Collected Aphorisms 2015

Editorial Note:  I have been asked by a small number of people over the last few years if I were going to write a book with my pithy thoughts and aphorisms.  I probably won’t because books are expensive to produce and I would like what I’ve learned from my mistakes to be freely available to anyone who wants to use it or to critique my youthful and not-so-youthful stupidity.  So I’ve collected some of my thoughts from the past year for those who are interested to review them and ponder or laugh at how silly I am.  Whichever.  See my thoughts from 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 if you care to.

January 2nd, 2015 – The best writers do not merely offer a critique of the views of others; the best writers build a coherent worldview, take us on a grand tour of it in which we see its beauty unfold, and help us to see how we can happily join them in living there.

January 5th, 2015 – Moral clarity without compassion isn’t particularly moral; it allows us to rationalize injustice for people rather than working to end it. Compassion without moral clarity isn’t particularly compassionate; it allows people to stagnate rather than growing into the greatness they were meant for. The best moral clarity and the best compassion occur when they are integrated, when compassion is essential to our moral clarity and moral clarity is essential to our compassion.

January 7th, 2015 – Love is rightly a personal choice, a decision to will the good of another person and act to further their good. And in our acts of love toward the person we love, our capacity to love is built up by the personal encounter as we sacrifice self-indulgence to build up the other person. What is more, the love which grows between us and other persons is a partaker in Love, the person whom of its own power deepens our own capacity to love as we grow in relationship with it. In this way, the lover, the beloved, and their love are a trinity, an icon of the divine life of ever-growing love exemplified by the Holy Trinity.

January 9th, 2015 – The difference between the pain of caring for others and the pain of being indifferent to others is that the pain of caring for others helps us to grow our hearts and the pain of being indifferent to others helps to shrink our hearts.

January 11th, 2015 – If we see finding a loving relationship as a process of finding a person who won’t ask us to grow and change, then we are not engaging in a search for a loving relationship at all, but rather a stagnating relationship. Love always draws the beloved to become even more wonderful and find even greater fulfillment.

January 13th, 2015 – A morality that merely provides an extended and elegant rationalization for continuing to act as we do now isn’t a morality at all; it is just a comforting affirmation of who we are in this moment. A worthy morality should offer us something that transcends the person we are now, a moral standard toward which we can strive and become a wholly renewed person in the process, a moral life that will radically transform us into someone far better than we currently imagine we could be.

January 17th, 2015 – If we believe that we have already arrived at our moral destination where the best ideals are found and lived, then we are preventing ourselves from finding that very moral destination by failing to continue to seek it.

January 18th, 2015 – We are not strong because we are unbreakable, but rather because we have been broken and re-formed.

January 19th, 2015 – Our tragic flaw is twice a gift to us, for it both provides us with our greatest strength and provides us with the opportunity to learn how to turn our weakness into strength through loving service to others.

January 21st, 2015 – The radical transformation of our hearts is shown in how our disordered emotions become ordered toward the highest good. Our fear of being alone is transformed into a fearless love of the community and a fearless delight in solitude. Our fear of death is transformed into a fearless commitment to caring for others at the most vulnerable stages of life and a fearless delight in the joys of our own lives.

January 24th, 2015 – Selfishness builds a wall of mirrors around the light of our lives, ensuring that we alone can fully enjoy the little light we produce, a light that gradually fades as it bounces around our cages of gentle narcissism. Selflessness tears down the wall of mirrors so that the light of our lives can brighten the lives of others, a light that gradually grows as we join it with the light of other lives to illuminate the darkness of the world.

January 27th, 2015 – Our greatest sense of fulfillment occurs not when our current selves are actualized, but when our selves are transformed into someone far better than we could have imagined ourselves becoming.

January 28th, 2015 – Love does not hide the grandest gifts in our lives so that no one can see them; love shares fearlessly all the good things it finds with the beloved so that life’s joys are doubly enjoyed, first by the beloved and then by the person who loves.

January 29th, 2015 – When we are soft-hearted, we often try to say things in a spirit of charity without conveying the truth. When we are hard-hearted, we often try to convey the truth without doing so in the spirit of charity. When our hearts are loving in the fullest sense, we try to find a way to speak the truth in the spirit of charity.

February 2nd, 2015 – In each moment of decision, we often decide without considering whether our memories will be more of a treasure of blessings or more of a yoke of grief as a result of our decision. This may be something to consider more often.

February 3rd, 2015 – It’s good to remember that both virtues and vices always come at a price. It’s even better to remember that unlike vices, virtues are worth the price we pay for them.

February 4th, 2015 – Time most certainly does not heal all wounds. There are plenty of people who are still acting out of hurts they experienced decades ago.

If you want to heal your wounds, then stop waiting for them to heal and forgive the person who wronged you, forgive yourself for letting it define your behavior toward others, and build a healthy habit to replace the habits shaped by the wound.

February 6th, 2015 – There is no one so blind to the true dignity of the living human person as the one who looks and sees only a body when gazing upon another.

February 8th, 2015 – Love is not so much a thing we do as a transformation we undergo in order to become someone new.

February 10th, 2015 – The life of discipline is a difficult one; the life without discipline a far more difficult one by comparison.

February 11th, 2015 – Romance and desire without a foundation of unselfish love is like a locomotive without an engine; it’s not going to take anyone to a worthwhile destination.

February 13th, 2015 – Prayer done well helps us to transcend our negative concerns in the most healthy way by re-orienting our energy toward a positive concern for others; it ceases our fruitless worrying and builds fruitful pondering.

