wireheading b) utopian designer drugs c) genetic engineering and - what I want to focus on - the impending reproductive revolution of designer babies
a) Recall wireheading is direct stimulation of the pleasure centres of the brain via implanted electrodes. Intracranial self-stimulation shows no physiological or subjective tolerance i.e. it’s just as rewarding after two days as it is after two minutes. Wireheading doesn’t harm others; it has a small ecological footprint; it banishes psychological and physical pain; and arguably it’s a lot less offensive to human dignity than having sex. Admittedly, lifelong wireheading sounds an appealing prospect only to a handful of severe depressives. But what are the technical arguments against its adoption?
Well, wireheading is not an evolutionarily stable solution: there would be selection pressure against its widespread adoption. Wireheading doesn’t promote nurturing behaviour: wireheads, whether human or non-human, don’t want to raise baby wireheads. Uniform, indiscriminate bliss in the guise of wireheading or its equivalents would effectively bring the human experiment to an end, at least if it were adopted globally. Direct neurostimulation of the reward centres destroys informational sensitivity to environmental stimuli. So assuming we want to be smart - and become smarter - we have a choice. Intelligent agents can have a motivational structure based on gradients of ill-being, characteristic of some lifelong depressives today. Or intelligent agents can have our current typical mixture of pleasures and pains. Or alternatively, we could have an informational economy of mind based entirely on [adaptive] gradients of cerebral bliss - which I’m going to argue for.
Actually, this dismissal of wireheading may be too quick. In the far future, one can’t rule out offloading everything unpleasant or mundane onto inorganic supercomputers, prostheses and robots while we enjoy uniform orgasmic bliss. Or maybe not orgasmic bliss, possibly some other family of ideal states that simply couldn’t be improved upon. But that’s speculative. Whatever our ultimate destination, it would be more prudent, I think, to aim for both superhappiness and superintelligence - at least until we understand the full implications of what we are doing. There isn’t a moral urgency to maximizing superhappiness in the same way as there is to abolishing suffering.
[It’s worth noting that the offloading option assumes that inorganic computers, prostheses and robots don’t - or at least needn’t - experience subjective phenomenal pain even if their functional architecture allows them to avoid and respond to noxious stimuli. This absence of inorganic suffering is relatively uncontroversial with existing computers - switching off one’s PC doesn’t have ethical implications, and a silicon robot can be programmed to avoid corrosive acids without experiencing agony if it’s damaged. It’s debatable whether any computational system with a classical von Neumann architecture will ever be interestingly conscious. I’m sceptical; but either way, it doesn’t affect the offloading option, unless one argues that the subjective texture of suffering is functionally essential to any system capable of avoiding harmful stimuli.]
b) The second technical option for eradicating suffering is futuristic designer drugs. In an era of mature post-genomic medicine, will it be possible rationally to design truly ideal pleasure-drugs that deliver lifelong, high-functioning well-being without unacceptable side-effects? “Ideal pleasure drugs” here is just a piece of shorthand. Such drugs can in principle embrace cerebral, empathetic, aesthetic and perhaps spiritual well-being - and not just hedonistic pleasure in the usual one-dimensional and amoral sense.
We’re not talking here about recreational euphoriants, which simply activate the negative feedback mechanisms of the brain; nor the shallow, opiated contentment of a Brave New World; nor drugs that induce euphoric mania, with its uncontrolled excitement, loss of critical insight, grandiosity and flight of ideas. Can we develop true wonderdrugs that deliver sublime well-being on a sustainable basis, recalibrating the hedonic treadmill to ensure a high quality of life for everyone?
A lot of people recoil from the word “drugs” - which is understandable given today’s noxious street drugs and their uninspiring medical counterparts. Yet even academics and intellectuals in our society typically take the prototypical dumb drug, ethyl alcohol. If it’s socially acceptable to take a drug that makes you temporarily happy and stupid, then why not rationally design drugs to make people perpetually happier and smarter? Presumably, in order to limit abuse-potential, one would want any ideal pleasure drug to be akin - in one limited but important sense - to nicotine, where the smoker’s brain finely calibrates its optimal level: there is no uncontrolled dose-escalation.
