Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Success

Our lives, all of our lives, communicate something. This is the organic nature of life. We live it and what we live says something. Life is a dialog with ourselves, God, and others. The problem with life is that it comes replete with temptation, not the least of which is to do everything we can to manipulate life so that it serves as a means to satisfy our own faulty inorganic premises and preconceived notions about it.

As long as temptation is an inherent part of human nature, and there is only one eventual way to escape it, personal human failure will accompany us as we make our way toward our liberation from the false identities that we create for ourselves. Others, and particularly the economies of the world that drive personal ambitions, create avenues that make the pursuit of false identities appear appropriate and normal. Along these avenues we are tempted to measure ourselves according to synthetic, inorganic models and standards of success, models and standards that set themselves in direct opposition to humility.

Personal success, in the mind of St. Benedict, has nothing to do with pushing and promoting ourselves. He reminds us to “constantly remember everything that God has commanded.”[1] Benedict reminds us that our lives are being carefully monitored.[2] He reminds us that we must carefully guard ourselves during every moment of life lest we fall prey to the sins and vices that affect every area of our being.[3]

Benedict’s approach to personal holiness isn’t one that brow beats us by establishing a harsh penal code that corrals us with borders of bondage. He, to the contrary, takes us immediately and personally to the very liberating, basic, and organic nature of life, of being human, of living in a way that honors God by respecting the life he has given us. As a master spiritual director he helps us develop an awareness of life as it is intentionally meant to be, an awareness that helps us recognize our inherent tendencies, both the good and the otherwise, to not get our heads swelled when the good prevails, to acknowledge and deal with the otherwise when they immerge and manifest themselves in negative ways.

We realize the necessity to station vigilance at the gateways of our lives.[4] Without it we become negligent and slothful. With it we stave off our tendencies to rationalize the presence of this twin evil of the temporal and eternal welfare of our souls, tendencies that would otherwise cause us to slight the most important aspects of the life of faith – ora et labora, prayer and work, born of the pure soil of charity.

[1] RB 7:11
[2] RB 7:13
[3] RB 7:12
[4] RB 7:29