Charlie's Blog: SOC 17


SOC 17

Attack the evil that is within yourself, rather than attacking the evil that is in others.

I have been in a crisis of doublemindedness lately. This problem of the two minds is one that has afflicted me in the past. It is not a pleasant problem to have like deciding between a BMW or a Mercedes. It is more like deciding between a moped and a Yugo.

Doublemindedness comes from a choice between two options that are virtually equal in their costs and benefits. For instance, there is the choice between cheesecake and ice cream. Both are fattening and decadent but are so totally delicious. But when one is done, there will be the longing for the other. This is the fear of regret.

My doublemindedness comes from the dilemma of being a writer. With everything I write comes the regret of what I could have done with that time. As I get older, this regret becomes more acute. No one wants to waste their time because wasting time is wasting life. On the other hand, no one wants to waste talent either. The world would be a lesser place if Mozart had opted for a career as a piano tuner.

I can either waste my talent, or I can waste my time. I don't have similar dilemmas with my musical abilities because I am not talented in that regard. I don't lie awake at night regretting giving up the guitar. I basically quit it when the fun ended. The best I can ever be in music is a dilettante.

I am a writer, and that is something I will just have to learn to live with in the same way people learn to live with a chronic disease. I just need to settle it in my mind that I put words on screens and paper. I'm going to quit with the quitting. I also need to quit being lukewarm in the pursuit of writing. I have a long list of projects I want to get done on this side of the grave.

If writing is my disease, Twitter is my addiction. Unlike previous attempts to quit, I was actually very successful this time. I noticed that I had way more time on my hands when I shut down my Twitter account. The downside was that I was left with way more boredom. Boredom is not something I have experienced in some time. I always have something to do, and I always work to exhaustion. This leads to five minutes of stop which leads to four hours of sleep. Basically, I am either awake doing something or asleep trying to recharge. Without writing or tweeting, I was stuck with large blocks of nothing to do and lots of time to do it. I didn't like it.

Twitter is an extension of writing especially when you write about religion and politics. This is why so many journalists and politicians and even the President and the Pope use the service.  I've used other social media, but they never held my attention like Twitter. As for GAB, it merely serves as a future home should Twitter decide to expunge conservatives like me. Until it reaches a critical mass, I will use it sparingly.

So, I am a hopeless writer and tweeter. The reality is that when I get frustrated in my life I want to blame those two things for my inability to get things done. They are "distractions." But when I purged those distractions, I still didn't get anything done. My problem isn't distraction. It is laziness.

I am lazy. No one says that about me because my work ethic is above average. This is merely because the average is so low these days. This is why I choose not to use comparison with others as any true measuring rod. Instead, I hold myself to an extreme standard which has always eluded me. I don't get things done that I know need to get done.

People may consider this mindset to be extreme, but I don't. Jesus worked really hard. He worked hard as a carpenter, and He worked hard when He left those tools to pursue his public ministry. How do I know this? The fact that He could fall asleep in a boat on a stormy sea indicates that He was someone with very full days that pushed Him to exhaustion.

The Gospels are full of small details like this. Jesus had an awesome work ethic. Sometimes, I feel bad that I can sit in a chair and fall out in just a few minutes. This comes from working long hours and sleeping few hours. Yet, this is how Jesus lived. No servant is above his master. When I fall asleep this way, I just remember Jesus in the boat.

My cross is exhaustion. I always talk about the lack of time, money, and energy. But I have to admit that I have all the time and money I need. With the energy thing, I remember lamenting to God that I was always tired, and I was hit with this sort of epiphany about exhaustion. It was a command to work even though I was exhausted. For instance, I like to write after a good night's sleep, yet the command was to write even in the late hours after a grueling day at work. Somehow, the labors performed while exhausted counted more than the ones I did from rest and refreshment. It reminded me of that Navy SEAL wisdom that when you feel completely done that you are only at 40% of what is in you. There is a lot of truth to that as I have done some amazing things after I had reached my quitting point and ignored it.