There are of course all kinds of pitfalls to drug-based solutions. Technically, I think these pitfalls can be overcome, though I won’t try to show this here. But there is a deeper issue. If there weren’t something fundamentally wrong - or at least fundamentally inadequate - with our existing natural state of consciousness bequeathed by evolution, then we wouldn’t be so keen to change it. Even when it’s not unpleasant, everyday consciousness is mediocre compared to what we call peak experiences. Ordinary everyday consciousness was presumably adaptive in the sense it helped our genes leave more copies of themselves on the African savannah; but why keep it as our default-state indefinitely? Why not change human nature by literally repairing our genetic code?
Again, this dismissal of pharmacological solutions may be too quick. Arguably, utopian designer drugs may always be useful for the fine-grained and readily reversible control of consciousness; and I think designer drugs will be an indispensable tool to explore the disparate varieties of conscious mind. But wouldn’t it be better if we were all born with a genetic predisposition to psychological superhealth rather than needing chronic self-medication? Does even the most ardent abolitionist propose to give cocktails of drugs to all children from birth; and then to take such drug cocktails for the rest of our lives?
c) So thirdly, there are genetic solutions, embracing both somatic and germline therapy.
By way of context, today there is a minority of people who are always depressed or dysthymic, albeit to varying degrees. Studies with mono- and dizygotic twins confirm there is a high degree of genetic loading for depression. Conversely, there are some people who are temperamentally optimistic. Beyond the optimists, there is a very small minority of people who are what psychiatrists call hyperthymic. Hyperthymic people aren’t manic or bipolar; but by contemporary standards, they are always exceedingly happy, albeit sometimes happier than others. Hyperthymic people respond “appropriately” and adaptively to their environment. Indeed they are characteristically energetic, productive and creative. Even when they are blissful, they aren’t “blissed out”.
Now what if, as a whole civilisation, we were to opt to become genetically hyperthymic - to adopt a motivational system driven entirely by adaptive gradients of well-being? More radically, as the genetic basis of hedonic tone is understood, might we opt to add multiple extra copies of hyperthymia-promoting genes/allelic combinations and their regulatory promoters - not abolishing homeostasis and the hedonic treadmill but shifting our hedonic set-point to a vastly higher level?
Three points here:
First, this genetic recalibration might seem to be endorsing another kind of uniformity; but it’s worth recalling that happier people - and especially hyperdopaminergic people - are typically responsive to a broader range of potentially rewarding stimuli than depressives: they engage in more exploratory behaviour. This makes getting stuck in a sub-optimal rut less likely, both for the enhanced individual and posthuman society as a whole.
Secondly, universal hyperthymia might sound like a gigantic experiment; and in a sense of course it is. But all sexual reproduction is an experiment. We play genetic roulette, shuffling our genes and then throwing the genetic dice. Most of us flinch at the word “eugenics”; but that’s what we’re effectively practising, crudely and incompetently, when we choose our prospective mates. The difference is that within the next few decades, prospective parents will be able to act progressively more rationally and responsibly in their reproductive decisions. Pre-implantation diagnosis is going to become routine; artificial wombs will release us from the constraints of the human birth-canal; and a revolution in reproductive medicine will begin to replace the old Darwinian lottery. The question is not whether a reproductive revolution is coming, but rather what kinds of being - and what kinds of consciousness - do we want to create?
Thirdly, isn’t this reproductive revolution going to be the prerogative of rich elites in the West? Probably not for long. Compare the brief lag between the introduction of, say, mobile phones and their world-wide adoption with the 50 year time-lag between the introduction and world-wide adoption of radio; and the 20 year lag between the introduction and world-wide penetration of television. The time-lag between the initial introduction and global acceptance of new technologies is shrinking rapidly. So of course is the price.