February 14th, 2015 – Loving relationships transcend the individuals who participate in them, but not by extinguishing them as individuals; relationships of love gradually transform us by a process of removing the dark shrouds of the ego in which we are enveloped so that the light of our individual gifts can shine most brightly in the perfect freedom of loving service to others.

February 17th, 2015 – Love first. Ask questions later.

February 19th, 2015 – In order to find perfect fulfillment, our lives must be a constant gift to others of all that is good and a constant willingness to receive in humility all that is good in the lives of others.

February 21st, 2015 – Pain is good; it informs us of where we need to heal. It can and should be accepted, embraced, and allowed to wash over us as a wave washes over the sandy beach.

February 22nd, 2015 – We are called to see God through our experience of human beings, to let the imago dei provide a lens through which we can begin to glimpse the goodness of Deus. Likewise, we are called to empty ourselves of the darkness of the ego that obscures His light in us, allowing others to see God through their experience of us, directing their gaze through the anthropos to the brilliance of the Theos.

February 24th, 2015 – In the desert, we learn what is truly necessary for life: food, water, and faithful companionship. In the spiritual desert of Lent, we also learn what is truly necessary for the spiritual life: the Bread of Life, the one who gives living water, and the one companion who is eternally faithful unto death.

February 26th, 2015 – Our impression of the desert is often of a somber emptiness where conditions on the rough ocean of sand are too harsh for life, but in truth deserts are full of life. The harsh sands teach the desert traveler to move with care, always aware of the landscape with its beauty and dangers. The emptiness of the desert teaches the traveler how to live without distractions, embracing each precious moment fully rather than spending it recklessly. The desert wildlife teaches the traveler to observe and respond to the small dangers in life before they become fatal problems. Life in the desert is difficult, and that is how it teaches us to live more fully.

February 27th, 2015 – In the desert we often have the privilege of finding our limits, the difficulty of desert life teaching us humility by showing us our physical and mental limits. In the spiritual desert of Lent, the difficulty we face in relinquishing our vices and building our virtues teaches us humility by showing us the limits of our wills and our hearts. These limits are not shown to us to discourage us, but rather so that we can expand our limits so as to fill the opportunities for virtue which abound in the spiritual desert.

March 2nd, 2015 – The desert is an excellent place to confront our temptations because it sharpens our focus and limits our distractions. Under the conditions of the desert life, we can turn our full strength toward destroying our vices so that our virtues have room to grow as we cultivate them with love and water them with tearful prayer.

March 4th, 2015 – Over the course of my life, I have learned that the right question to ask when my relationships are weak is not, “What is wrong with me?” or “What is wrong with them?” The best question to ask is, “What can I do to build up the relationship?”

March 6th, 2015 – In the same way that desertification happens to the land when it is recklessly deforested, overcultivated for food, and trampled by herds of animals, so too our lives undergo a process of desertification when we use our bodies recklessly, seek pleasure endlessly, and trample our relationships carelessly. Life becomes empty and dry, and we often try to do more of what we have done in a mad scramble to bring a thunderstorm of pleasure into our lives, but this too contributes to the desertification by washing away much of what little remains of our life.

But take heart, those of you whose lives are a desert! It is the desert that will teach you the self-control to use your body to produce good things sustainably, that will teach you to seek real good prudently, and will also teach you to cultivate relationships carefully. Just as your life can become a desert, so too can it become a lush garden.

March 8th, 2015 – The desert is a wonderful gift to us; the sparseness and dryness of the desert lead us to yearn for the lush garden where the water so necessary for life is abundant and pervades our existence. In reminding us of how essential the water is for us, the desert prompts us to turn back toward the garden where we can find life, living it abundantly as we were meant to live from the beginning.

March 10th, 2015 – The desert foliage blooms in brilliant color where the river flows, the steady stream of water allowing the flourishing of plants and animals.  In the same way, we can flourish when we live in contact with the steady stream of the water of life, the living water which is found by those of us who seek it and given to those of us who ask for it.  We can seek this living water and ask for it; we can also continue dropping our empty rusted buckets into the same old well from which we get our familiar pleasures, increasingly finding that the water from the well satisfies our thirst less and less as we drink it.

Those of us whose wells of familiar pleasure bring forth water which no longer satisfies can begin to move ourselves across the desert to live on the river, enjoying the living water that allows us to flourish.  To travel the desert is difficult, but for living water that will help our lives grow into brilliant gardens, the trials of the journey are worth the glory of the destination.

March 11th, 2015 – Our culture tells us by its literature and images that we should serve ourselves first and foremost, serving others only as much as necessary for our benefit. Christ instructs us by his words and deeds to serve others first and foremost, serving ourselves only as much as necessary to continue and grow in our service to others. Our culture tells us that we must make great sacrifices for wealth. Christ tells us that we must make great sacrifices for the welfare of our neighbors and our enemies.

March 12th, 2015 – The desert is a place of cleansing, not because there is plenty of water with which to wash our bodies gently, but because like the strongest soap it is abrasive and harsh, wearing down the rough edges created by the dirt we have collected in our souls. The cleansing of the desert is painful because it abrades the filth clinging deep in the recesses of our being, but it is a pain that allows us to experience the immense joy of living in freedom from the filth that was weighing upon us, making our lives purer so that we can spend our time loving openly in the brilliant sunshine rather than hiding our lusts in the cold dirty darkness.

