We rise to the ordinary, the predictable, the mundane. We move through a pattern of daily repetitions: wake, shower, dress, eat, and go. Somewhere. Life is so utterly predictable.
If traumas don’t kill us, something odd happens. We keep living, breathing, existing. Peter denied Christ then woke the next day. Living in the present is so difficult because it is so ordinary. We dream of future possibilities or glorify past excitements while breathing in this ordinary present moment.
Thomas Merton once cautioned the would-be contemplative that prayer quickly becomes boring and repetitious, routine. The ordinary predictability of inhaling and exhaling becomes a weight that some cannot bear. They grow weary.
One way to respond to this utter predictability is to seek out crisis, to create crisis. Oddly, even wanderlust can grow tiresome. Crisis loses the edge of surprise over time. Reflecting on the horror of the trenches in World War 1, Eugen Rosenstock Huessy said that most of the time it was boring.
We may look at other people and dream of what could have been. In fact, some try to recreate could-have-beens. The man or woman who has an affair soon discover the malaise overtaking the newness. Binx Boling called my attention to the malaise.
In Walker Percy’s “The Moviegoer,” Binx Boling is a man who has the good life. The life we all dream about. He is financially successful, comes from a secure family, enjoys the best culture has to offer, and spends his time watching movies and dating beautiful women. Binx also seems to be caught in a struggle. He feels the malaise at the back of all things, but at the same time, he is startled and surprised by existence.
Being alive is wondrous and dreadful. Why are we here? What are we supposed to be doing? What will it take to give our lives signification? Is it praise from others? Some recognition for all our dedication, all we’ve suffered, all we have given? Are we really yearning unlimited wealth? Some spiritual power? Lots and lots of stuff?
Why doesn’t any answer satisfy?
At times, the idea of eternal life can be horrifying. “You mean we just keep living and living and living?” This terror of never-ending life may be bound us in the terror of the ordinary, in the anguish of why?
The suffering of loneliness and sickness and broken relations may hide the suffering of being alive. We are caught between the wonder and the terror of existence. We know so little and feel even less.
For those who do not know the malaise, these words will make little sense. For those who do, you might hear a distant echo of anguish the trembles deep in the soul. My intention is not to solve our human dilemma in 500 words or less.
I am looking for clues. I am looking at the Risen Christ, and hopefully through the Risen Christ. In Him, I see life lived fully, completely. I behold love poured out with no restriction. All things were made, shaped, formed, properly ordered through the Son, the Word Made Flesh. In Him, I see the wondrous order of all creation.
Order? There is an order, a shape, a form to all creation. Without order, all form is but a momentary illusion.
The word “ordinary” derives from order. Our ordinary world, our ordinary moments are ordered.
In Christ, I see a glimpse of this order. His life is poured out fully in love: every moment from birth through death. In His resurrection, I behold the unrestricted reciprocation of the Father’s love by the Spirit.
In Him, I live and move and breathe. I breathe. I inhale and exhale. Each moment ordered by exhaling, inhaling: pouring out, filling up. In my very breath, I see but a tiny pattern of reciprocal life revealed in Christ. Within this wonderful and terrible existence, I breathe, we breathe. The wonder of reciprocation, of giving and receiving, of loving and being loved is enacted all around me in the sun and moon, man and woman, trees and bees. All creation echoes a reciprocation of life, a mutuality of giving and receiving.
Mostly I am deaf and blind to this magnificent symphony of love, this order of love. Some times, the blind will see. The light of Christ pierces my eyes. In this ordinary moment, I behold love unspeakable and full of glory.
* Image by Thomas Leuthard on flickr. (Used by Creative Commons Permission)