Anyway, one of the advantages of genetically recalibrating the hedonic treadmill rather than abolishing it altogether, at least for the foreseeable future, is that the functional analogues of pain, anxiety, guilt and even depression can be preserved without their nasty raw feels as we understand them today. We can retain the functional analogues of discontent - arguably the motor of progress - and retain the discernment and critical insight lacking in the euphorically manic. Even if hedonic tone is massively enhanced, and even if our reward centres are physically and functionally amplified, then it’s still possible in principle to conserve much of our existing preference architecture. If you prefer Mozart to Beethoven, or philosophy to pushpin, then you can still retain this preference ranking even if your hedonic tone is hugely enriched.
DBT Workbook: Distract Yourself From Self-Destructive Behaviours
After Radical Acceptance comes Distraction!
The first exercise is identifying ways that I would be willing to distract myself. The book listed 10 possibilities and chose to try 7 of them.
Write on yourself with a red marker, red pain, red nail polish (have done in the past).
Draw faces of people you hate on balloons and then pop them.
Write letters to people you hate or to people who have hurt you.
Throw foam balls, socks or pillows against a wall as hard as you can.
Scream into a pillow (have done in the past).
Stick pins in a voodoo doll or other soft object.
Cry (have done in the past…obviously).
I tried writing a letter yesterday when I was angry but I ended up writing how I can’t change anything because the person won’t change so we may forever be in this cycle and I just became more upset…..
I did not pick any Distractions that require pain. I don’t care if the damage isn’t permanent, I want to begin to train my brain to not respond to pain as a stress reliever. I’ve done the ice cube and hated how all I could think about was hopefully causing permanent damage by freezing something. I’ve tried digging my nails into my skin and just ended up drawing blood. The worst is the rubber band. Fine, the bruises go away but I hate having to look at the welts and the purple of my skin that still take a few days to go away. The pain tactics need to STOP!
I’m not one to gradually go off of something. I need to stop a behaviour right away. I quit smoking cold turkey and took the shit that came with nicotine withdrawal and I didn’t die so not having pain wont kill me either even though it feels like it.
I can’t believe I’ve trained my brain to associate relief with pain. How did that happen? I’ve been thinking lately about how stupid it is that we need to feel hurt and sometimes almost die to feel like we’re alive. Sounds like a contradiction….needing death to feel alive. I guess it’s a reminder but still.
Anyways, this is the skill that I will really need to practice.
Jorge Leal Amado de Faria (Itabuna, 10 de agosto de 1912 — Salvador, 6 de agosto de 2001) foi um dos mais famosos e traduzidos escritores brasileiros de todos os tempos.
Sua obra é responsável por tornar conhecida a Bahia - seus costumes e cultura - para o restante dos brasileiros, até então centrados no eixo Rio-São Paulo.
Ele é o autor mais adaptado da televisão brasileira, verdadeiros sucessos como Tieta do Agreste, Gabriela, Cravo e Canela e Teresa Batista Cansada de Guerra são criações suas, além de Dona Flor e Seus Dois Maridos e Tenda dos Milagres. A obra literária de Jorge Amado conheceu inúmeras adaptações para cinema, teatro e televisão, além de ter sido tema de escolas de samba por todo o Brasil. Seus livros foram traduzidos em 55 países, em 49 idiomas, existindo também exemplares em braille e em fitas gravadas para deficientes visuais.
Jorge Amado foi superado, em número de vendas, apenas por Paulo Coelho mas, em seu estilo - o romance ficcional -, não há paralelo no Brasil. Em 1994 viu sua obra ser reconhecida com o Prêmio Camões.
Luiz ‘Lua’ Gonzaga ‘Gonzagão’ do Nascimento (Exu, 13 de dezembro de 1912 – Recife, 2 de agosto de 1989) foi um compositor popular brasileiro, conhecido como o Rei do Baião. Foi uma das mais completas, importantes e inventivas figuras da música popular brasileira. Cantando acompanhado de sua sanfona, zabumba e triângulo, levou a alegria das festas juninas e dos forrós pé-de-serra, bem como a pobreza, as tristezas e as injustiças de sua árida terra, o sertão nordestino, ao resto do país, numa época em que a maioria desconhecia o baião, o xote e o xaxado.
