Saturday, June 30, 2012

How Do You...

Random questions asked, encountered, thought of and pondered while visiting kids and grand kids... so far.

How do you stop being paralyzed?

How do you know when to quit?

How do you paint over wallpaper?

How do you stop relating to people in old, familiar ways?

How do you begin to pray, really?

How do you see a person and not your illusions?

How do you discern but not judge?

How do you know when an action or thought is from self delusion rather than "true spirituality"?

How do you stop?

How do you keep brush strokes out when you paint?

How do you know when to shut up?

How do you know when to speak?

How do you make your mind stop for one minute?

How do you stop believing that God has more in mind for your life than what you have?

How do you gain conciousness?

How do you get rid of cigarette smoke smell in a whole house?

How do you reconcile?

How do you find time?

How do you do good without an ego agenda attached?

How do you tell the truth?

How do you laugh like a baby again?

How do you give up hope?

How do you stay out of fruitless discussions?

How do you know?

How do you quit being self destructive?

How do you stay hopeful?

How do you trust?

How do you say goodbye?

How do you know if it is fear or reality?

How do you be truly humble?

How do you stop wanting?

How do you shop at Walmart and not feel....... ?

How do you give a damn?

How do you not "take it personally"?

How do you say "How do you do" and mean it?

And you... ?


al-Quaknaa said...

Excellent. Thank you.

Donna Farley said...

how do you know where to find the line of 'as good as it should be" between slothful carelessness on the one hand and endless wasteful perfectionistic tinkering on the other?

how do you ever find enough time to read all the books?

how do stop wondering how and just do?

s-p said...

Good ones Donna. One of the hardest things to do is judge "good enough", both from one's own perspective and the perspective of a client or boss (or God....)

Margaret said...

Really excellent and almost word for word the questions I am asking myself now, please say a prayer for me, thank you! God bless you! --Margaret

Joseph Barabbas Theophorus said...

First, thanks for keeping up with drawing the Orthographs and continuing to post. And now, although my more literal side is indeed coming out, I believe it is God's will for me to answer each of these questions you posted. I'm not trying to be facetious overall―though I may have a bit of fun with a few of them―but I really believe these answers will lead to some great dialogue. And while I know it is hard to detect tone on the internet, I am very skeptical of the tone which I usually encounter in verbal communication when questions like these―also typically given in a list, one after another―are presented. But enough about that; I don't know quite how you meant them, but if God allows me to I will answer them all at least briefly anyway.

1) To cure physical paralysis, use physical medicine (i.e., visit the doctor). For mental paralysis, use mental medicine (i.e., visit a priest). In all cases, it is ultimately God that heals; it is entirely up to Him to decide the end result of our treatment.

2) Never quit when it comes to Christ. In fact, it is through Him that we know when to quit the other stuff.

3) Depends on the wallpaper, the paint, the underlying surface, etc.

4) Why would you want to stop relating to people in "old" ways? Who said new is better? There is strength in liturgy―if, of course, we really mean what we say and do.

5) How to pray? Start with physical prayer at regular intervals, then work on the nous, then―if possible―strive for prayer of the heart. There are a lot of Fathers who have very extensive and helpful writings on this, but it boils down to working your way from the basic form of prayer to the true relationship with God which is prayer.

6) You see a person when you let go of all passions and notions and categories and ideas; you just commune with them as they are. You see an illusion when you try to understand what you see, which involves the gnomic will, putting the mind above the heart in the hierarchy of the person, prejudices, etc.

7) Discernment is acceptance of reality, while judgment is an impassioned reaction to reality―or, more often, an illusion. For example, discernment is like saying, "Based upon your actions, the government would likely consider you to be in violation of this law". Judgment, in the negative sense of that term, would be more like "You're a criminal, I can feel it! Why didn't they set your bail higher!? You need to be punished for..." and thoughts of that nature.

8) Maybe this is a little hard to talk about now, but if by "know" you mean "have thoughts regarding", then such "knowledge" is usually indicative of delusion. True spirituality begins at the center of a person in communion with the Trinity and is expressed mentally and physically. Since true spirituality is a relationship (and not the fuzzy nonsense which is merely overactive emotions, a.k.a. passions), you can't ever compare actions or thoughts with 100% certainty and say, "Aha! I've got it!". The Law is a tutor, a guide for us, but it is only a shadow of the things to come, and which have come: Jesus Christ. As much as we are blind and deluded we must make use of it, but the end, the fulfillment of the Law is found in Him.

