Anger

I have a temper. Some folks are surprised by that, because they never see it. They never see it because I internalize my anger as a matter of course. Why? Because almost without fail I say or do things I later deeply regret if I let my temper loose. I have no desire to hurt others, but that is practically an inevitable consequent of my outbursts.

Experts tell me that this is a lousy strategy. I am inclined to agree just because of the internal costs I pay in absorbing it all. Yet I fear my mouth when set loose in anger. I do not know the answer, but I found the following from St. Francis de Sales to be a little helpful.

It is better, says the same St. Augustine, writing to Profuturus, to deny entrance to just and reasonable anger than to admit it, be it ever so little; because, being once admitted, it is with difficulty driven out again; for it enters as a little twig, and in a moment becomes a beam; and if the sun sets upon it, which the apostle forbids, it turns into hatred, from which we have scarcely any means to rid ourselves; for it nourishes itself under a thousand false pretexts, since there was never an angry man that thought his anger unjust. [Introduction to the Devout Life, III.8; emphasis added]

So I think SS. Francis & Augustine are right. But how to control my anger, then? Well, I suppose I begin by admitting that I can’t control it, and then laying the problem at the foot of the Cross. Different problems, all with one solution. Lord, help.

Happy Day!

Buy this album!If you are looking for a day brightener, look no farther my friend. What you need is some of this right here. It came out at 10pm-ish in my time zone, and I am listening to it for the third time already. It is spectacular. It is fun. Make Ingrid proud of you. She has done the uncommon: her music keeps getting better.

 

Don’t go to bed angry

St. Paul wrote that we should not let the sun go down on our anger. This is really good advice. Why? Because we do not know what tonight or tomorrow will hold. We may not have a chance to clear things up. This is a lesson that I learned in the most horrible way imaginable. My last memory of a certain individual involves me screaming in rage at him. I suppose we may have had a few conversations after that, but I don’t remember them at all.

And a few months later he was dead.

So for the rest of my life I must carry the burden of having never sought his forgiveness for my stupid, abominable behavior and the terrible things that I said. I have sought God’s forgiveness and I believe I have received absolution. But what penance can I possibly do? I suppose carrying the memory of my shameful behavior will be part of it.

Do not be like me. Do not let the sun go down on your anger. All that means is don’t hold a grudge, and seek to clear things up when you hurt someone. As soon as possible. You do not want to carry the burden of having not apologized; you do not want to be haunted by never having asked the other guy or girl for forgiveness. You do not know what tomorrow holds. Do it now, while you still can. However painful it might be, it will be nothing compared to the burden of not doing it. I guarantee it.

What you’re good at

A while ago I stumbled across the following blurb from Rick Baird. I don’t know a thing about him, but here is his website. Anyway, he said this:

Everybody has their one thing that they’re good at, and if you ever find it, you want to stick with it.

I suppose it is something of a truism, but I still love it. It makes no sense to seek a career or job just for the sake of the money. If you don’t like it, or if you can’t at least tolerate it, you will go crazy. Heck, you might go crazy even if you do like the job…but that’s another story.

It’s a lot more important to do something that you love, and that you’re good at. It is not always easy to figure out what that should be, and frankly sometimes what we love and are good at do not always add up to an adequate income. But if Mr. Baird is right, then even if we have to prop things up for a while with some ancillary employment, we can still work towards the thing that we love, the thing we’re good at.

I don’t know what he would say about this, but I think it is more important that decisions about this should not be driven by money. Hey, if you’re Peyton Manning and bring home the big bucks as one of the best QBs of all time, doing what you love, well then knock yourself out. Fantastic. But for most of us doing what we are really good at and what we really like may not add up to much of a paycheck—at least not at first, anyway, and possibly never. But the important thing is that you’re making use of God’s gifts. And if you seek to use those gifts in the ways that He wants, out of love for Him, then things will probably work out. Your name may never be a household word, but who cares? What really matters is doing our best for God out of love for God with the gifts that He has given us.

The experience of friendship

Jonathan was said (1Sa. 18) to be David’s friend who was as his own soul (and vice versa). Such friendships are rare in this life, and they are things to be treasured. Christopher Lee had that kind of friendship with Peter Cushing. He once said:

I don’t want to sound gloomy, but, at some point of your lives, every one of you will notice that you have in your life one person, one friend whom you love and care for very much. That person is so close to you that you are able to share some things only with him. For example, you can call that friend, and from the very first maniacal laugh or some other joke you will know who is at the other end of that line. We used to do that with him so often.

I was blessed to have such a friend in high school. We were about as inseparable as possible. To borrow from 1 Samuel, he was as my own soul. One of the most difficult things I have ever done was to say goodbye to him when we moved to a new city. It has been decades now, and we do stay in touch from time to time, and it is always a pleasure to hear from him, but yet it is not the same. We have been separated ten times longer than we were together. There is a certain pain to this that I always carry with me; when I watched the final episode of M.A.S.H., and Trapper & Hawkeye hugged each other goodbye, I completely fell apart in tears because it reminded me so much of my separation from my best friend.

Christopher Lee understood that kind of friendship, and he understands what happens when that friend who is as your own soul finally departs:

And then when that person is gone, there will be nothing like that in your life ever again.

