(The Nationalist, 21 July 2006)
Most of us lived rushed lives, dashing from one thing to another. One consequence is that we live on the surface of life, skimming over it. We may pass through it without ever knowing ourselves, or acquiring the disposition to think matters through, and, as a result, living, so to speak, on second-hand ideas and experiences.
The quality of human relations is the measure of the value of a society. How do people relate to each other? How do they treat each other? These are basic questions for any society. What is more basic is how we relate to ourselves, how we treat ourselves. Jesus said, ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself’. That last part – ‘as you love yourself’ – is the bit we don’t take much notice of. A healthy self-love is something we don’t understand very well. It’s not selfishness, just as a healthy self-respect is not arrogance. It’s related to something else – self-knowledge. Do we know ourselves? How can we love ourselves if we don’t first know ourselves? And all our noise and haste doesn’t help us to do that – far from it, indeed. I recall a 14 year-old boy telling me that he couldn’t sit alone in silence for ten minutes. We spend much of our life and energy running away from ourselves, and we are strangers to ourselves.
It doesn’t have to be like that. If we give time to ourselves, enter into our own heart, in whatever way we find best, we can begin a venture into the interior that is more exciting and challenging than any round-the-world trip. You sometimes hear of people travelling abroad in order “to find themselves”. They are more likely to find themselves in the silence of their heart than in any amount of travel or activity.
This is a challenge, and a necessity, for all human beings, whether they see themselves as religious or not. We share a common world, and it is endangered. One humanity in one home.
Jesus said, ‘Come apart into a desert place and rest for a while’. The desert is without props, masks, or hiding place; no electricity there, and mobile phones are out of range. The desert symbolizes a bare nakedness where we are face-to-face with the self. It seems like running from reality, when in fact it is running from the unreality of superficial living in order to face the reality of our inner self. There is nothing more real than our inner self, and it is always with us. Maybe it’s time for us to make the acquaintance of that stranger in our life – our self, and then move on from there.
For those in a hurry: God comes to us broken: Jesus was broken on the cross, and comes to us in the Eucharist as bread that is broken. God wants us to come to him when we are broken: by sin, failure or emptiness. Then we can meet. ‘By his wounds we are healed….’