a·poc·a·lyp·tic – adjective: describing or prophesying a complete destruction of the world.
ap·o·plec·tic – adjective: overcome with anger.
Your promise is sweeter to my taste
than honey in the mouth.
I gain understanding from your precepts;
I hate the ways of falsehood.
So, are we apocalyptic or merely apoplectic? Or perhaps we are both? We are certainly, at the very least, the latter. But isn’t that one of the signs of the former? A great and angry and unbridled unrest? There is this growing anger, ultimately rooted in falseness, in fakeness, and sometimes it all seems like one big rotten game, this. I spend at least a portion of my days desiring to be called home, to be out from the apoplexy, the apocalypsy; enjoying the great blessings bestowed on me, yes, (and I have been given many,) but really wanting to be home, to be done with it, to live eternally in that promised peace. If what is promised is true, who wouldn’t?
Who wouldn’t? I think I know the answer. The answer is, those who don’t know of that promised peace, or don’t believe in it, or who have been given enough materially or prospect-wise or mission-wise or understanding-what-it-means-to-be-human-wise to be content to move through their days because there is enough good in them or reward in them or purpose in them to make them worthwhile. Indeed, in most ways, and on most days, I could be counted among that number. I have been given, like, a lot. Yet, it’s not enough. A lot is not enough for everyone. Or, actually, anyone. A lot is not enough for anyone because we are, all of us, absolute. And me, I want it all, because I feel my absoluteness. And all is not this. All is that peace. Absolute peace.
But the falseness, the fakeness. Rendering the apoplectic. Inspiring the apocalyptic? Something has changed. We are becoming unrecognizable. Even to ourselves. There is a growing rootedness in self-interest, when we should be rightly rooted in self-preservation. But so many do not know what constitutes the self (our embodied soul), and thus have no idea what should be preserved (our blissful eternity.) And thus our self-interest rules, outweighs. We are territorial. Our territory is ourselves. We will defend it at all costs. Increasingly, without knowing what we are defending. And it is not all selfishness. Much of it is instinctual survival, but without thought, without Truth. And thus the falseness, the fakeness of a growing anthropocentrism pounding its way to an angry, rabid secularism; or to, even among believers, acceptance of a grave distortion of Truth, or to indifference, or to lukewarmness, or to a prejudicial view of one’s own holiness.
And so that peace, everlasting peace: is it even a possibility within this present cacophony? Within this shrill and angry mess? Apocalyptic, apoplectic. Apostatic, apophatic. The mellifluousness of the words alone, whatever their meaning. But there is meaning—here, there, and everywhere—and how are we not overwhelmed by the reality of it all? We have this ability to numb—this inclination to numb—dousing with alcohol, or engorging with food, mindlessly tap-tapping at what is just a swipe away—always a swipe away—or, if we are of a certain situation, simply going from one good thing to another, rarely considering the responsibilities inherent in our depth, the possibilities. We box in, we box out. Self-interest over self-preservation. Falseness, fakeness, our numb. I am no exception. Our growing perceived self-sufficiency propelling us away from Truth. And the farther from Truth we descend, the anger grows. The apoplexy…the apocalypsy?
Look, in many ways, I am just trying to get through my life. I know that’s not exactly what God has in mind for the glory of His creation. But in a way it is. (For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. HEB 13:14.) Except no, He didn’t create us just to die. And yes, He created us to live. And no, we are not to be grimly fatalistic. And yes, we are to be joyful with hope, because we are saved, should we choose to be. And no, there is not just limiting darkness in the world, to be fearfully obsessed with, but great and wondrous beauty as salve, as opportunity, as a sign of Him, of things to come.
My encounters with beauty, in fact, are daily, and lifelong. Most of these encounters are small (though nothing, absolutely nothing is truly small), and sometimes they are large beyond description. And they are sustaining, to be sure. But they are ephemeral, all. Even the most grace-filled. And I cannot help but recognize that as awe-inspiring as the natural world is the greatest beauty derives from humanity within it; and within humanity, the most beautiful, the most touching, the most inspiring most oftentimes derives from sadness, struggle. Ultimate beauty is, ultimately, love. And, “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13).