[Emphasis added]

That is a melancholy thought, but Mr. Lee (or, rather, Sir Christopher) gets it. There has never been anything like that friendship again in my life. I do not by any means intend to slight my darling life, whom I love more than anyone. But the sort of friendship I think Lee has in mind is with another man (or a woman, if you’re female). There is something uniquely special about the friendship he and the Bible describe, as well as the one I enjoyed in high school. And Lee is right, at least in my case: there has never been anything like that in my life again. So I treasure that memory.

In Lee and Cushing’s case, the separation was brought about by the latter’s death. But there are other ways that such friendships may end. They may end in a flurry of stupid, cruel words. They may “end” because of distance. My friend and I do still keep in touch, but that special thing that we had is long over. The shared experiences upon which it was built (alongside the way our souls “meshed”) are gone. We are now just acquaintances with something a little extra: we enjoy our visits with each other, and we certainly care about each other more than the average acquaintance, but without the shared experiences that are just essential to a friendship: they form the culture of the friendship, the Zeitgeist of the thing. And without them…well, things just aren’t the same anymore.

Orson Scott Card understands this as well. He wrote in Ender’s Game (sorry, no page number available):

For now that they could not be together, they must be infinitely apart, and what had been sure and unshakable was now fragile and insubstantial; from the moment we are not together, Alai is a stranger, for he has a life now that will be no part of mine, and that means that when I see him we will not know each other.

I am not sure whether Card intended Ender and Alai’s friendship to be the sort of thing that I have been talking about here, but he surely gets the idea.

It occurred to me as I was reading over that passage from Card again tonight that the pain of that kind of separation ends with this life. When (God willing, and with His help) we see Him face to face, when we are in Heaven, when we have an eternity together, our experience will be the same: the contemplation of God Himself. And it occurred to me that in that blessed life, in that blessed place and time, all our friends will be as our own souls. That richness of love will be founded on the Rock, and it will be eternal. What a glorious thought! The friendships that Lee and Cushing, Jonathan and David, and my friend and I had are mere foretastes of even better things to come. That thought takes a lot of the sting out of what Lee said (at least for me), and it is something to look forward to.

But the best part is that we cannot even begin to imagine how wonderful the love with our actual best friend will be in glory, because that friend will be God Himself. We see through a glass darkly today, but then face to face. Amen. Let it be so, Lord!

Sally Sparrow reads Ecclesiastes

I am a Whovian, and one of my favorite episodes is the über-classic “Blink”. It guest stars Carey Mulligan as the unfortunately-named Sally Sparrow who stumbles across some unexpectedly personal graffiti. The usual timey-wimey hijinks ensue. The episode is brilliant, and Mulligan is a major reason for it (aside from an extraordinary script).

Anyway, early in the episode Sally and her friend Kathy Nightingale are poking around in an abandoned old wreck of a house, and they have this exchange:

Kathy Nightingale: What did you come here for anyway?
Sally Sparrow: I love old things. They make me feel sad.
Kathy Nightingale: What’s good about sad?
Sally Sparrow: It’s happy for deep people.

Source

Setting aside what this chat tells us about their respective characters, I was strongly reminded of it when I came across the following in Ecclesiastes:

For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow. (1:18)

And this:

Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of countenance the heart is made glad. (7:3)

Sally knew her Bible. :-)

Revisiting an opinion

A while back I wrote that Edward Scissorhands may be Tim Burton’s magnum opus. I must revisit the subject. Since then I have seen Big Fish. This film is a thing of beauty. It took me days to recover from watching it. Without prejudice to Edward, who is still near and dear to my heart, Big Fish is what I hope Tim Burton is remembered for above all.

Search Term Fun

A recent visitor to the blog got here by searching for the terms “aquinas” and clavinism. Heh. I had no idea this guy was a field of study. :-) But in any case, I am pretty sure he’s not a theologian, Aquinas knew nothing about him, and his most likely area of genuine expertise would be beer (notwithstanding the breadth of his knowledge-like substance). Typos are rarely so entertaining. :-)

Three car pileup

Horrible accident on the PCH (Protestant Coast Highway): sola fide and total depravity smashed into Psalm 15. Psalm 15 came out of the calamitous scene unscathed, but the two Protestant doctrines are on life support.

1 O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy mountain?
2 He who walks blamelessly, and does what is right,
and speaks truth from his heart;
3 who does not slander with his tongue,
and does no evil to his friend,
nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;
4 in whose eyes a reprobate is despised,
but who honors those who fear the Lord;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5 who does not put out his money at interest,
and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.

Sola fide was obviously critically wounded by the psalm’s sole appeal to righteous deeds to describe those who will “dwell on [God’s] holy mountain.” Of course, this might not be a problem for dispensationalists but for the Reformed and others who insist that Israel was saved by faith just like they themselves are, it poses a bit of a problem. Once again, it doesn’t rule out the necessity of faith, but the psalm makes it flatly absurd to suppose that one’s deeds have nothing to do with his salvation.

The Reformed doctrine of total depravity was similarly damaged in the collision. Those who hold it insist that there is not one single person who does good, but this psalm repeatedly and in detail describes the lives of the righteous. On the Reformed understanding it would seem that the psalm is talking about…nobody whatsoever. The empty set. But that is entirely silly. This isn’t Seinfeld, and this is not a psalm about nothing.