Admirado por grandes músicos, como Dorival Caymmi, Gilberto Gil, Raul Seixas, Caetano Veloso, entre outros, o genial instrumentista e sofisticado inventor de melodia e harmonias, ganhou notoriedade com as antológicas canções "Baião" (1946), "Asa Branca" (1947), "Siridó" (1948), "Juazeiro" (1948), "Qui Nem Jiló" (1949) e "Baião de Dois" (1950).
There were ghouls, witches and zombies wandering around my neighborhood Wednesday night. Some wore pink sneakers under their torn bed sheets. Others had lollipop smudges on their chins. All held bags and baskets at arms’ length, hoping their harmless evilness would score them extra loot.
But there is nothing harmless about evil. Neither in the orange-decorated cul-de-sacs of the Chicago suburbs nor in the remote villages of Africa, Asia or South America. Though we expect witch doctors and magic spells to be rarer in the western world than in primitive cultures, I can vouch from growing up in France and living in Germany and the States that mediums, curses and dangerous experimentation with the spirit world are alive and well in countries that consider themselves modern and sophisticated.
I’ve also been involved in MK ministry long enough to know for a fact that a good number (a majority?) of missionaries’ kids have been exposed to something satanic at some point in their overseas lives. The screaming voices that follow a knock on the door in the middle of the night. The chanting of satanic rituals taking place just down the road. The atrocities committed to appease vindictive gods. All within eyesight and earshot of young souls. All with the potential to dig deep into their subconsciouses and anchor there with dark fears and profound disquiet. Some MKs carry their brushes with the occult inside them, finding their faith, their emotional stability, their relational abilities and mental health weakened or entrapped by the unseen forces of their past.
Brette writes: While I was living in Bali, Indonesia, we were told to be careful of anything we might buy or acquire that could have demonic attachments to them. I knew enough not to buy any amulets or anything that might have had blessings or curses done to them. But before I left the country, I bought a handmade wooden puppet, a big part of the Balinese culture. When I got back to Texas, however, I was having very disturbing dreams about people I knew in Indonesia and demonic presences. I was also experiencing a “teasing spirit” that would do things like turn the lights on or off in my house, or open doors I had closed. I told my parents about it, and we all prayed that we would find what was causing this. We all felt that my puppet had some sort of attachment to it. We burned it in our backyard and I instantly stopped having nightmares and the “teasing spirit” stopped.
Another MK I’ll call Jenny went on a six-week mission trip to a remote part of Africa when she was seventeen. It wasn’t long before she started hearing stories about the village’s witch doctor, a man whose powers were strong enough to force his “subjects” to kill their own mothers. Jenny eventually ran into him, and she describes making eye-contact with him as “staring into the face of evil.”
When she returned to the States, all was not well. Despite an active faith, Jenny found herself crippled by months of severe depression and an overwhelming desire to end her own life. Her nights were plagued with vivid dreams in which evil (in multiple forms) assaulted her subconsious. She simply could not extricate herself from the grip of that witch doctor’s power.
Even in the relatively safe context of Kandern, Germany, some of my former students witnessed witchcraft taking place in firelit rituals in the forests after dark and watched the entire Black Forest area observing Fasching—a cultural celebration of immoral behavior that ends with the symbolic casting of demons into the sky.
Just how deeply can believers be affected by contact with the occult? To the uninitiated, what Brette and Jenny endured might look like possession—the type of demonic control trivialized in movies and insipid television shows. But most theologians argue that believers cannot be possessed. That which God has filled cannot be emptied out and refilled by the forces of evil, no matter how powerful they are. But Christians can be oppressed. They can be lied to, pummeled, teased and tormented by envoys of the prince of darkness. (Please see bibliography below for more ample biblical explanations.)
Mark Anderson, a former missionary to France whose Wheaton-based ministry now centers around spiritual warfare, has experienced sights and sounds most of us would dismiss as Hollywoodian fare. He has seen objects move through space, heard demonic voices erupt from unconscious victims and witnessed cursed wooden objects like Brette’s puppet refusing to burn even when repeatedly doused with gasoline. He has personally battled the evil attacking MKs who carried more than great memories back from the mission field with them. Spiritual warfare is not a theoretical debate between religious points of view. It may be abstract, but it is very real, and the devil’s purpose is to dig his “claws” so deeply into our mental, relational, physical and spiritual lives that we cannot extricate ourselves from his grip.