March 13th, 2015 – If we would take up our cross and follow Christ, we must follow Him into the desert, leaving behind our comforts just as He did. Just like the rich man who wanted to follow Christ, but in the end could not let go of the comforts of his wealth, we so often do not want to relinquish our comforts and follow Him into the desert. Following Him into the desert would mean that we and our priorities would need to change, and how we struggle against anything that would ask us to step out of our comfort zone and into the harsh, dry land where we can grow precisely because we are uncomfortable!

March 15th, 2015 – In the desert, Christ faces those most difficult of human temptations: the lure of enjoying comfort food, the lure of attaining absolute power, and the lure of believing that we deserve to be saved because of our own righteousness. He emerges from the desert having resisted those temptations successfully, showing us that even in our human weakness it is possible to resist our temptations and emerge from the difficulty of our lives as masters of our passions rather than slaves to them.

What a sweet victory it is to overcome the temptation to take refuge in transient comforts and false senses of security, emerging from the desert freed from the ties that bound us before entering the desert!

March 16th, 2015 – In the desert we learn that our great enemy is fear; it is fear that prompts us to drink all our water quickly instead of rationing it so that we might live. It is fear that has us spending all of our energy in a short burst to try to escape the desert rather than adapting to it so that we might learn how to live. Life in the desert requires us to conquer our fears, to make our choices based not on what is frightening to us but rather on what is truly good for us.

March 17th, 2015 – In the desert, honesty becomes a necessity; if we are not honest with ourselves about our limitations and our resources, then we will make the wrong decisions. If we are not honest with our traveling companions about our limitations and our resources, then they will make the wrong decisions. The desert has plenty of room for movement, but little room for error; wrong decisions often lead to a long death. In the desert, honesty is often the difference between life and death.

March 19th, 2015 – Just as in the desert honesty with ourselves and others is a necessity for life, so to is it a necessity in the spiritual desert of Lent. We will only grow and become healed of our wounds when we admit our weaknesses to ourselves and others so that pride, the source of spiritual death, will not overtake us; and thus we will find the gift of humility, the water of the spiritual life which sustains us and allows us to thrive in the spiritual desert.

March 20th, 2015 –

In the desert it is easy to despair, to look at the beautiful sunset and see only the dangers of the cold night ahead. It is much more difficult to hope, to trust that traveling through the dangers of the cold night will help us to grow in strength and wisdom.

If we give in to despair, letting the dangers fill our vision so that we can see nothing else, then we are looking forward to our own doom. But if we hope, filling our vision with the ways in which we can thrive, then we are looking forward to our own flourishing. Because we tend to find those things on which we direct our gaze, it is better to put aside despair and hold on to hope, directing our gaze toward that which allows us to flourish!

March 22nd, 2015 – In the desert, water can be difficult to find, and one of the best ways to find water is to go down to the low and shadowed places, for that is where water can collect and remain despite the assault of the blazing sun. Though we may have to lower ourselves to capture it, the water that sustains us is worth it.

In the same way, one of the best ways to find living water in the spiritual desert of Lent is to seek out the low shadowed places in our lives with sincerity, lowering ourselves in humility so that we might drink of the water that remains despite our sufferings, a water we can count on to keep us from death. Let us remember this water and return to it, and waste not the gift we receive in the desert by carrying it with us always!

March 22nd, 2015 – When we stare into the abyss, not only does the abyss stare back into us, but we also miss the sight of the ladder to heaven, so let us gaze at the ladder to heaven and let it draw our eyes upward!

March 24th, 2015 -In the desert, there will be times when disaster looms, not just in the mind, but in the harsh dryness of reality. During those times when we exist on the hard edge between life and death, our self-control exhausted, then we will fall back on our habits and it is our habits which will decide whether we live or die.

Our life or death will not be decided in that moment, but rather by the hundreds of decisions we made over the course of months and years which formed our habits. Now is the time to build the habits that lead to life so we might not lose it later.

In the same way, now is the acceptable time to build the habits that lead to life in the spiritual desert of Lent, habits that we can count on in the moments when we come to the edge of spiritual life and spiritual death so that we might pass from death on to a new life in the garden that awaits us at the end of our journey through the desert.

March 25th, 2015 -In the desert, we learn that it is best to be grateful for the oasis we reach at the end of our day’s journey. We do not harbor resentment over the difficulties of the journey, but rather delight fully in the joys of the oasis, slaking our thirst on water which is truly necessary for life.

In the same way, we learn in the spiritual desert of Lent that it is best to be grateful for our daily prayer. Though the dryness of our daily toils abounds, we can delight fully in the joys of prayer, in lifting up our burdens and casting them off so that we can slake our spiritual thirst in true freedom, drinking and savoring gratefully the water which is necessary for the spiritual life.

March 29th, 2015 – The desert is an uncomfortable place for those who are not accustomed to a life in which the essentials are what drive our decisions and our pleasures are mostly simple and necessary ones. But for those of us who live in the desert, we can become comfortable with our lack of comfort, and this is both an opportunity and a challenge. We can then come to see our life in the desert as a mundane life of drudgery, our comfort with the desert transforming into a weariness and resentment of its difficulties. Or we can understand that our life in the desert is an opportunity for learning and growing, our comfort transforming into an invitation to thrive as we travel through the desert in search of the lush garden that awaits us when we find the river that sustains life.

April 2nd, 2015 –

In the desert, the wise travelers seek out companions to travel with them. In the dry harsh land where life is difficult, fellow travelers enable us to share our labors, our sorrows, and our joys. We can support them when they are weak and they can do the same for us, ensuring that we all have a better chance of reaching the water of life at the end of our journey.

In the same way, traveling the spiritual desert of Lent is better with companions with whom we can share our spiritual labors, our sorrows, and our joys. We can support one another in prayer and fasting so that we are all strengthened in such a way that we all have a better chance of reaching the water of eternal life in the lush garden of Paradise.

