Saturday, January 30, 2010

A few thoughts on reality, memory, and experience

Something real happens to all of us everyday, all day long. If we pay attention, we will be humbled into true spirituality. God preserves everything that happens, whole and complete, which is why we purify memory by being unreservedly honest about what happens. It is just what JPII called for at the turn of the milennium with regards to how Christians have treated Jews, but extended to other times when we were untrue to the Lord. Confession is how we purify memory in our own lives, by being unflinchingly honest about what we do and what motivated us to do what we know is wrong. Not to be honest in confession reveals pride and a lack of trust in God's infinite mercy given to us in Christ Jesus.

Prior to confession we examine our consciences so that when we confess we will recall our lives as accurately as we can. Since we are not able to have total recall, God's mercy makes up for what we unintentionally leave out, which spares us the vice of scrupulosity and the neurosis that accompanies this spiritual affliction. At end of the day, all we do has to be dealt with; the choice is ours to reconcile now or we can wait for the day of reckoning. To think for one moment that we can skip over the bad parts is an exercise in self-deception. In other words, my limited consciousness can only preserve some of the past via memory, but I don't remember everthing, even what I remember I do not recall perfectly. God preserves everything that happens, whole and complete, which is why we purify memory by being honest about what happened.

All of the above is sketchy and probably skewed in some way. It began with Sandro Magister's summary of philosopher Robert Spaemann's presentation as part of the God today conference held in Rome back in December, specifically this: "The proposition 'in the more remote future it will no longer be true that we had gathered together this evening' is nonsense. It cannot be thought. If one day we will no longer have been, then in fact we are not real now either, as Buddhism concludes. If one day the present reality will no longer have been present, then it is not real at all...The only answer sounds like this: we are forced to think of a consciousness that preserves everything that happens [not obliterates it], an absolute consciousness""

Who gives best witness to Christ? Not political leaders, not generals, not even popes or bishops, or priests or deacons necessarily, but the saints. All that Mother Teresa did, all her sisters continue to do, is in the name of Christ. Christianity can account for the evil doing of its adherents, which shows how much we all need God's mercy and healing, which was effected in the world by the Incarnation of His Son, who is not a myth but a real person. His life, His passion, His death, His resurrection are facts in the world, like the genocide in Rwanda, the on-going situation in Darfur, et. al. Reality cannot be denied if we are to acknowledge and maintain our humanity. The world is not overcome by mythical beings.

It is important to note that one cannot adhere to a system called Christianity, but only to Jesus Christ. Among the most misunderstood aspects of Christian faith are original sin and post-baptismal concupiscence, both of which are necessary in accounting for the whole of reality, especially that part of reality that is my own life! It is necessary to account for reality, something we cannot do by rejecting language, politics, and all of the other factors that make up reality. To reject any factor that constitutes reality is not an answer to anything and leads to a kind of paralyzing fixation on one's self and to fear. Reflecting on the writing and life of J.D. Salinger offers us an actual glimpse of what a person who seeks to reject a great deal of reality looks like.

Just as I was finishing this post my dear friend Fred brought this post to my attention: For the Soul of David Foster Wallace by Webster Bull.

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