Contrary to what we’re told on little and big screens, there is no such thing as “casual” contact with the occult, yet we blithely invite it into our daily lives, thus exposing our vulnerabilities to its parasitic intentions. Whether it be tantalizing, terrifying or entertaining, any contact with witchcraft, Satanism and other forces of evil puts Christians at risk. The oppression process will look different depending on the strategy that particular spirit employs and the weakness it senses in its victim. The spirit may begin by warping and deconstructing us to such a degree that we become incapable of fighting back by the time we realize what’s happened. It may lure us with lies, entice us so deeply into sin that we can’t see our way back out, then blast us with paralyzing guilt. It may tempt us with objects, like Brette’s wooden puppet, that are imbued with dark powers. It will blind us to their influence while it takes over our ability to resist impulses, robs us of health and sanity, or alienates us from all that is good and satisfying. It can cause unbearable emotional turmoil, perversions of the mind, physical ailments and unexplainable violent/irrational reactions.
In order to make discernment even more difficult, evil will often bind itself to other “human conditions” and remain undetected as the source of the affliction. It may see mental illness as an entrance point and use that disguise to sow destruction. It may discover a natural weakness like sexual desire and balloon that into something irresistible and damaging. It may find fertile soil in unbridled ambition, anger or pride. Whatever the weakness we expose, it will exploit. But it is too insidious to identify itself with a pitchfork and horns. It will lie just beneath the surface of our ability to see it, thus adding self-loathing and society’s judgment to its already crippling power.
In a CSI-saturated world, we’re all looking for the easy Q-tip test that will determine the nature of whatever afflicts us. Add a solution and if it turns pink, it’s mental illness. If it turns yellow, it’s hormonal imbalance. If it turns green, it’s criminal, blue, it’s emotional and black, it’s satanic. But there is no such test. Though so many mental illnesses are biological or psychiatric, some are directly linked to spiritual oppression. Though many violent criminals can trace their behavior back to victimization and desensitization, some are acting out under demonic possession. Though sexual perversion can often be traced to media’s influence and the dehumanization of women, it can also be linked to occultic control.
I’m delving into this difficult topic because of the number of emails I’ve received from MKs who have expressed their fear that demons may be attacking them—and their urgent need to know more about a subject that is sadly too taboo. Though their lives have been steeped in the spiritual, they feel resourceless in their battle, afraid to utter their suspicions and unable to help themselves. Some of them are mired in untenable anxiety and sleeplessness. Others are incapable of cutting their ties to the past and living in the present. Yet others find themselves sabotaging every good thing in their lives, harming others and themselves, or plagued by irrational fury they can’t control. It’s for them that I’ve embarked on my own journey of discovery and for their sake that I’m writing on a topic so few wish to address.
I am here to help open minds I am here to help give strength I am here to help spread positivity I am here to help spread love I am here to help spread peace I am here to help give hope I am here to help stop discrimination I am here to help change the world
“All falsehood is a mask; and however well made the mask may be, with a little attention we may always succeed in distinguishing it from the true face…” ~Alexandre Dumas
When I was a child, I spent a lot of my free time watching television. Unlike today’s youth, we didn’t have internet, video games, or even cable TV. Don’t get me wrong. I lived for Gilligan’s Island and the Brady Bunch, but these shows portrayed characters at a surficial level that I could not really relate to. The show that I had the most difficult time with believing was The Andy Griffith Show because of one character, Otis.
I always thought that most alcoholics were like Otis the Town Drunk: staggering around with slurred speech. My perception was that an alcoholic was unclean, disheveled, and unable to hold a job. My mother, who I clearly believe is an alcoholic, was none of these things. Well, occasionally her speech was slurred and she staggered around, but that was when she was partying with her friends. All other times, she seemed the opposite.