April 3rd, 2015 -In the desert, when we find and follow the river of life, we may notice that it takes us over rocky ground as it draws us lower into the valley where the lush garden awaits at the river’s edge. There is no way to reach the garden without traveling the rocky ground and lowering ourselves into the valley.

In the same way, in the spiritual desert of Lent, we must lower ourselves into the valley of humility and endure the rocky hardships of life in order to reach Paradise where we can drink of the water of eternal life in the garden to which we are meant to return.

April 5th, 2015 – As we leave the desert, following the river of life to the garden, it is only natural that we rush toward the garden with joy, anticipating the abundant life we will find there. It is the desert which prepares us to live life with loving gratitude for the immense wealth of the garden, for we know what it is like to live without the lush provisions of the garden.

In the same way, as we leave the spiritual desert of Lent, it is only natural that we rush toward the Risen Christ with great joy, anticipating the abundant life he has prepared for us in Paradise. The spiritual desert of Lent has prepared us to accept this gift of the risen life with humble gratitude, for we know what it is like to have a sparse life on the burning sands and hard rocks, a life without the lush abundance of the eternally flowing water in Paradise.

April 13th, 2015 – In the garden, we must remove the deep-seated rocks, weeds, and debris which keep the plants from growing to their full potential. So too in the garden of our lives we must remove the deep-seated pride, addictions, and the old grudges to which we cling. In this way, we can begin to grow to our full potential as people of healing, peace, and purest love.

April 14th, 2015 – In the garden, we must faithfully cultivate it so that it brings forth all the good fruits that we need. The untended garden gradually becomes a dead garden, and the dead garden gradually becomes a desert. Let us keep ourselves from going back into the desert by our loving diligence, tending the garden so that we can remain in it!

April 17th, 2015 – In the garden, the luscious fruits and vegetables upon which we feast are the product of both our difficult labors and the natural gifts we accept and use for our good. So too in the spiritual garden of life, it is through both accepting the gifts we have been given and embracing the difficult labors of prayer, fasting, and giving to those in need which bring forth the best spiritual fruits.

April 18th, 2015 -In the garden, we must sacrifice our immediate desires for the full nutritional value of plants which have grown long enough to be sufficient for our true nourishment. Rather than plucking the fruit before it is ready, the wise gardener waits, and it is often the most patient gardener who can enjoy the best crop.

So too in the spiritual garden of our lives, we must sacrifice our immediate desires so that we can grow into the fullness of the spiritual life, waiting with great patience until we are ready to leave the vine that grounds us and enter the household which is prepared for us, finally fit to take our place at the table of divine love.

April 27th, 2015 – In the garden, we must protect our crop from pests and thieves, not because we do not want others to partake of the crop, but precisely because we want a crop so bountiful that we can be very generous with it after the harvest, because we want to give to those who have not the strength to take.

April 29th, 2015 – In the garden, we work hard each day that we are able so that we might produce good fruit. This work can become tedious and wearisome, but we have the power to keep our focus on the fruits of our labors so that we can do our work with the joy of knowing that it will benefit us and those we love.

April 30th, 2015 – I often find that the folks who like to tell me about their grand new ideas are really surprised to find that I’m already familiar with their ideas, and especially stunned that I became familiar with their grand new ideas by reading very old books.

May 8th, 2015 – In the garden, there are times when the hailstorm flattens the crop, when the winds toss the fruit from the trees, or the floods wash away the new shoots. We can either grow bitter and ungrateful, lamenting our ill fortune, or we can learn to be grateful for the many gentle rains, the many light breezes, and the many sunny skies which so often escape our notice unless we are reminded of what it is to have rough weather.

May 10th, 2015 -In the garden, we prune back the vines so that they bear greater fruit as they grow once again.

So too in the spiritual garden of our lives, we are pruned back by the difficulties of life, forced to choose between clinging to our unhealthy attachments and reaching out in love to others. When we choose to reach out in love to others rather than clinging to our unhealthy attachments, we are pruned in such a way that we bear greater fruit as we grow from the experience of sacrificing our transient desires for the long-term benefit of others.

May 16th, 2015 -In the garden, we find that the fruits and vegetables have a flavor and lushness which surpasses that of the food we ate before. We no longer want to return to the sustenance that barely nourishes us, to the pleasures of a plate which is full of the wispy breads and sugar cane that quickly leave us feeling empty once again.

So too in the spiritual garden of our lives, the fruits of our difficult spiritual work which rests on a life of cultivating virtue far surpass the fruits of the easy living we subsisted on before. We no longer want to return to our striving for money, fame, or affection because we have learned that they quickly leave us with more of the same emptiness we sought to fill by attaining them.

May 20th, 2015 -In the garden, we are builders who construct a trellis, dig an irrigation ditch, or put up a fence. We build not to bring ourselves recognition through awards or fame, but because we want our building to support the growing of the best fruits for our family and neighbors in need.

So too in the spiritual garden of life, we are builders who construct daily routines to provide a structure which supports our growth, dig out unproductive parts of our lives so that there is room for the living water necessary for the fullest life, and put up fences to keep out things that hinder our growth. We build these things not to impress others or ourselves, but so that our lives produce the best fruits of the purest love for our family and our neighbors.

May 23rd, 2015 – In the garden, the sunlight is brilliant and beautiful, giving its energy to our crops so that they might grow healthy and ripe. Though we grumble about the heat of the day and the sweat on our brows, wearing hats to shield us from its rays, and we cannot look at the sun directly without danger, it is nonetheless necessary to bring us nourishment from the plants we cultivate. The lush food from the garden is worth bearing the heat of the sun’s rays for many days.