So, ultimate beauty out of ultimate love out of ultimate earthly sadness? Yes, just look at the cross. And all beauty, by degrees, flows from there. As true as this is, and as ultimately sustaining as this is, it is a lot to bear. God knows this, of course. And we are not to bear it alone. We are to give it to Him, and He will sustain us. How can we do that, though, if we don’t know why, or if we don’t know how. And how are we to cast aside the worldly as our primary concern if we don’t know why or we don’t know how. It requires the deepest understanding of our faith; an understanding that is meant to be lived, if not in the practice of physical martyrdom, but in a martyrdom to worldliness, and thus a martyrdom to falseness, to fakeness.
It is a battle. All other battles are wanting in ultimate meaning, and all other pursuits if not approached in light of this range from less-than-what-they-should-be to inconsequential to destructive. In our effort to control, we retreat to self-interest as our battle plan, not recognizing that we live in a world of perpetual hurt, and even if a fortress of earthly security is erected around us, that fallen hurt remains. How we address that hurt determines us. If our address flows not from Truth—and increasingly it doesn’t—but from some other root, the opposite of beauty ensues, by degrees. Our existence is endlessly deep, a continuum. If beauty, true beauty, the purest of beauties, in its absoluteness has as its end salvation, the counter to this, the absoluteness of ugliness, is dysfunction, anger and destruction. Evil—Satan; the father of all lies, and thus the father of falseness, fakeness—wants this for us, but this is not what we were made for, and so evil must deceive. That deception will always tend toward the worldly, toward creation.
But remember, “Creation has been made subject to futility.” (Rom 8:22) There is a futility to the created world. No matter our beliefs, somewhere inside we recognize this, and it is partly what enables us to go on, to persist. We intuit that the depth of sadness all about us is somehow okay. Not in the sense that it is good to suffer (though suffering, oftentimes, can produce a good, or can at least be fruitful,) or that we shouldn’t help each other in our sufferings, but in the sense of what Jesus, Himself acknowledged, “The poor you will always have with you.” (MT 26:11). And so we trudge on, increasingly obedient to the mantra Live your best life! Be your best you! misunderstanding and thus avoiding suffering at all cost, abhoring it, disdaining it, acting with the greatest self-interest to escape it, avert it, concocting a truth that fits a personal goal or vision. And so many are fastening hard to that vision, angrily defending it; or, perhaps not so convicted but simply going along with what others so strongly feel. Indifferent. Lukewarm. Afraid. We compromise, to exist. We acquiesce, because it is easier. And now Christendom is falling in a blaze of half-truths and outright lies as we call good evil and evil good, as we flout natural law, as we look for answers in his economic plan, or her vision of justice, or his idea of personal freedom, or their idea to address whatever the question-of-the-day might be, ignoring how our utter emotional complexity so obviously belies so much more, a coherence not merely of this world. And we forget that all of those proposals or solutions have, in one way or another, already been tried. And still—still—all of this is broken. History repeats. Except maybe now, in our current perversion, things are different.
There is something more powerful, more pernicious behind our present dysfunction, a rolling, boiling wave gaining height, gaining strength, putrid in origin, rooted in negativity, and offering what is false, a pseudo-messianism, a “deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth.” (CCC 576). There is an oddness to our times. We all feel it. A distortion. To mask it, to perpetuate it, to allow it to grow an anger is being fed to us, an anger that confuses, an anger we are too willing to accept and pass on. In the process we are destroying ourselves, and destroying each other. We are becoming something other than what and who we are meant to be. We are duping ourselves, through falseness. We are allowing ourselves to be duped, through fakeness. We are digging in, self-preservation becoming self-interest, as we seek some centering force. But what is that centering force? I ask again, What is that centering force?
Ultimately, we are attempting to address the suffering that is inseparable from our present existence. The more we turn from Him, though, the more our suffering will increase, and not because of Him, but because of ourselves. The answer is Him, and that answer will ensure relief both in this present suffering and the ultimate goodness of what comes next. I have to remind myself of that daily, as I battle my own falseness, my own fakeness, as I long for that ultimate peace.
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