Seven Quick Takes, Vol. 6: Fill ‘Er Up

1 – Long Dark Tea Time

It’s been a long time since I was depressed, and that’s amazing. The odd thing is how not-sad is not exactly the same as happy. When I was habitually miserable, I always figured that being free from the constant oppressive darkness was all I could ever ask for. Turns out, nope, my appetite for bliss is infinite, just like CSL said (somewhere [probably]), so I am probably just getting started.

Truth be told, I am feeling a little empty. Unfortunately, it’s not the Dark Night of the Soul. That is when you are so so so wonderful that God has decided that the only way to make you MORE wonderful is to withdraw the sense of His presence for a while so that your inner wonderfulness can grow. Anyway that’s what the saints say.

I wouldn’t know, because the reason I feel empty is that I am selfish and vain and I don’t pray enough and I’d rather look at my triceps in the mirror than pour out the love of Christ on my fellow wounded immortals. So I assume.

2 – Baby’s Black Balloon

Speaking of emptiness, Zen Pencils has done a curiously affecting illustration of a C. S. Lewis quotation that I had forgotten I ever read:

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.

But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.

The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

3 – The Perils Of Being Awesome

That bit about the hobbies and luxuries stung a little, because I had just been congratulating myself on having this chastity thing pretty well down — I mean, not that the old habits of solitary vice1 don’t occasionally reassert themselves, just that I’m not lonely and brokenhearted and stuck wandering the echoing hallways of solitude, wondering how to fill all that TIME; which is what, in my early days as a consciously gay Catholic, I assumed I’d be doing around now.

Because why? Because I do fill my time, with the things I always go on about: tattoos (I’ve got an appointment in two weeks) and Kung Fu (ranking coming up this December!) and motorcycles (there’s got to be one more perfect day before the snow comes) and writing (which I pretend I do a lot more of than I do) and working out (see biceps, above).

Which, ruh roh, none of those things are bad and in fact all of them are good, but they do sort of smack of a rich single guy spending his time entertaining himself. That’s not chastity. The point is not to distract yourself from the fact that you aren’t settling down with a mate. The point is to spend yourself on something, lap strength, steal joy, laugh, cheer.2

4 – Cheer Whom, Though?

Not that the two are mutually exclusive. Whatever we do, even if it’s something for ourselves, there are always opportunities to pour ourselves out.

I walked into Kung Fu on Wednesday feeling like I had somehow forgotten how to be in touch with human beings, so Oh well I better resign myself to just sort of drifting until I remember where my heart is.

Then I remembered that, during that year of now done darkness,3 when the Kwoon became the closest thing I had to an inviolably safe place, somehow the classes when I was most gregarious and most able to pour out love were those classes when I started out feeling the most depleted.

I don’t know what that means. Is it that, when I’m empty, I’m more easily filled by love, which, let’s be ontologically honest, never originates from me in the first place anyway? Regardless, it worked. Step inside the magical door with a quick prayer to my Dad to look out for me, and pretty soon I am scattering brightness.

Or that’s how it feels. Maybe I am just scattering annoyingness. I’ll never know, will I?

5 – The Achieve Of; The Mastery Of the Thing4

What makes me not terribly worried that my hobbies are somehow slowly turning me into a self-absorbed emotional miser is the knowledge that when you do things that are awesome and that you love doing, you can’t help glowing, and the glow can’t help lighting up other people. It’s like capitalism! Except it works.5

Which must be why this video makes me happy beyond all reason.

I don’t care that it’s a commercial, or that Enya is lazy music for gooey people, or that there wasn’t any real danger, or that after all he’s just an actor. Maybe it’s that JCVD has passed from goofy sincerity, through postmodern irony, and has come out on the other side as sincere again. I dunno. The video inspires me because it’s beautiful, so there you go. My heart in hiding stirred for a split.

6 – Gweenbrick

I have been waiting to tell you officially about Gweenbrick ever since I mentioned him. I wanted to make a whole post about him. But if I wait till I do that, I’ll wait a long time.