So too in the spiritual garden of life, the Son’s light is shining upon us to give us the energy we need for the spiritual life, to nourish our souls by brightening the relationships we cultivate with His love. Though we cannot yet see Him in his brilliant glory, and we often try to hide from the rays of his love because they prompt us to grow and change, the transformation He facilitates in us is worth bearing the pain of our glorious transformation.

May 26th, 2015 – It’s generally better to ask people questions they can’t answer than to provide answers they can’t question.

May 31st, 2015 – While the garden is for producing good fruit, nutritious and substantial food which sustains life, the well-tended garden is not merely a utilitarian venture. A garden lovingly cultivated is a place of great and simple beauty, a place in which the color palette and natural order of life in all its complexity result in a display of beauty that surpasses the finest painting and the grandest architecture. The garden shines in brilliant hues in the sunlight of a clear day and shimmers with the most luscious light refracted in the drops of water during the darkest storms.

So too in the spiritual garden of life, our lives are not merely a utilitarian venture; when cultivated with the most profound sacrificial love, we become a locus of spiritual beauty as our complicated lives are ever more infused by divine love, a divine love that shines forth in the brilliant hues of kindness and joy when life is clear of strife and shimmers with the light of compassion and grief for those who are lost in dark days filled with strife.

June 10th, 2015 -In the garden, it is easy to look out and notice that the fruits and vegetables are not as big as we might like, that the weeds are growing more quickly than we would prefer, and that the crop could be better. It is more difficult to notice that the garden is much bigger than last year’s, that the weeds are more sparse than they were before, and that the crop will be more than enough to keep our table full.

So too in the spiritual garden of our lives, it is easy to notice how far we have yet to go. It is more difficult to notice our steady progress over the years, but oh the joy we find in gratitude when we do so, when we realize that our table is covered with many wonderful gifts.

June 13th, 2015 -In the garden, we intuitively realize that producing a good crop means moving around in the dirt, getting dirty and sweaty as we exert ourselves to make sure that we cultivate the best crop our efforts can provide for those we love.

So too in the spiritual garden of life, we must realize that our lives bear the best fruits when we are willing to take the risk of moving around in the dirt of our lives, planting seeds of good habits where before there was only empty pleasure, exerting ourselves so that the good habits will grow into great virtues from the dirt of our fallen passions, our virtues drawing strength from the rich soil left behind when our sins have died and lay abandoned on the earth while we reach for the heavens.

June 18th, 2015 -In the garden, when the dirt has turned to mud and the rows of plants have rows of puddles alongside them, it is easy to think that things are going wrong in the garden and that we need to clean it up so that it has a splendid appearance once again. But there is nothing wrong with the muddy garden; it is a garden overflowing with life and poised for growth when the sun’s rays shine upon it again.

So too in the spiritual garden of life, it is easy to think that things are going wrong when our lives lack the splendid appearance they had previously. But there is nothing wrong with the life which lacks a splendid appearance when it is overflowing with the quiet joy of living and is ready for the profound spiritual growth that awaits the moment it is touched by the light of the Son.

June 22, 2015 – If our hearts must break, then let them break because the walls of our heart cannot contain the force of our love for others, our love bursting forth and flooding the world with the radical self-gift of true compassion.

June 24, 2015 – Of all the things which can weigh upon our hearts, it is emptiness which weighs the most heavily.

June 25, 2015 -In the garden, there is so much work which can be done that it is quite possible to forget to rest as we rush from plant to plant, watering and weeding our way through the day. It is good to work hard in the garden, and it is also good to rest, to take our ease in the light of the sun as the day comes to a close, letting our hands and feet rest as night draws near.

So too in the spiritual garden of life, there is so much spiritual work to be done that it is quite possible to forget to rest as we rush from prayer to prayer, reciting and reading our way through the liturgy. It is good to do our spiritual work, and it is also good to rest in the Lord, to take our ease in the light of His beloved Son, letting our minds and hearts rest as He draws near.

June 27th, 2015 -In the garden, we discover at the harvest how well we will eat over the course of the next year. The harvest will reflect the struggles we faced and the work we accomplished while we cultivated our crop in the garden. The greater our efforts, the greater our reward at harvest time.

So too in the spiritual garden of life, we discover at the harvest what fruits our love and prayer have produced. At the harvest, we learn how well we will fare in the course of the next life. The greater our efforts in the spiritual life, the greater our reward when the harvester of souls draws us into the greater garden of Paradise.

June 30th, 2015 -In the garden, all the flowers, trees, and crops we cultivate grow to their fullest potential when they grow near the river, the water of life which nourishes and cleanses all which lives, moves, and has being upon the earth.

So too in the spiritual garden of life, we grow to our fullest potential when we grow near the living water, that constant stream of the fullness of life we can only find in union with the divine One, the One in whom we live and move and have our being, the One with whom we sacrifice all we have so that all those we love might have living water with us in the eternal garden of Paradise.

July 3rd, 2015 – The moments in which we are most ugly are those moments in which we perform acts of indifference out of selfish pride, and those moments in which we have the greatest beauty are those moments in which we perform acts of compassion out of selfless humility.

July 8th, 2015 – In the garden, we eventually want to follow the river to its source, to find the pure spring from which the water wells up and rushes down the mountain above to bring life to our crop.

So too in the spiritual garden of life, we eventually want to follow the stream of Living Water back to its source, following it to find that the water rushes down from the heavens to bring us truest life, a gift from above.

