Friday, October 22, 2010

Standing Aside to Look at Life and Oneself

 In the Kyeongyang Magazine early this year a retired priest gave his reflections on life and leisure. During his last years in the seminary, he realized  there was something missing in his emotional life. He attributed  this to the poverty of his family, not being able to finish school, and the difficulties of the war years. Without a better emotional life bringing a necessary balance into his life, he believed his personality would not improve.

While in the seminary he felt working with music would help him cultivate a more balanced emotional life, so he started with the guitar. He went to the  accordion and just before he retired, he  borrowed a saxophone, but when the owner asked for its return the interest in music disappeared.

In the beginning of his priestly life, he enjoyed tennis and fishing. For reasons of health, he volunteered to go to an island where he took up writing and poetry and continued this interest into his retirement years, when he published a book of poetry.

He  took up calligraphy and oriental painting. He was intent on doing everything possible to cultivate his emotional life. During his sabbatical year, he  even studied oriental painting.

Leisure allows one to step back and look at one's daily concerns. It is like the painter who steps back with a cup of tea in his hand to look with a mature eye at  what he has just finished painting.  Just as oriental painting has to have blank spaces if it is to have life, in our own lives, if we are to have fulfillment, we have to have this leisure--life's blank spaces.

When one steps back from his daily work, he can see it from a different perspective. He can see the 'I,' the ego, with a different eye for it is not uncommon that we deceive ourselves. When we become too attached to the work we can forget who we are and who we are working for. When we are conscious of  the bishop and the Christians and what they will think, we can lose our identity and develop a false self; we fail to practice virtue and walk the road to holiness.

There is a possibility of getting so involved in the work for God that we forget God: the work becomes our satisfaction, our glory. He reflects that  during the years as pastor, it was his ideas and plans that he wanted implemented; he wasn't interested in hearing what his pastoral council advised. Being a late learner, he realized at retirement that it was often when he didn't get  what he wanted  that God's will was done.

He tells us that having a little pressure in life is not all bad; it keeps us from being sloppy and falling apart. (This reminds me of a ditty from the seminary days: No stress, no strain, no unusual moods, stay loose but don't fall apart at the seams.) To show us what he means, he introduces us to  his blog that he has kept going for five years-- Spirituality from the Water Spring,  This keeps him young at heart. His approach is a good example of the contemplative attitude toward life which is becoming harder to follow in this competitive and result-oriented society..

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