Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Can't Get Enough

Two mornings in a row, I have been awakened by Barry White's "Can't Get Enough" playing on my alarm clock radio. As I lay for a few moments longer on my pillow today, listening to Mr. White's resonant baritone and laughing at the coincidence, I couldn't help wondering if there was any significance to it. Was I about to live Monday through again in a Bill Murray-esque manner? Oh, I hoped it wouldn't be so. Then as I passed the next hour dressing for the day, applying my makeup and drying my hair, I wondered a bit at how anything signifies anything.

Let me qualify that. Of course there are things of obvious significance - events, actions and interactions that have meaning and influence, effecting change and so on. My pre-workday musings had more to do with the rest. The rest. All that fills our days and nights, in between the moments of clear significance. The way we phrase our conversations; the clothes you put on; the food you decide to consume; the music you tune your radio to in the car; the people you choose to smile at; the people you choose not to smile at; the tv show you sit down to watch; the laundry you make time for; the dishes you decide to leave for another day... Does any of it signify?

There are many in this world who would answer with a firm 'no.' What do these things matter? In the long run, who cares? Well, sorry to be such a contrarian but I take a different view. I say 'yes.' I say the little bits of life signify a great deal. The little bits are what our habits consist of, and our habits are what our characters consist of. Recognizing this, I believe we can choose to live deliberately. That is, live in a manner that directs all our actions, words and even thoughts to the service of developing virtue. Patience, courage, generosity, joy, mercy, understanding, love. Virtue doesn't grow out of enormous tests and trials. Virtue grows out of day to day living and proves its worth when the larger events come to pass.

I too get caught up in thinking that living with purpose means setting out to achieve great things. I fill myself up with resolve that is sapped in a week's time. I overlook all the small opportunities to live deliberately and when the opportunities for great things do come, I find I am nowhere near ready for them.

I don't know if Barry White will wake me up again tomorrow. I do know that choosing to be amused and to get out of bed smiling as the song played set the tone for my day. In fact, this seemingly insignificant event and reaction might be credited with today being remarkably more pleasant than yesterday despite the content of the two days being so alike. Just another reminder to live deliberately and trust that the big and lasting good things are built upon numerous little and momentary good things. Barry White and I encourage you to live so as to infuse significance into all the moments between the significant.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


To close my adoration hour this past Monday, I prayed Psalm 63. My eyes returned to verse 5 after I finished. I read the words over a second and then a third time. "My soul will feast and be satisfied, and I will sing glad songs of praise to you." So read the Good News Translation which happened to be the version available in the adoration chapel. The NAB (verse 6, by the way) reads, "My soul shall savor the rich banquet of praise, with joyous lips my mouth shall honor you."

Oh, those words! How truly they resonate. They reminded me of something my favorite Scripture professor, Dr. Gregory Vall, said as we studied Psalm 25. Verse 1 includes, "to you O Lord, I lift up my soul." We discussed the notion of lifting our souls, our nephesh (Hebrew*), to God. Dr. Vall insightfully noted that "we are always lifting our nephesh to something." Our souls are always seeking something and so we lift them up to whatever we think maybe, just maybe, will be what is sought. David, as he expresses in his psalm, chooses to lift his to the Lord. The verse that caught my attention so strongly in Psalm 63 seems to me like David's follow up to that choice.

"My soul will feast and be satisfied." Our souls - our innermost being that gives us our unique human intellect and free will, our 'hearts' that house our desires, our spiritual aspect - these souls of ours are incessantly hungry. Having been made for the purpose of eternal life with God, they are kept between the boundaries of this earthly life and so have an unshakeable restlessness for more. Hungry... and so our souls feed. Or rather, we feed our souls. Sometimes it is with the choice meats of prayer and authentic love. Other times, all too often, it is on the scraps of selfish pursuits or flawed pleasures. In some instances, we are quite aware that we are feeding our souls. We are convicted by the restlessness in us and so determinedly pursue contentment - be it in wise or unwise places. Then there are the instances of unawareness. We latch on to sources of pleasure, gnawing through them for the satisfaction they can't give, and don't even realize the malnourishment of our souls. This life offers an unending buffet for our consumption. Some soul foods are worth tasting and enjoying and will lend strength for the days ahead. Many are superb when taken in proper portions and at the right times. Others shouldn't even touch your plate for they will only bring bitter, regrettable damage.

At all times though, our souls are feeding. They are never satiated. They cannot be. For it is only in the banquet halls of heaven that the "soul will feast and be satisfied." One day... one day... the soul will long for no more for it will have all. In the meantime, feed it well, my friends.

(*Have to give credit to my friend Fr. Mike Chenier for correcting me when I first posted this and said nephesh is Latin. Can't believe I made that mistake! I hope I didn't shame Dr. Vall too badly.)