Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A HUNDRED SMALL ANNOYANCES



St. Claude de la Colombière, 17th-century priest and confessor, observed:

There is no one who does not experience a hundred small annoyances every day, caused either by our own carelessness or inattention, or by the inconsideration or spite of other people, or by pure accident. Our whole lives are made up on incidents of this kind, occurring ceaselessly from one minute to another, and producing a host of involuntary feelings of dislike and aversion, envy, fear, and impatience to trouble the serenity of our minds…If we were careful to offer all these petty annoyances to God and accept them as being ordered by his providence, we would soon be in a position to support the greatest misfortunes that can happen to us, besides at the same time insensibly drawing close to intimate union with God.

Well isn't that the truth? The other day, driving around L.A. on a series of pesky errands, I started thinking about Thomas Merton's famous "moment" on a street corner in Louisville where, suffused with love, he realized "There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun." I thought, a bit churlishly to be sure, Yeah, I'd think people were shining like the sun as well,  if I didn't have to wade through them every day. I see the monks "shining like the sun" when I visit a monastery, too--mostly because I don't have to live with them...

That's not to detract in any way from Merton's truly beautiful epiphany; it's only to observe that the real feat for me would be to see Christ in the people who are in my way 24/7, as I jostle for a parking spot, a place in line, my earplugs at night to block out the sound of their obnoxiously yipping dogs....

Recently I heard a guy tell of a spiritual practice he's discovered. He says thank you to God not only for the things that make life easier, but for the things that make it harder, scarier, more painful. He lost his wallet at the movie theater: he got home, gritted his teeth, thanked God, and the theater called the next day and said they'd found it. He lost the wallet again, this time at a bowling alley--again, he thanked God; again, the wallet miraculously turned up. A third time he lost the wallet, on a visit to his aunt in Arizona. Again, he said, "Thank you, God;" a third time the wallet was returned.

I thought, My God man, put the wallet in a different pocket!

Still, I think the guy's onto something. Because what happens with a hundred (at LEAST!) small annoyances a day is that I, for one, can start going around with a low-grade hostility. I can fritter away my energy in a kind of constant self-defense, self-justification, scheming, planning, pre-emptive damage control mode...

Thanking God when your mother's just gone up in a Nazi crematorium, or when you've been called into the torture chamber, or when you're watching through the glass as your kid is executed might be a bit much to ask, but maybe I, who have never known such trauma, can give thanks to be alive, even in a world where God has given man free will and we so often use it to kill each other.

Again and again during the course of my day, I have to return to: How important is it? Would I rather be right or would I rather be happy?

Again and again, I have to pray, Let me come from a place of love. Then, with a whole lot of luck and a whole lot of grace, I can get back to Oh God bless her, with her three dogs; I'm just jealous cause she's young and beautiful. I can think, How amazing that a city of ten million works at all, never mind as well as it does. I can think,  Look! There's a red-hot poker--one of the first signs of spring...

Kniphofia northiae

17 comments:

  1. I call that "the fallen world". With me it is never finding the can opener, the thing that falls and breaks, the wobbly stair, the grumpy person. But yes, we can always be grateful. It is great to be alive. :D

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    1. Aaah, I call it attitude adjustment and I need it every day! With me it's not having a dishwasher, the stove that breaks, the lost, broken or ruined clothing or household item, the toxic mother, the congestion on our street, the lines to wait in, the cost of living . . . . all things part of a blessed life I would have given anything for whhen my life was the bottle.

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  2. I call it attitude adjustment, which is what meetings, mass, prayer helps me with. Plus cool blog posts!

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  3. You nailed this, Heather, and offered me a LOL moment about the irksome of our everyday lives.

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  4. Our sewer is backed-up today. I woke to discover the basement. Called the electric eel people and am waiting in line. Sometimes I can't see Christ in myself let alone those closest to me or anyone else. Then it's another day and some of them even have Mertonesk epiphanies (though honestly, most don't so thank God for the sacraments)

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  5. Spring already? It's still January for pity sake! You LA birds have all the luck.

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  6. ejf - it's Spring like here and I live in Canada and this weather is not all that unusual. As the map goes I am longitudinally parallel with Rome ('that' Rome) and seated in a topographical basin that affords mild and short if bitter winters.

    So, not only the LA birds but some of us Canadian Canards have it good too.

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  7. After reading this,I got smoothie on my glasses,dropped an apple and couldn't find the third Gatorade bottle that I just bought.Instead of an expletive,I had to smile because this is how it is ,isn't it?

    My elderly Mother used to struggle to get her watch hooked on her left wrist with her right hand.Drove her crazy until she started"offering it up" for others and then it never bothered her again,in fact it became a joy because she was "doing something" rather than getting aggravated.

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  8. Thx Owen. I guess Spring must be a state of mind, because I know you are north of me (NE Ohio). Maybe I'm just feeling sorry for myself. Don't quite get the longitudinally parallel bit tho ...

    Thank God for St Claude. If I was stuck on a desert island--kind of like winter in NE OH hearing about Spring in LA--I would want a copy of his Surrender to Divine Providence. That and my iPad so I could keep track of HK and SOF ...

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  9. "...The shoe string that breaks with no time left."

    Charles Bukowski

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  10. That Merton quote reminds me of Caryll Houseland the "Christing of the world." I really try to remember this. I remembered it at Mass this morning, but now I'm at work. ;-)

    AMDG

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  11. Owen! Electric eel people? I know what you mean, but we don't use that term here and it reminds me of Farenheit 451.

    AMDG

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  12. Oh yes, we in L.A. how have endured the long, HARD winter of two weeks of temperatures that have dipped at night as low as the HIGH 30s can bear the suffering no longer. After such harsh treatment, I, for one, am STRAINING towards the first signs of spring...

    No seriously I've been cold ever since my NE childhood. So I love snow and deep winter (I especially love surveying it out the window from a prone position in front of a roaring fireplace), but I do love the Southern California most-of-the-time warmth...

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  13. Since first reading this I have received a gift subscription to Dappled Things, got a 25% discount on the two pairs of glasses I must now have, got out of our basement sewer back-up for a mere 90 bucks and received a gift of money from a family member that means I can hold of on kicking our 20somethings out of the house.

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  14. Thank you Heather, this seemed to be exactly what I needed to hear today. Strange.

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  15. I think he should put the wallet in his pocket with Velcro.

    I love Merton, but, yes those little annoyances really irk me and why do they seem to come in bunches?

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