Anyway, I can’t decide which his posts are more: hilarious, symphonic, Zen, or Hambledonian.6 I wish I could write like this man, and I am proud of knowing about him before the whole entire internet descends on him with shouts of adulation. Get in on the ground floor of loving Gweenbrick. Today’s post is called Slow Yoga With Denene.

7 – Clap Your Tiny Hands For Joy

As long as we are talking about beauty, thanks to Simo7 for posting this. Oh my gosh. Go out and give thanks. Happy Friday.

1 I <3 euphemisms.
2 Hopkins, obvi.
3 Hopkins again. Same poem.
4 The Windhover, this time, which was clearly written about JCVD, whatever else it may have been written about.
5 It is fun to be snarky about capitalism from the comfort of my coffee shop. I do believe that it’s probably the worst possible system, except for all the others.
6 Cf. Douglas Adams’ The Meaning of Liff, in which he defines Hambledon as “The sound of a single-engined aircraft flying by, heard whilst lying in a summer field in England, which somehow concentrates the silence and sense of space and timelessness and leaves one with a profound feeling of something or other.” That’s Gweenbrick.
7 That’s “teacher’s wife” for you nonkungfuers.

7 Comments on “Seven Quick Takes, Vol. 6: Fill ‘Er Up”

  1. Mary Lachapelle says:

    Pertaining to Part 1 up there. Do you really think your selfish and vain? I see it differently. You were miserable before. You found kung fu which is doing for you exactly what it IS supposed to be doing. Learning control of your body, your inside, boosting confidence, courage, discipline, respect (among many others). So to admire your triceps in the mirror is not necessarily vain. You’re in new awe of the results of your vigorous physical activity! It means your doing something right! I never have gotten the impression from you that your selfish. But as far as kung fu goes, you are still a young rank and everything isn’t going to be perfect all at once. As time goes on all the good stuff balances out a little at a time! Therefore hardwork + time = awesome! As far as praying goes. I’ve always felt you can pray inside yourself all the time. I do. I often pray in my head while I’m driving. If your thoughts are there, your heart is too. Glad you liked the video. I thought it was cool. 🙂

    1. Hi Simo! I don’t really mean that Kung Fu makes me selfish and vain. I do think I’m those things, but for other reasons.

      I don’t really think it’s vain to notice and appreciate the results of one’s hard work, but I think it’s possible to go too far with it. Anyway, if I had to pick between being vain and being self-hating, I’d choose vanity.

      I definitely agree about praying in your head. St. Paul says we should pray continually. For me, that means not only making a habit of speaking to God, but also trying to put my whole self into what I do, so that my life can be a better offering. So I think Kung Fu can be a way of praying, too! Depending on how it’s done.

  2. Christina Grace says:

    Major points for THREE Hopkins references in one post. He’s my faaaaavorite.

  3. Searcheress says:

    Somehow your posts respond with my internal struggles. To accept being alone is hard. I have plenty of time for myself, for years I learnt so much from these times, but at this point of my life all that seams so irrelevant. I feel empty because I have feeling that I have all that love inside me, but still I did not find way to share it. For me possibility of cooking for one I love would be first price, but somehow I still use one plate and one cup and that hurts me deeply.

  4. Tara S says:

    Haha – #1 – I have felt both of those ways (saintly and lame) and they have both been true in their respective times. I’m learning to apply patience and small corrections to my lazier and more frivolous self…poor girl, she’s still trying, even when she’s a bit stupid.

    Every time I read your thoughts I want to say that I think we are basically the same person, except that I am a married mom of three small kids, and so perhaps that would be a weird thing to say.

  5. richard says:

    #1: I can’t remember ever being “depressed”. Nevertheless I wasn’t out of the woods. Many times I grappled with understanding my “calling” in this world and still do to some extent. I often wonder if I am doing what I am supposed to do.

  6. Searcheress says:

    I like reading you. I could say I am depressed sometimes. Somehow it is always connected with feelings of love. I still havent’t find way to stop myself in loving someone without feeling big hole for some time. Big part of me belives that it is good way to go, but every time there is part of me that dies in that process. Every person, one piece taken from me.
    It sounds a bit (melo)dramatic…:)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *