Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Wisdom Tradition: Mining for a Life Richly and Deeply Infused with Heart, Spirit, and Soul

Today's first reading from Daily Mass comes from the book of Sirach (a book of "wisdom") and is essentially a profound meditation on the mystery of God and of existence. No doubt the wisdom figure and writer was the beneficiary of a long tradition of "wisdom" sayings that formed his own perceptions about God and creation. What the wisdom tradition and the books of wisdom in the Old Testament remind us is that God, human existence, and existence itself is something that is meant to be mulled over, reflected upon, contemplated, and experienced at great depth.

Bernard Lonergan, a theologian of the last century, said that "God is the inexhaustibly comprehensible." What this implies is that God can, in fact, be grasped to a degree by the human mind, heart, spirit, and soul - though not completely. What this also means is that human existence and life itself is intended to be pondered, contemplated, mulled over, reflected upon, and subsequently lived at greater and richer depth. So, what keeps us from "diving" to the depths and mining the richness of God, our lives, relationships, and world?

To begin with, much of our media, advertising, and society choose to simply "ride along the surface" of life. Very often popular culture focuses on the basest human drives and instincts and manipulates these to create insecurity, inferiority, and a sense of need where none should rightfully exist. It's a bit of a conspiracy, if you will, that we all go along with to some degree in order to prop up a culture focused largely on materialism and consumerism. To "go deep" in such a culture is to risk being liberated from such "programming" and to live according to values that might very well radically question much of what our society currently stands for. Therefore, deliberate, deep, purposeful living obviously is not very much encouraged!

Another reason why we don't readily and reflectively dive to the depths of contemplating God, human existence, and life itself is simply because of fear and trepidation. What do you think of when you hear the word "depths"? Probably NOT a sunny, warm, wide open meadow full of daises and butterflies! Rather, what is conjured up are words such as "darkness", "obscurity", "uncertainty", "fear", and perhaps the image of an unyielding, uncontrollable abyss. Nevertheless, the "pearl of great price" of a life truly worth living is to be found not in the contrived, "sunny meadows" nor the "slick and smooth" ride along the surface of life but in the difficult and laborious plumbing of the abyss of God's heart, our hearts, the heart of our relationships, and the heart of life itself. The question posed to us by the wisdom tradition is essentially, do we settle for the surface reality that life presents, or do we "dive" into the abyss, "mining" for a life richly and deeply infused with heart, spirit, and soul. Pat, TOR