One of the worst things that happened when my mother was drunk was that she would confide in me about her problems with her friends, which was bad enough. But she also decided as I became older to share with me some of the private peculiars of events that occurred between her boyfriends and herself. She told me about things that I did not (and was not ready to) understand. She shared with me intimate details of her sexual escapades that no child should be privy to. Throughout my life, this felt like the only time in my memory that my mother actually liked me. I knew better than complain. It would do no good; I’d still have to endure it. And on top of that, it would make her angry if I balked. What I did not know was that this was extremely inappropriate behavior, and most experts would consider this a form of sexual abuse.
Other than that, my mother generally blamed my brothers and me for all the things that went wrong in her life as well as in our own. Of course, this led to an insecure childhood and a neurotic adulthood. I spent a great deal of time wondering why people in my relationships didn’t love me. So, in order to satisfy my craving for the love and attention I sought and did not receive, I used what my mother had taught me about her sexuality to attract boys.
I realized as a young teen that older boys like to flirt with pretty girls. I became interested in clothes, make-up, and hairstyles. I love the attention that I got from boys at school who called me pretty, asked for my phone number, and would sit next to me in class initially fulfilled my desire for attention. I went to sleep an average, plain girl and woke up a popular and pretty junior high school princess. Life was beginning to look up for me for the first time ever, or so I thought.
But soon after my new-found popularity was unleashed, I discovered that boys had expectations that I was unprepared to execute. I was not ready for sexual relations. My mother made that seem vulgar and obscene. So, because of my unwillingness to give into their requests, I was soon labeled a “tease” by many of the boys at my school. Things changed again for me almost overnight.
I became aware later that God was protecting me by giving me the willpower to stave off teenaged boys who were after only one thing, but it caused me a great deal of anguish due to the fact that I was already so attention-starved. So, I began to feel sorry for myself. I used this self-pity to justify my irrational behavior as I became more and more angry. Deep inside, I thought that if no one liked the pretend me, the one I dreamed up who was popular, pretty, funny, and smart, no one would like the real me who was none of these things. Out of these events, the birth of a biting sense of sarcasm grew.
As my body and brain grew, too, my emotions stayed those of an immature teenager. I vowed that I would never show my true self again. I would continue to hide behind whatever handy mask that I could invent, but this time, I would be more prepared. I would learn the consequences of whatever part I played, but no matter what, I would not let anyone close enough to know the real me.
Today, I am still trying to understand my unhealthy way of life that had plagued me for so long. I am aware of my mother’s drinking problem and its effects on me, both then and now. I have learned how I used the many masks to avoid being close or intimate with anyone, even to the level of friendship because of the confusing manner in which my mother confided in me that I was not prepared to understand.
I have learned that I can trust again, even though my ability to trust during my childhood being raised by an alcoholic mother was tainted. I’ve learned that the Otis’s of the world are the exceptions, and that most alcoholics are highly functioning if judged only by outwardly appearances. Mostly, I’ve learned that I need people to help me heal. God has put them in my path for me to meet along my journey of unveiling the masks and exposing the real me, who is, in my own rights, a pretty princess, if only on the inside.
“What we call “church” is too often a gathering of strangers who see the church as yet another “helping institution” to gratify further their individual desires. One of the reasons some church members are so mean-spirited with their pastor, particularly when the pastor urges them to look at God, is that they feel deceived by such pastoral invitations to look beyond themselves. They have come to church for “strokes,” to have their personal needs met. What we call church is often a conspiracy of cordiality. Pastors learn to pacify rather than preach to their Ananiases and Sapphiras. We say we do it out of “love.” Usually, we do it as a means of keeping everyone as distant from everyone else as possible. You don’t get into my life and I will not get into yours.”
Stanley Hauerwas, Resident Aliens
We are taught by our secular educational masters that Eliot’s greatest poems were his early, bleak ones: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and The Wasteland. But this, I urge you, Choruses from the Rock, written some seventeen years after “Prufrock” and seven years after Eliot‘s conversion to the Anglican Church is just as worthy a candidate. Here we see Eliot, the older soul in search, who finally found what he was looking for in the Christian Church. Being that I’m pretty old myself, universally acknowledged as downright cranky and am searching in the Catholic Church, this strikes me as a beautiful poem and one of his best. Read it aloud in your solitary room and see if it doesn’t echo throughout your day:
Choruses from the Rock (1934)
The Eagle soars in the summit of Heaven,
The Hunter with his dogs pursues his circuit.
