Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Life is not elsewhere, it always already here, now

"Everything turns problematic, questionable, subject to analysis and doubt: Progress and Revolution. Youth. Motherhood. Even Man. And also Poetry…"

from Life is Elsewhere, by Milan Kundera

Jesus is concrete and real. He shows us that experience, the life we live, is the instrument for a human journey, that my experience is the instrument for my journey. Life is not, as Kundera's novel shows that it is too often for too many, elsewhere. Having this revelation is what allows me to realize this. It is what allows me to engage reality according to the totality of its factors, ignoring nothing. Jesus Christ is the revelation that allows for this realization, to steal a Jesse Jackson chop. He makes and then keeps it real.

© Sohrab Hura

I'll be honest, I don't want to be holy. I want to be happy. Nonetheless, I realize that holiness is the means I must use to be truly happy. Because in order to be resurrected I have to die, which is what I did in baptism, after which I was buried and arose to new life, to eternal life, the life that is truly life, twenty years ago next month. A week or so ago, a friend relayed that the sermon at her church that Sunday was about how we are not called to happiness, but to holiness. What? I refute it thus: "Gloria Dei vivens homo"! I think God's only real concern is our happiness, our fulfillment.

I sincerely hope that the title of the sermon served merely as a provocation and that the message ultimately turned more around the question, what does it mean to be truly happy, before proceeding to discuss what it means to be holy, which means to live the paradox of dying to self in order to truly live, and that being holy is the path to true happiness. Being holy is nothing other than loving perfectly because God is love (love is not God, an important distinction; 1 John 4:8.16). God is our origin and our destiny, that is, the fulfillment of our desire, that longing which makes us human and is the surest proof that we are created in the imago dei.

A deep diaconal bow to Shahidul Alam for the photograph and the quote from Kundera's book, a novel, along with all of Kundera's works, that I cherish because they have formed me in many ways over the years. His books run like an underground spring through my soul, especially Immortality.

Meum cum sim pulvis et cinis


  1. A psychologist whose works may interst you, Martin Seligman, discusses living an authentic and happy life in his book (creatively) titled "Authentic Happiness." The principle he came at through the scientific research is that humans experience the deepest authentic happiness when engaging the core strengths. For example; my top three strengths (using his assessment tool on are Forgiveness, Love of Learning, and the Ability to Love and be Loved.

    The moments I have experienced the most intense encounters with the sacred have been the moments when I lived my own strengths to their fullest. Yet, my understanding of the sacred comes more from my struggles with my weaknesses.

  2. I suppose it depends on one's definition of happiness. In its most radical form, happiness and holiness may co-exist in a necessary union.

    I would say for myself what I want is joy, more so than happiness. Happiness is such a fleeting experience for many, an experience that is culturally bound and physically mediated. Joy is transcends the poverty of both culture and the body enabling even the sick and persecuted to experience it.

  3. Let's be careful not equivocate about terms. I explictily point to the necessary connection between happiness and holiness. Of course, happiness, like joy, can be used in a trivial or temporary sense, like being content in any given moment, or enjoying what I am doing right now. I am not using happiness in that sense, as is indicated by my use of fulfillment and satisfaction. In other words, I use it in an ultimate sense.

    You seem to indicate that joy means being happy in an ultimate sense. So, there is no real distinction.

  4. If differentiating between happiness and joy, it helps to be using mutually agreed on definitions. From a historical view, the word origins are illuminating. Happy derives from the middle English noun "hap" meaning luck. Joy derives from medieval French "joie"[thus deriving from Latin "gaudere"], i.e. rejoice.

    To me [and Scott feel free to point out any discrepency in my logic] happiness is given to us by God. Being both holy, loving perfectly, and happy, experiencing the "luck" are both required to get to joy, to a true rejoicing. ion of the gift of that happiness.

    How does this contribute to the conversation?

  5. One can certainly make a distinction between the two in a way different than I have done. In fact, many have done so, but we need to clarify terms and avoid equivocation, which is a logical fallacy. To wit: the way I employ happiness, linking it to holiness as well as to satisfaction and fulfillment, does not permit such a distinction. In addition to definitions, words have contexts.



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