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As food, the salsa may be perfectly nice to eat, but it’s also a symbol of something that’s going very wrong in the realm of human being. Consider how long it would take to reproduce that mix of tomatoes, onion, garlic, cilantro and peppers by hand. How much longer, to have grown and harvested the ingredients in your back yard?
Technology has saved you all the trouble of tilling, planting, watering, waiting, weeding, picking, washing, chopping, and canning! What’s not to love? I, for one, am a big fan of store-bought salsa. The problem is, though, that I now eat a ‘thin’ salsa, bereft of all those layers of actuality that might have gone into it.
Gradually, technology is stepping in to remove all of the messy and risky and uncomfy bits of our contact with the real world. As his experience of reality is thinned, flattened, or watered down, the human person is in grave danger of losing dimension himself. Fr. Giussani teaches that we are formed by encounter with reality, which – far from being an inert mental construct onto which we project our own preferences – has being, or actuality, that impacts and provokes, affects and interferes with our own being. This contact with the real, which used to be unavoidable, is more and more something you must consciously choose for yourself, if you would cultivate your own wholeness. Consider what your capacity for reality has to do with your capacity for Christ.
Begin by just opening your eyes to the realities being kept at a distance by prepared foods, cars, CDs, text messages, photos, glass windows, deodorants, etc… Next, choose some one thing to contemplate. Stop and dwell for a while on all the realities it re-presents to you now. Thank God for the people who made, designed, or gave it. Consider how the maker, the creator, becomes invisible behind the gifts he gives, unless we look through them. You can recover even more of life’s “thickness” if you’ll involve yourself in some real growing, chopping, making, talking, singing, or seeing. Enjoy! I’d love to hear your thoughts about all this.
For another take on the importance of encounter with reality, see this review of Matthew Crawford’s new book, The World Beyond Your Head.
There is something you’re avoiding. So you distract yourself with something else. It works for a while, but there’s a catch. The more you tense-away-from The Thing, the more it seems to be pulling you to turn back to it.
Like an exercise in which you pull a rubber band away from a wall, escapism guarantees you’ll need more and more oomph to pull away from the pain, the need, the person, the issue that needs attention. Of course, the more powerful it seems to get, the more you want to get away from it!
That’s the trap. Not only does your distraction ratchet up the level of tension, it also slowly narrows your focus to a point as getting away from The Thing takes more and more of your effort to focus your attention away, away, away.
Jim Robbins, in The Open Focus Brain, discusses ways he helped patients in chronic pain avoid this trap and thereby eased their pain. These are lessons worth remembering and passing on:
- Move toward the pain, relax and try to release any effort you’re exerting to pull away from it.
- Diffuse your focus – engage your senses: What can you smell? How does this fruit taste in your mouth? What do you see all around you? What sounds can you identify in the environment?
- Think about negative spaces in your body (nostrils, the space enclosed by your lungs, the space between your fingers) and in the environment.
I’ve had tremendous improvement in migraine headaches following his advice, but I also recommend it for any situation that pushes your ‘Escape!’ button. Relax, diffuse, engage your senses, contemplate negative spaces. There are more things that are REAL than The Thing! Don’t try so hard to avoid it that you see it alone in your narrow focusing. Staying distracted is a symptom of being tensed away from something you’d do better to face, resolve, accept.
I’d like to know if you take this advice. Please let me hear your story!
What’s your favorite movie? When I’m asked, the kids answer for me: Babette’s Feast! Well, that’s one of my all time favorites, and I do think everyone should see it. [Read more…]
I thought I’d hate this book! The title, The Gift of Fear, hit me the wrong way. Was Gavin de Becker going to promote fear as an approach to life, tout the benefits of self-protectiveness and toughness, teach readers to look out for #1?? Boy was I surprised!
Instead of finding out where he was wrong-headed, I discovered how right he was. Well, he at least agrees with me about a lot of things! His thesis, that a guarded, defensive posture toward life actually prevents our fear mechanisms from making us aware of real danger, resonated with me – a page right out of my ‘poetic personhood’ talks. [Read more…]