FRIDAY OF LENT WEEK 5
When we feel we are in a real and present danger life is suddenly simplified. A man I know was once plunged into this when a dentist spotted a suspicious growth in his mouth and he had to wait a week for the test results. Of a sudden he was in a storm of uncertainty, fear and anxiety. But he also discovered an unprecedented hyper-clarity because the priorities of his life had become self-evident without his having to think or choose between them. As a result, his love of life surged and led him to understand that this was his natural state which he had lost touch with before his routine dental check-up. His physical senses also heightened and the pleasures of life which had dulled in recent years burst into life again.
Happily, the results were negative regarding cancer but sadly negative as he dropped back into his usual semi-vital state. One of life’s little lessons. Nothing has more to teach us than hints of our own mortality.
Perhaps Ukrainians, fighting passionately to save the life of their country, are also feeling this burst of clarity. Decisions of daily life and the squabbles of ordinary relationships are subsumed in a commitment of love and solidarity stronger than the fear of death. Isn’t this the clarity we see in Jesus, especially in the gospel of John, as he goes through his last hours. Passion, the passion of love or the Passion of Christ are passages, transitions to go through. But when we emerge, we have been changed. If we have gone as far into it as death and if we have undergone that blink of the great detachment, the change in us is not less than a resurrection, a complete transformation of consciousness. And the clarity of that never fades again.
Kierkegaard thought that anxiety, what he called angst, is a symptom of human freedom. When it first appears, we may even feel a kind of guilt: O, I shouldn’t be feeling this. Why aren’t I happy, as I should be, like my FaceBook Friends? The existentialists think of anxiety as both an attraction to and revulsion from the unknowns of our future selves. To despair, as we confront them, means that we refuse or cannot be ourself.
Or we may decide to live anyway and step into the uncertainty. Once we accept the gift of our being – which John Main thought meditation allows us to do – we change. We grow. We expand. We feel united with being which is a far deeper, richer state than existential angst and instead we are flooded with the only real certainty we can touch: hope.