As a convert, I'm always behind the curve and am constantly discovering delightful customs that date back centuries.
One that's come to my attention lately is the phrase "custody of the eyes"--In Latin, custodia occulorum--and its cousins: custody of the ears and custody of the heart.
These strike me as capital notions. For instance--why does the Church not rise up as one and say that to watch Fox News for five hours, or even five minutes, a day is a giant sin? How can any follower of Christ think it's okay to subject oneself to hate, fear, us versus them, sensationalistic, voyeuristic, profit-based, ratings-desperate dreck? And that's just the news!
A reader once asked: Don't you think we should leave [the formation of our faith and conscience] to those who know better than us? He was referring to EWTN. I replied, "Good God, NO! I don't cede the responsibility for my soul to a television show!"
Who is encouraging such nonsense! Custody of the eyes, custody of the ears. We will be answerable for our own lives. Read the Gospels. Grope your own way to Christ.
Beyond that, why are we not outdoors? Why are we not planting a seed, marveling at a leaf, pondering a bird? What about our responsibility to praise?
We may not be watching porn but we can be watching another kind of porn: stories that are coarse, vulgar, boorish or simply stupid. Stories meant to whip us into panic to stop thinking for ourselves, to anesthetize the existential loneliness and pain that, if we let them, lead us to seek beauty, truth, love.
And could we possibly have been granted the miracle of life only to squander it watching pet videos?
Custody of the ears, custody of the eyes. I don't need to be encouraged to fritter away my short time on earth watching and listening to things that don't feed me. I don't need to be encouraged to scandal-monger.I don't need to be encouraged in my resentment, hostility, impatience, distrust, cowardice, fear, willingness to believe the worst about the other. How can we think this has anything to do with Christ?
Our "opinions" can't speak any louder than our lives, our purity of heart. What do we look at and listen to? How do we spend our time? How do we order our day? What do our thoughts consist of?
What are our resentments, secrets, fears?
Those are the real things to take into the confessional.
We can be following the letter of the law and derogating the spirit at every turn.
Learn a musical instrument. Plant a garden. Sit down across from a real, live, breathing human being and listen to his or her story.
Or better yet--tell your own.
|FLOWERING TREE SEEN NEAR DUSK|
AT ECHO PARK LAKE IN LA.