9) For "stopping", I think a good paradigm is "redirection". We never want to stop in an absolute sense―that is death. What we can do is redirect ourselves away from sin and passions and towards holy things. One example of this is in hesychasm; silence is only half the story and the Jesus prayer is used to refocus the person onto Christ. If someone tried to empty their mind without filling it up with Christ, demonic spirituality or even possession would result; we see this a lot in certain religious traditions. Likewise, if we try to stop some sin or passion in isolation (which the Fathers actually warn us not to do), more will just pop up and fill the vacuum. See Matthew 12:43-45.

Joseph Barabbas Theophorus said...

10) I don't know much about painting, but I remember that having the proper amount of paint on the brush makes a fairly significant difference.

11) Listen to the Holy Spirit.

12) Listen to the Holy Spirit.

13) This is a bad idea in a literal sense, as per answer 9. But I think you mean the wandering of the nous. If so, then follow the advice of the Fathers and, with prayer and practice, you will be able to direct the nous. To direct the nous is part of our human personhood and, as we are healed by the Trinity, becomes easier and easier.

14) This is due to pride: believing that our desires, opinions, and feelings are more important than God's plan. The master is greater than the servant; if we have let ourselves become the master, God―and His plans for us―will always seem subservient and lesser.

15) This is part of what it means to be a person. As to the process, this is a mystery. This is part of the reason the Fathers have spoken out against abortion: there is so much we don't know and personhood is holy. Foundational to all existence, actually.

16) I don't know very much about cigarette smoke on a practical level, sorry.

17) If the "you" is singular, then "you" really don't; you can forgive, but reconciliation involves both persons. That is ideal, but forgiveness (in the wide sense of the word) is the most we can offer. It is no small thing either―this is what Christ offers us.

18) If you want to find time, you look for it. Record what you're doing during every period of your day for a few days and you'll quickly see where the time goes.

19) Indeed, that is the only way to do good. And how do you get rid of an ego? Well, the ego is basically a false self-image. Instead of worshiping God and following Him, we bow down to this graven image and reinforce it wherever possible. Instead of doing what is right, we start asking, "Is this in line with my false self-image?". Instead of forgiving, we think, "How can I let the false self image be offended like this?". I mean, we don't phrase it like that, but that is what we think. Until we can destroy that―maybe I should say let go of, because the more attention we give it, positive or negative, the stronger it becomes (like any other passion)―we will always have an "ego".

Joseph Barabbas Theophorus said...

20) One important part of telling the truth that I've been focusing on lately is the command "Do not swear". This has been hijacked into meaning "Do not cuss" or some other bullshit which has so little basis in either the Bible itself or the Fathers that if it served as a foundation for a house that house would not only collapse but the earth would open up and it would careen down into the abyss. I mean, we should understand people's passions and try not to set them off just because we can; we are supposed to heal. But this is not the meaning of the command whatsoever; it has more to do with swearing an oath, but is much broader. Actually reading the words as they are, it can be interpreted more like this: do not imply, hint, claim, or effusively declare that something is certain when you cannot possibly know such a thing. It's related to James 4:13-16. It's about being clear that God Is God. It is about acknowledging that we can be wrong, and usually are.

21) See Christ in all men and through all things and you can laugh or cry holy tears of joy as much as you are able to handle.

22) Giving up hope, or even getting in the first place, is related to making a decision. If you are sure of something, that is hope. Often we hope for terrible or misguided things and have a false hope, but this is still a type of hope. We lose hope in the opposite way: we decide that the thing isn't going to happen, the person isn't going to come, etc. That is about the simplest way I can explain how hope works.

23) There are only two ways you can avoid fruitless discussions. The first is to stop communing with others; this is usually bad but, in the case of someone who is sinning, a temporary excommunication―from very temporary (i.e., walking away) to a bit longer (even a person's remaining time on earth, if that is what God knows will heal them in the end)―is well within the bounds of the Church's teaching. There are some people who quite literally have thrown their TVs out the window, unplugged their internet, or some other such thing; this is not without precedent in the lives of modern saints, but we must also remember it must not be done in isolation from the rest of our spirituality. As noted in answer 9, there are always more demons happy to take up residence when one leaves; there is no use turning off the TV if we replace it with reading the newspaper (with the same carnal mind), gossiping, meddling, getting dragged into the infamous "Church politics", etc. The second, and higher way―if we are able to do it―is just to make every discussion bear fruit!

24) Knowledge, in the truest sense, is the fruit of a relationship. We often say the saints "know God". Knowledge, in the way we usually talk about it, is just a series of memories which we typically take to be absolutes in given situations (i.e., if you let go of a brick, gravity will pull in down). This second type of knowledge is not evil by any means, just misused, and it is inferior to the first type of knowledge. The second type of knowledge may be likened to someone who has studied "Christianity" in a university and knows a lot of facts (or supposed facts) about God.

25) To stop being self destructive, we have to let go of the false self entirely and simply embrace Christ.

