nothing can be possessed but the struggle (part I)

sometimes, especially lately, i consider becoming catholic. as i get older, my view of the faith tradition whittles down to catholicism a flavor of christianity (#ecumenism), thanks to thomas merton, fr. john eudes bamberger (whom i met last summer whilst on my silent retreat, only to learn he was fairly close to merton!), pope francis, fr. james martin, stephen colbert, and flannery o’connor. i appreciate how they uniquely emanate Jesus and His kingdom.

i bought a copy of flannery o’connor’s prayer journal last year and had kept the slim hardcover, along with anne lamott’s help, thanks, wow, in my locker — spiritual blankies, as it were — throughout 1L. i kept a literal blanket, the kantha i bought in india three years ago, in my locker, too.

for 2L, i switched the kantha blanket for a hooded sweatshirt, and brought flannery’s journal home. as i feel myself veering towards the law school version of the sophomore slump (perhaps “spiral” is more apt), i’ve been rereading her prayer journal the past few nights, and i’m convinced that flannery and i are kindred spirits.

i cycle through her prayers and it dawns on me, “is this what it’s like to pray through the rosary?”

previously, the practice appeared rote and, based on my limited knowledge of confession, peculiar — how does prescribing a parishioner numerous recitations constitute penance? the concept of prayer as punishment struck me as odd; perhaps the tedium of redundancy ad nauseum meets punitive goals?

i’ve learned that repetition isn’t necessarily rote and devoid of meaning. in biblical literature, repetition serves to emphasize. repetition is meant to bore: not tending toward boredom, but to bore down.

my wants and worries parallel hers very much, even now when one would think that the novelty of the striking resemblance between the two sets would’ve faded by now. to the contrary, what remains consistent is how striking and fresh the sense of kinship feels.

here, repetition renews and marvel at how i’ve yet to tire of sharing her sentiments so closely. i catch myself clinging to her turns of phrase, certain that i could have underlined and annotated her words with an ultra-fine point sharpie pen with confidence, the way i imagine one clutches the beads of a rosary.

a few hurdles keep me from switching to catholicism from the various strands of protestantism. for now, i hope it’s not sacrilegious to use her journal as my approximation of the rosary; actually, it seems fitting to turn her prayers into a personal variation on “traditional prayer.”

how could i resist when she prays the following, which resounds most emphatically with this law student halfway through her second year, days away from final exams?

How hard it is to keep any one intention any one attitude toward a piece of work any one tone any one anything. . . Dear God, let me work, keep me working, I want so to be able to work. If my sin is laziness I want to be able to conquer it.

two sides of lent

for lent this year, i will abstain from social media. gut reactions to fasting from the following channels:

  • facebook: obvi. y’all can wait until after easter for me to post photos i take from my brother’s and friends’ weddings–if i manage to take photos from my brother’s wedding.
  • twitter: will i be surprised if my follower count drops dramatically? nope.
  • instagram: the app on my phone’s been on the fritz, so that should be easy-peasy.
  • pinterest: not as difficult.
  • tumblr: ditto.
  • youtube: ooooh, tricky.

it’s easy to tell myself i’ll fast from facebook if i use the other channels as crutches. hopefully, this will force me into a regimen that requires me to cope in productive ways.

my hope is that this lenten season will dovetail with my one word for this year, that the less i consume, the more i’ll create. that what i do consume will be more wholesome: books! real newspapers! house of cards (not so much)!

it’s kind of the opposite of a paleo diet, i guess. books, magazine articles and longform journalism pieces are processed and refined much more than blogposts, statuses, tweets, and even some shorter-form news articles.

right around now, i miss google reader. most of my content comes through my facebook newsfeed, tumblr, and some twitter. should be interesting to see what i’ll “create” without these sources of “inspiration”.

also. these posts will probably not have cool images because i typically find them on social media. so, enjoy this one:

my one word for 2014 is…

first, i’d like to list the runners-up for this year’s #oneword365

  • courage
  • flow
  • integrity
  • persist
  • perspire
  • through
  • yield

after some hemming and hawing and being paralyzed by too many choices, i landed on this, eventually:

create ≥ consume

i wondered if “create” should be my one word of the year. then i was fixated on the symbol, and wished there were a way to make a suffix my word of the year. alas, i can’t, for by definition a suffix isn’t a word in and of itself. and i could only append “-er” to a limited number of adjectives, which was a problem because i grew increasingly convinced that my one word should be a verb.

but that also troubled me because i felt it would psych me out from the get go. i caught myself judging myself harshly, within a system of feast or famine, all or nothing. and i realized that such judgments were myopic and unfair to myself. how could i rail against and try to dismantle a false dichotomy over others while still bound in one of my own?

i realized that i would erroneously interpret words like “create” (or other verbs for that matter) as a mandate to fill a void when the reality is that i have been active, i have been crafting words, and getting stuff done.

my problem isn’t, “i’ve done nothing and now i’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”
my opportunity is, “i’ve done some pretty good stuff. let’s see if i can do more of it — and better.”

and so, i present to you, for the remaining 325 days of 2014, my #oneword365:

oneword2014

more writing. more exercise. more reading. more singing. more creativity. more initiative. more diligence. more confidence. more clarity. more surrender. more prayer. more trust. more faith. more hope. more love. more grace. more selectivity. more depth. more growth. more respect. more justice. more mercy. more kindness. more patience. more peace. more dancing. more risk. more reward. more vulnerability. more freedom. more praise. more joy. more wisdom. more experience. more insight. more memories. more fruits and vegetables.

i figure more of the good will overtake the junk. so if i can just focus on building upon the progress, however little, i’ve made, and be faithful to continue, the excellence will follow eventually.