I think a great deal of pain and exhaustion is purely mental. This is not merely a personal speculation and madness but is the basis of the theory of the central governor. The gist of this theory is that the brain induces sensations of fatigue as a protective response to maintain homeostasis. This is why exercise always begins in pain and ends in pleasure. When you exercise, you are overriding the central governor in your brain telling you to conserve energy, avoid injury, etc. If you can push through this resistance, you will find the famous "second wind." If you are a Navy SEAL, you will find a third, fourth, fifth, and sixth wind.

The fact is that our minds almost always give out before our bodies. The human body is capable of amazing feats of endurance. You won't find anything identical to it in the animal kingdom. Consequently, I don't think you need to fear working yourself to death. You might work yourself into sleep deprivation and marital breakdown, but your body will be just fine with it.

This leads to my other epiphany. Go ahead and bite off more than you can chew. I have done this, and it wasn't pleasant. But it was awesome. This practice pushes you to places you didn't know you could go. I think God has purposely made my life hard and frustrating for this reason. So much of our prayers are focused on external conditions instead of internal reserves. As Pope Benedict XVI put it so well, "You were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness."

We always pray for our crosses to be taken from us instead of praying for the strength to carry those crosses. God is not going to answer prayers for comfort. He will always answer prayers for strength. Like a good parent, God does not spoil us. He is demanding, but He knows best.

I have this thing called my "minimalist impulse" which is a leftover of the influence of this guy. Leo's advice for living is pretty basic. Pare down everything to a few things and relentlessly focus. Then, you will succeed. So, the result of this minimalist lifestyle is that you post a few times a week on your blog, get some exercise and sleep, and learn to live in the chill zone. Basically, you should bite off less than you can chew. Does it work? Of course!

The goal of minimalism is to make life as easy as possible. It is the philosophy of quitting. It is a mix of Epicurus and Zen Buddhism. But is it Christian? Heck no. Jesus was poor, but He wasn't a minimalist. He poured Himself out in working and giving. I have always been down with living a simple life in terms of material things. This is wisdom embraced by many religious and philosophical traditions. Life is more than houses and bling. But so much minimalism is about living a simple lifestyle in order to work less and do less. This is garbage. You want to live simply in order to work more and do more. It all hinges on the fact that this working more and doing more is for the sake of God and others. Minimalism as espoused is simply selfishness on a smaller budget.

As a Catholic, I have three role models to look to in order to emulate. The first is Jesus. The second is the Virgin Mary. The third is St. Joseph. All three of them were simple. humble, hard working, and selfless. As a layman and a husband, St. Joseph is the one I look to the most. That guy was blue collar. He didn't say much. He just put his head down and did what had to be done for his family. I don't think St. Joseph would be spending his weekends working on his golf game or putting a nice coat of wax on his Corvette. The man was a worker.

There is no happiness in living for yourself. I reject the old McDonald's slogan that said that you deserve a break today. I think there is nothing wrong with taking a break, but the troubling word in the slogan is "deserve." Unfortunately, this slogan has worked its poison into other areas such that people believe they deserve a fancy new car, a trip to the Bahamas, or an adulterous fling with an exciting new lover. Sad as I am to admit it, I have heard various people tell me they deserved each of these three things.

I don't believe I deserve anything except Hell. The fact that God forgives me and still blesses me in spite of my unworthiness makes me very grateful. And when I offer up my works and sufferings to Him, they are out of gratitude. It is a duty and a privilege to make these offerings to Him.

St. Josemaria gives an illustration of a trashcan used to hold flowers. We find our beauty and purpose in holding those flowers. But we must never forget that we are still trashcans. The moment we think we are better than those flowers we delude ourselves. To be a good trashcan, we need to empty out the trash and provide for those flowers. This is sanctity. It is in forgetting ourselves that we become truly beautiful and find our greatest purpose.

That is all I have for now. I needed to prime the writing pump again, and these SOC posts always do the trick. The simple fact is that writing is my only real leisure activity. I do not hunt, fish, or play golf. I write which seems like a better hobby because it looks a lot like work. I like working.