July 9th, 2015 – In the garden, we lovingly cultivate fine foods which can nourish us on our journey through our lives, food which will fuel us as we attempt to climb the mountain to find the spring at the summit which sends clear water down to the garden where we grow our crops to share with those we love.

So too in the spiritual garden of life, we lovingly cultivate virtuous habits which will sustain us on our journey throughout our spiritual lives, virtue which will preserve us as we attempt to climb to the heavens from which we have received the Living Water to help us grow our hearts so as to share our lives with love for all.

July 12th, 2015 – On the mountain, as we leave the lush valley to begin our journey toward the rocky summit, it becomes apparent that not all paths are the same, that many paths will lead us to our death in a ravine while others might be so convoluted and lengthy that they will cause us to die from hunger and thirst before we reach the pure spring at the summit.

So too on the spiritual mountain, it becomes apparent as we begin to climb that not all paths are the same, that many paths will lead us to a death of the spirit long before we reach the spring of Living Water flowing from the heights.

July 13th, 2015 – We will not have peace in our hearts so long as our insecurity is what we use to understand reality. Peace enters our hearts only to the extent that we make room for it by relinquishing our fear of losing those things to which we cling so that we can feel secure. If we want to give peace a chance, then we must give up our comforts.

July 14th, 2015 – On the mountain, as we survey the paths we might take to reach the summit, we can choose to strike out in whichever direction we feel looks rugged and untrammeled, beautiful to behold, or we can search out a well-worn path taken by those who have made the journey before us, trusting that those who have been to the summit have already found a reliable way to reach the pure spring at the peak.

So too on the spiritual mountain, as we look at the many spiritual paths we might take to reach the heights of purest love, we can choose to strike out on our own in whatever direction our whims lead us, or we can make the climb on the well-worn spiritual paths taken by those who have climbed the spiritual mountain before us, trusting that they have found a reliable way to reach the source of the Living Water pouring down from the peak.

July 17th, 2015 – On the mountain, the humble climber seeking the summit for the first time knows to seek out a guide, someone who has been on the mountain before and knows the paths around the ravines and sheer rock faces which cannot be traversed, someone who has been to the summit before and is willing to help others reach it alive as well.

So too on the spiritual mountain, the humble seeker of the heavenly heights knows to seek out a guide who has been on the spiritual mountain before, someone who has found the difficult paths around the pitfalls and obstacles on the spiritual mountain, someone who has been to the heavenly heights and invites others to reach them as well, helping them to ascend where they might otherwise have fallen to their death.

July 19th, 2015 – If we want to know what we truly value, then all we need to do is examine how we make our daily decisions. If the majority of our decisions are made for our convenience, then that tells us a great deal about our values. If the majority of our decisions are made for the objective good of others, then that also tells us a great deal about our values.

July 22nd, 2015 – The older I get, the more convinced I become that we often cling so tightly to our moral ideas not so much because we are committed to their truth (though perhaps we are), but more so because it is far easier to cling to the ideas we have about morality than it is to put them into practice and perform the difficult work of making our lives a radical gift of love to others.

August 16th, 2015 – On the mountain, even those who have an experienced guide will not have an easy ascent. The guide simply directs us to where the climb is possible; there is no perfectly smooth path to the summit, and every person will encounter parts of the path which take all of our strength and skill and will to traverse alive. There is always a risk of stumbling into a ravine from which we cannot ascend because we grow weary and want what looks like the easier path.

So too on the spiritual mountain, even those of us who find someone who has been on the spiritual mountain before, someone from whom we can learn which spiritual paths are possible routes to the summit of divine love, will encounter parts of our path which take all of our strength and skill and will to traverse without dying the spiritual death of separating ourselves from the Living Water because we are weary and want to travel what looks like the easier spiritual path.

August 23rd, 2015 –  On the mountain, we do not have the luxury of always encountering comfortable handholds and footholds as we climb the steep slopes down which flows pure spring water from the summit.  We must use whatever handholds and footholds are available, strengthening ourselves in our climb by exercising our muscles and learning the better ways to use the mountain’s terrain to lift ourselves up.  It is often the most difficult part of the climb which benefits us the most as we draw closer to the peak.

So too on the spiritual mountain, we do not have the luxury of always encountering that which is comfortable in our ascent of the mountain; we will encounter many difficult moments as we strive to find the summit of divine love.  Those difficult moments are often the handholds and footholds on the spiritual mountain, and when we choose to lovingly serve others in those moments, then we strengthen ourselves in our climb by exercising our hearts with love and learning how to love more deeply.  It is so often the difficult moments in the spiritual life which benefit us the most and we draw closer to the peak from which flows the Living Water.

September 21st, 2015 – Love can only enter our hearts to the extent that we make room for it by letting go of the pain we have been harboring in our hearts.

September 23rd, 2015 – On the mountain, the process of finding the usual pleasures of life becomes more difficult as we climb higher; the plants and animals we find delicious for food are not so abundant on the heights as they are in the garden. The rich amenities of the city with its comfortable vehicles are replaced by aching feet placed on hard ground; its bottled liquors so easily swigged are replaced by spring water gathered carefully into a canteen and rationed so that it might sustain us for longer in order to finish our climb and reach the summit.

So too on the spiritual mountain, as we climb higher toward the summit of divine love, it becomes more difficult to find the old pleasures upon which we relied previously. The pleasure of raucous noise is replaced by worshipful silence on the spiritual mountain; the pleasure of the physical closeness of other people is replaced by the serenity of spiritual intimacy with the divine; the pleasure of impressing other people with our appearance is replaced by a profound awe in the presence of that which transcends mere appearances, that rocky ground of existence upon which can stand firm. When we have replaced our old pleasures with what we truly need, then we will be sustained as we strive to drink of the Living Water rushing down from the heights.