26) We stay hopeful by being firm in our decisions.

27) The word "trust" is often used interchangeably with hope, so see answer 22.

28) "Goodbye". Don't let passions make it into some fearful thing. Christ is Risen from the dead! Do we really believe this, in practice, I mean?

29) If you are afraid, it is fear, delusion. You have accepted a lie somewhere. Determining reality is much trickier. In the ultimate sense, God Is Reality, so if we want to know that, we must know Him. But see answers 6 and 7; they may be of some use here.

Joseph Barabbas Theophorus said...

30) True humility is ascribing all good things to God and following Him. It is related to not swearing, a connection I haven't seen made often enough (see answer 20). So do those two things: follow God in whatever He tells you do do, and always give Him the glory. While we go through different, imperfect forms of humility to reach this state, even these must be cast off eventually. For instance, we may start out by thinking of ourselves as sinners all the time, but eventually, we must stop thinking of [our false selves] entirely! Of the highest humility, St. Gregory of Sinai says, "True humility does not say humble words, nor does it assume humble looks, it does not force oneself either to think humbly of oneself, or to abuse oneself in self-belittlement."

31) Just as you would give food to a bull to allow it to grow, the strongest passions are the ones we feed. So, one important step is to stop feeding those wants! But even more immediately than that, God has told us through St. Paul that we will not be tempted beyond what we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). We have to make a choice: God, or the passion.

32) I usually feel slightly excited when I go to Wal-mart, but then again, I am not passionless.

33) Giving a damn is actually a passion. Not to say that God doesn't use our passions for good (we need to distinguish between the two ways the Fathers use that word and how it is not always referring to what we would call sinful passions), but unless He says so, be careful about adding to your passions. Indeed, unless God tells you to, you don't need to try to make yourself feel any particular way about anything: that will just make it harder to follow Him because your feeling will probably be at odds with what He really wants you to do. Also, see answer 19, as this topic is closely related to ego and the false self.

34) See answer 19: let go of the false self. Do not react as your passions tell you, but as Christ tells you.

35) I actually used to avoid those kinds of greetings precisely because I wondered how they could ever be genuine. But, as I pointed out in answer 4, there can be strength in such a liturgical greeting. And how do we mean it? We have to honestly desire to enter into communion with that person which, limited and short as it may be at this moment, will blossom by the Grace of God throughout all eternity into a beautiful icon of the love between the Persons of the Trinity and shine the Light of Christ throughout all creation!

Jack said...

\\How do you stop believing that God has more in mind for your life than what you have?\\

We should never stop believing that in this life, because we don't get the "more" until we're in the World to Come.

Mr. Poet said...

How do you shop at Wal-Mart...?

I've come to accept shopping at Wal-Mart because I've worked in retail almost my entire working life. Are you afraid of hurting mom-and-pop shops? Almost all mom-and-pop shops sell imported junk, just like Wal-Mart does. Almost all mom-and-pop shops don't pay their employees very well, just like Wal-Mart. One difference, though, is that Wal-Mart does provide at least some benefits for employees. Some mom-and-pop shops can't (or won't) give benefits to their employees.

And beyond mom-and-pop shops, what is the real difference between buying something at Wal-Mart and buying it at Target, Staples, Office Depot, or the national grocery chain in your town?

Jon said...

How do you get deeper than the overused, cliche answers for all of these questions? (forgive my cynicism...)

s-p said...

Mr. Poet, The Walmart question is kind of Rorschachian, but yes, you are correct. I had a "mom and pop" construction company for 30 years and built a LOT of mom and pop stores and restaurants.

Jon, I hope to follow up in future blog posts on some of these questions. At pushing 60 and living a "committed life of faith" for over 40 years, I'm still asking them (except for the construction ones I was asked).... and yes they were serious. I don't discount "cliches", however sometimes they don't answer the real question asked.

Drewster2000 said...


How do you help people like Joseph who have a compulsion to answer all questions within their field of vision?

No offense, but I think the list was meant more for meditating on and perhaps drawing out one or two conversations.

No harm done, but it's still funny. (grin)

Fr. David Wooten said...

"How do you discern but not judge?"


James the Thickheaded said...

Love these. Add:

"How do you not know, but do the right thing anyway?"

"How do you let God lead?"

"Who never forgets the Beano? Does it really work for them?"

"Why can't I find my OFF button?"

Kim said...

As to getting the cigarette smell out of a whole's a three step process, really.

Step one: Shampoo carpets, and clean draperies

Step 2:
rent ozone generators sufficient for the space,. run for three days or so with no humans or animal life present, and all doors/windows shut. Run in, shut off, open doors and windows and quickly leave.

Oh, and step 3: Repaint. Use Kilz or the like as primer.