Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dancing With Phantoms

“It would be so easy and consoling to say, at every moment: this thing I am doing is regarded by everyone as a sure means of attaining to perfection and to the possession of God. But would the peace and consolation I felt have anything necessarily to do with perfection or the possession of God? Might it not after all turn out to be the greatest of all illusions? A surrender to the authority of common opinion – “They say.” How weak our consciences are! We give in and shut our eyes. We have conformed to “them.” We are at peace. “They say” this is perfection.

Much more to the point: The prayer that struggles to get out of myself and reach God, in obscurity, in trial, fighting down the phantoms.”[1]

There will always be those who think that some “other” has managed to get it all together, perfected themselves in a way that makes them worthy to be admired as an example. Too, in this age of media and modernism, there is no shortage of people declaring themselves to be examples of Christian perfection, life coaches, and spiritual directors.

I must admit, when following lesser models, that I joined the ranks of those who “think” they are such examples. I was, after all, emulating, imitating, the modern models that “seemed” to be doing everything right, those that best fit the mold of the modern mindset. I was dancing a dance that borrowed steps from the best of the institutionalized and non-institutionalized church world arenas. I was dancing the dance.

What I didn’t realize was that I was stepping all over my own feet and the feet of others. My own well-intentioned desires and purest ambitions created a blindness that kept me from seeing the faces, the forms and characters, of my phantom dancing partners.

[1] Thomas Merton, A Search for Solitude, p.75