October 8th, 2015 – On the mountain, the very air becomes thinner, often painfully so, as we draw closer to the peak.  The weight of each breath seems to grow as we gradually ascend, perhaps beginning to feel over time as if the weight of the mountain has come to rest on our chest rather than under our feet, our lungs burning with the desire for more oxygen.  But over time, we grow accustomed to moving in the thin air, and our lungs and arteries grow stronger for it as we acclimatize to living on the heights.

So too on the spiritual mountain, every breath of transient pleasure we take becomes more difficult as we draw closer to the peak from which flows the Living Water.  The weight of the pleasures to which we cling the most strongly, those basic pleasures we never thought we would have to abandon, becomes unbearable for us as we ascend.  Oh how we long for our pleasures even while we recognize that we cannot carry them with us to the summit, and how it burns us to leave them behind!  But over time, we grow accustomed to living with little pleasure, and we grow stronger for it as we acclimatize to a life of service to all on the heights of love.

October 11th, 2015 – On the mountain, a blizzard can strike unexpectedly, blinding us and forcing us to take shelter until the storm has passed. We can either find a cave in the rock or dig a cave in the snow to protect ourselves from the shearing force of the wind and the bitterness of the cold which leeches heat and life from our bodies. We learn on the mountain that to stay warm we need fire and water, that the snow is dangerous to us until it has been purified by the fire so that we can drink of it.

In the same way, on the spiritual mountain a blizzard of temptations can strike unexpectedly, the many pleasures that can be had in life flying toward us on the deadly chilling winds, forcing us to take shelter from them in the cave of solitude and prayer, creating a space between us and our temptations so that we have room to grow in divine love. We learn on the spiritual mountain that to stay warm we need the fire of our love for God and that we must purify the pleasures of life in that holy fire so that they do not leech the heat and life from our spirits, so that we might retain the strength to reach the summit and drink of the Living Water.

October 12th, 2015 – On the mountain, our choice of path can be a matter of life and death. An avalanche can begin with a single step onto the top of a snowpack, freshly covered after a blinding blizzard and exposed to the light of the sun the next day, beautiful in appearance. Death can come quickly for us when we place our trust in what turns out to be unable to support us, not solid enough to help us on our journey to the summit. We learn on the mountain that entrancing beauty and the appearance of peace on the snowy slopes are not enough to lift ourselves up upon, but that in amounts too large they can pull us down and bury us, entombing us under the weight of their ephemeral crystalline beauty.

So too on the spiritual mountain, our choice of path can be a matter of spiritual life or death. When we walk through life relying on our daily transient pleasures to support us, spiritual death can come quickly for us. It can come when we take a single step, to begin a single habit of relying on a pleasure to get through life, which then causes the avalanche of pleasure-seeking to pull us down and bury us under the weight of the ephemeral beauty of our pleasures, forever keeping us from reaching the summit of divine love. We learn on the spiritual mountain that the appearance of peace found in small pleasures is unable to support us as we search the heights of love for the eternal spring of Living Water.

October 13th, 2015 – On the mountain, the best path is the solid path, the path we know will support our weight. The solid path, however, is not generally the easy path. The solid path is the path which is unyielding precisely because it is solid and can bear the full weight of our bodies; the solid path will not soften for us, will not bend as we press upon it. In order to traverse the solid path which leads reliably to the summit, we must conform our movements to the solid path, following it carefully and methodically, because the solid path will by no means conform itself to our wishes.

So too on the spiritual mountain, the solid spiritual path is the best path, but it is never the easy path. The solid spiritual path will support us unfailingly on our spiritual ascent precisely because it is unyielding, because it will not conform itself to our wishes. Instead, we must conform all actions of our spiritual life to the shape of the path, following it carefully and methodically to the summit from which springs forth the Living Water we seek with joyful hearts. It is the unyielding spiritual path which will shape our lives so that we can reach the heights of divine love!

October 14th, 2015 – If all we seek is the many small comforts of life, then that is all we will have. If what we seek is the life of radical love, then we must give up many small comforts in order to have it.

October 18th, 2015 – Suffering is what we experience when we are torn from that to which we hold fast. It is good to undergo the suffering which occurs when we are torn from our slavery to the ego. It is better to undergo the suffering which occurs when we are torn from our reliance upon unhealthy relationships. It is best to undergo the suffering which occurs when we are torn from all that separates us from divine love.

October 24th, 2015 – The poet preserves the passing moment in a tomb built of words, a monument to one of the many small breaks of the heart which shape our lives by tearing away our dying loves.  The poem is a mausoleum decorated with intricate patterns, carved with the simple tools of rhyme and rhythm, which speak of a piece of someone’s heart laid to rest carefully within.

October 24th, 2015 – If you want to succeed, then fail boldly and often; learn as often as you fail.

October 25th, 2015 – The road to love is not a soft and smooth one; the road to love is cracked and broken, its hard surface causing discomfort even as it supports us fully on our journey. The road to love only becomes easy to travel when we grow stronger in the will to love, when loving becomes a joyful habit rather than a reluctant concession, when each step is cushioned with the love which covers all parts of our being.

October 29th, 2015 – It is often the case that the only way to hold on to a valuable relationship is to let go of our pain and pride.

November 1st, 2015 – Not all who battle are lost.

