Friday, August 24, 2007

Chaos Sequitur Esse

So here is my dilemma:
Two very distinct ideas of how to handle the challenge of spiritual growth were presented to me last summer during the flood that was Totus Tuus. First, Agere Sequitur Esse. Action follows being. The theory behind this clever Latin phrase is that if your soul is being where it needs to be, your body will do what it needs to do. If your heart is truly resting in Christ and your will is truly existing alongside His, then your actions cannot help but bring you closer to God. I have met people that embody this concept, whose entire being is so consumed with perfect love that they cannot act against God. Now, this isn't to say I have met people without sin, but I know that when they are truly being their true self, their actions naturally follow. I follow this theory up with a more crude statement of my own: you cannot act your way into holiness. I have tried to do this many times when I felt my faith slipping or my prayer life dwindled to a mere hint of what it once was. I thought if I forced myself to finish the rosary, I might begin to mean the prayers that I was reciting. It doesn't work, at least not in the long run. You have to be before you can do.
However, I contradict this whole sequence with the second idea that stands out from a year ago. Once I finished with my chemistry courses, I never thought I'd need to remember entropy again, but alas, the second law of thermodynamics comes back to haunt me. All things tend toward disorder. Without the exertion of energy, everything moves slowly toward chaos. Some things move very rapidly to chaos, but everything will get there eventually. I demonstrated entropy to a class of third graders by throwing up an entire stack of paper with the Angelus prayer printed on it. It took a lot more energy to clean it up than it took to throw it. This concept of entropy can be applied to my faith life. It will tend toward chaos (and with a stretch, toward evil) if effort is not taken to prevent this downward slide. You must constantly be expending energy to grow in your spiritual life.
You see how easily these two concepts come to be at war. On the one hand, you must get your soul in the right place, simply be like Mary listening at the feet of Jesus, before your actions can ever hope to show God's love to others. On the other hand, you must constantly be working to keep the devil at bay, slaving away like Martha to gain the upper hand in the fight to be Christ-like. I've always been a little more of a Martha myself. I find I'm most like Mary when I pay attention to the details. God is in the details and when I take time to notice them, my heart leaps closer to Him. The five minutes, if that, when the sunrise is just perfect, offering consolation when my body has to function that early in the morning. I don't need to do anything to feel close to God in that moment; I just am. The way the rain sounds against the sky light late at night, the way that my day ends with just enough time to make it to evening Mass, the way a massive storm and multiple tornados catch me stuck with friends rather than at home alone, the way a stranger says good morning; all of these typically find me thinking of God's hand in the little things, comforted that He would touch my day in such a little way. It is when I get carried away with the big picture of how stagnant I've seemed lately that I fall into trouble. It is then that I think my being is so far from God that no amount of doing could possible bring me back. So I try to see the details, especially the ones that matter. For example, the detail of one little vowel could mean the difference between "Viva La Papa" and "Viva El Papa." (for those who need a little help with that one, it's 'Long live the potato' vs. 'Long live the pope')

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I reserve the right to make this blog as worthless to read as I feel like, and also to write as infrequently as I deem necessary. Just thought I'd let you know since I finally decided to share my blog.