O world of spring and autumn, birth and dying!
The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Brings us farther from God and nearer to the Dust.
The lot of man is ceaseless labor,
Or ceaseless idleness, which is still harder,
Or irregular labour, which is not pleasant.
I have trodden the winepress alone, and I know
That it is hard to be really useful, resigning
The things that men count for happiness, seeking
The good deeds that lead to obscurity, accepting
With equal face those that bring ignominy,
The applause of all or the love of none.
All men are ready to invest their money
But most expect dividends.
I say to you: Make perfect your will.
I say: take no thought of the harvest,
But only of proper sowing.
The world turns and the world changes,
But one thing does not change.
In all of my years, one thing does not change,
However you disguise it, this thing does not change:
The perpetual struggle of Good and Evil.
You neglect and belittle the desert.
The desert is not remote in southern tropics
The desert is not only around the corner,
The desert is squeezed in the tube-train next to you,
The desert is in the heart of your brother.
Let me show you the work of the humble. Listen.
In the vacant places
We will build with new bricks
Where the bricks are fallen
We will build with new stone
Where the beams are rotten
We will build with new timbers
Where the word is unspoken
We will build with new speech
There is work together
A Church for all
And a job for each
Every man to his work.
What life have you, if you have not life together?
There is not life that is not in community,
And no community not lived in praise of GOD.
And now you live dispersed on ribbon roads,
And no man knows or cares who is his neighbor
Unless his neighbor makes too much disturbance,
But all dash to and fro in motor cars,
Familiar with the roads and settled nowhere.
Much to cast down, much to build, much to restore
I have given you the power of choice, and you only alternate
Between futile speculation and unconsidered action.
And the wind shall say: “Here were decent godless people:
Their only monument the asphalt road
And a thousand lost golf balls.”
When the Stranger says: “What is the meaning of this city ?
Do you huddle close together because you love each other?”
What will you answer? “We all dwell together
To make money from each other”? or “This is a community”?
Oh my soul, be prepared for the coming of the Stranger.
Be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions.
There is one who remembers the way to your door:
Life you may evade, but Death you shall not.
You shall not deny the Stranger.
They constantly try to escape
From the darkness outside and within
By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.
But the man that is shall shadow
The man that pretends to be.
Then it seemed as if men must proceed from light to light, in the light of
Through the Passion and Sacrifice saved in spite of their negative being;
Bestial as always before, carnal, self seeking as always before, selfish and
purblind as ever before,
Yet always struggling, always reaffirming, always resuming their march on
the way that was lit by the light;
Often halting, loitering, straying, delaying, returning, yet following no other
But it seems that something has happened that has never happened
before: though we know not just when, or why, or how, or where.
Men have left GOD not for other gods, they say, but for no God; and this has
never happened before
That men both deny gods and worship gods, professing first Reason,
And then Money, and Power, and what they call Life, or Race, or Dialectic.
What have we to do but stand with empty hands and palms turned
upwards in an age which advances progressively backwards?
There came one who spoke of the shame of Jerusalem
And the holy places defiled;
Peter the Hermit, scourging with words.
And among his hearers were a few good men,
Many who were evil,
And most who were neither,
Like all men in all places.
In spite of all the dishonour,
the broken standards, the broken lives,
The broken faith in one place or another,
There was something left that was more than the tales
Of old men on winter evenings.
Our age is an age of moderate virtue
And moderate vice
The soul of Man must quicken to creation.
Out of the meaningless practical shapes of all that is living or
Joined with the artist’s eye, new life, new form, new colour.
Out of the sea of sound the life of music,
Out of the slimy mud of words, out of the sleet and hail of verbal
Approximate thoughts and feelings, words that have taken the
place of thoughts and feelings,
There spring the perfect order of speech, and the beauty of incantation.
The work of creation is never without travail
The visible reminder of Invisible Light.
O Light Invisible, we praise Thee!
Too bright for mortal vision.