November 3rd, 2015  – The art of seeking lies in endless wonder and openness to new possibilities while being grateful for what gifts of truth have been given to us.

November 5th, 2015 – On the mountain, amidst the chill of the air, the rocky crags, and the frigid vegetation, we are glad to have companions sharing our trek to the top of the mountain. We are especially grateful for those companions we do have because not many will want to join us on the solid, rocky, difficult to traverse path which is necessary to take in order to reach the summit.

So too on the spiritual mountain, amidst the cold temptations that surround us, the rocky crags of obedience which we climb, and the frigid vegetation of pride which dots the landscape of our hearts, we are indeed glad for the faithful companions who share our journey. The companions who join us are rare indeed, committed as they are to the hard path of poverty, chastity, and obedience by which we reach the summit after a great struggle, delighted to see the spring of Living Water as we ascend the peak.

November 7th, 2015 – On the mountain, we stop and stand in awe of the waterfall rushing down the steep slopes, watching as the mist and fog collects below in the peaceful stillness being constantly broken by the thunderous sounds of the crushing wall of water as it strikes the rocks and wears them down over the ages into the smooth stones which can safely be held in the most tender palm of the smallest child.

In the same way, on the spiritual mountain we stand in awe of the waterfall of Living Water, the gift of Love rushing down the slopes to the pool available to all who venture near to the spiritual mountain, the thunderous sound of Love breaking the stillness as it strikes the hard rock of our hearts below over the course of our lives, wearing them down into hearts of purest love, hearts which can safely hold in them the tender child-like love which will bring us ever nearer the spring of Living Water at the peak.

November 10th, 2015 – On the mountain, it is necessary to keep the fire alive so that we can stay alive, so that we can keep our bodies warm and avoid the slow death that comes from prolonged exposure to the intensely cold air into which the heat from our bodies moves as we breathe it out of our lungs, the fire in our hearts being extinguished slowly with each beat.  If only our hearts could carry the fire safely, our journey to the summit would be much more enjoyable.

So too on the spiritual mountain, it is necessary to keep the spiritual fire alive so that the spirit will not die, so that we can avoid the slow death of the soul that comes from prolonged reliance on the cold pleasures of the flesh, pleasures as precious to us as the breaths we take.  If we but remove the cold pleasures which smother the spiritual fire of the heart with the blanket of the ego, then the fire will never be extinguished, and our hearts will be filled with the light of joy as we climb the steep slopes of love on our journey to the summit.

November 15th, 2015 – Pleasures are better when shared than when hoarded. Hoarded pleasures become tragic addictions empty of true joy, but when pleasures are shared joy is magnified both in the heart of the giver and the gifted.

November 18th, 2015 – If I could take only one weapon into the spiritual combat, it would be a sword forged of pure humility to cut down the greatest enemy of love: my pride.

November 21st, 2015 – On the mountain, we keep the fire alive by carrying with us the long-burning fuel to feed the fire through the night, quick-burning fuel to ensure that the fire burns hot from the beginning, and something to create the spark from which the fire begins anew each day. Though the spark is absolutely necessary, it is the fuel which decides how hot and high the fire will blaze as it burns through the darkest night in frigid mountain air. The wise climber seeks the best fuel that can be found to ensure that the dark nights and cutting winds of cold air can be endured.

So too on the spiritual mountain, we keep the spiritual fire alive by means of long-burning fuel, quick-burning fuel, and a spark to light the spiritual fire each day. The morning prayers of love for God and others are a necessary spark, and yet it is the daily joyful affection we show for our loved ones that sets the spiritual fire burning quickly and the loving acts of service for the stranger and the orphan that keep the spiritual fire blazing boldly through the dark night of the soul and the cold air of our temptations to partake of selfish fleshly pleasures. The wise climber on the spiritual mountain seeks the prayers of the most radical love for God, the most expansive joyful affection for all in the divine household, and the most costly acts of compassion for those most in need of His mercy to fuel the spirit on the journey to the summit.

December 2nd, 2015 – On the mountain, we are tempted to stand directly under the waterfall, to explore what lies behind the wall of water slamming down upon the rocks, but the wise traveler knows that this will require preparation to undertake. To enter into the grand waterfall which cascades forth from age unto age, we need to first strengthen ourselves by standing under the smaller waterfalls which will shape our habits so that we can withstand the power of the stream, shed ourselves of all the unnecessary and heavy burdens we carry so that we can enter the stream without being swept away, and take precious supplies with us so that we can continue to have strength for the journey once we reach the other side.

This gift of Love is a crushing wall under which we cannot stand upright until we have been shaped by the smaller waterfalls of suffering which wear away all of those parts of us which are not made of the gentleness of love, until we have been cleansed first in the waterfall of divine grace which is poured out upon us in Baptism, and until we are immersed in the waterfall of the passion of divine love seen with the eyes of faith in the Eucharist, that bread for the journey which strengthens us on the way to the summit.

December 4th, 2015 – Some say that love is all you need. I think that love is beyond need, that it is far greater than a mere meeter of needs, that it can radically tranform us so that our needs fall away as a chrysalis falls away from a butterfly.

December 23rd, 2015 – The acts of giving birth and accepting death for the sake of others are inextricably bound up with one another by way of suffering embraced for the sake of life; this suffering so that another might have life is the suffering of love, the most worthy kind of suffering and the most worthy kind of love united in their power to separate us from all that is not of divine love and unite us with all that is of the divine Love.

December 31st, 2015 – Beer leads to ale, ale leads to lager, and lager leads to the Dark Side.

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One Response to Collected Aphorisms 2015

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