The Call Collective

Exploring God's presence and call within the culture.

Tag: C.S. Lewis

PODCAST: Episode 2 – The Battle of Choice in the Spiritual Life

In this 22-minute episode I discuss:

  • How the spiritual life for many of us mostly consists of small internal choices we make every single day
  • The challenge of being “hardwired” for selfishness, which is also known as concupiscence
  • The danger that these small and seemingly harmless temptations have for our spiritual life
  • 3 tangible ways to help endure the battle of choice in the spiritual life that ensues every day of our lives

Subscribe to The Call Collective Podcast on iTunes  or listen to the episode here.

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Why Marrying the “Wrong Person” Is Reason for Hope

A sobering article in The New York Times written by Alain de Botton came out recently, titled “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person.” As the seemingly pessimistic title states, the article proposes that no matter who we end up marrying, we will ultimately find ourselves disillusioned, disappointed and if not unhappy, bereft of the unadulterated joy we had hoped for and downright expected. To de Botton, the remedy for such discouraging news is to denude our culture of the pervasive romanticism that has haunted it for the last 250 years: a collective lowering of the marital bar. Then, with such ringing hopes dulled and diluted, we can better go about our business when it comes to the institution of marriage.

There are obviously elements of truth to the article. In the piece, de Botton discusses the inherent impossibility of any one person to fulfill us in the way we so ardently desire:

“The person who is best suited to us is not the person who shares our every taste (he or she doesn’t exist), but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently — the person who is good at disagreement.”

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Is It Better to Have Loved and Lost?

I recently heard about an app called KillSwitch, which is designed to automatically remove all traces of a person from your Facebook account with the click of a few buttons. Of course, it’s no surprise that its primary reason for existence is to wipe clean one’s ex-girlfriend or boyfriend from all wall posts, status updates, videos, and photos after a cataclysmic breakup. In anywhere from five to twenty minutes—depending on how many photos, posts and heart emojis you have associated with the other person—every painful or infuriating remnant of the person can be evanesced for good. And just like that, you can get on with things. Or at least look like you are to all of your Facebook friends.

When I first heard about it, I was reminded of the film The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which details the quirky and volatile relationship of a couple living in New York (played by Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet). After a seemingly irreconcilable and caustic argument, they both participate in a procedure to erase all of their memories of the other person—every miserable and ecstatic moment—in only a night’s sleep. This procedure is conducted through an organization that resembles a dental practice—the relative ease and efficiency of removing the deep, complex emotions and feelings associated with a relationship are placed on the same level as the filling of an aching cavity. The unique and imaginative premise of the film ponders the value of our memories—both the good and painful ones—and the possible danger of washing them away to avoid the pain of emotional loss and heartbreak. It asks the age-old question: is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?

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Waking up from the American Dream

There is a great sense of satisfaction that comes with being able to direct our own lives. As Americans, we brandish this badge of progress—this stamp of sovereignty. It’s an ideal that has been instilled in many of us from childhood, fueling us to aspire toward some great career or purpose. This encouragement to do something great—and the presence of such an opportunity—is a very good thing. Our Land of Opportunity, despite its shortcoming, is still a tremendously blessed one.

Yet, there seems to be a cloud of disillusionment that’s rolled under the sun of optimism, especially with many younger Americans. There is a loss many of us are experiencing—a sense that things are not coming as easily as we had hoped, maybe even had been implicitly guaranteed. According to a new study by Bensinger, Dupont, and Associates (BDA), Millennials (Americans born between 1980 – 1999) are more likely to experience depression in the workplace than any other generation.

This disillusionment—a lament for the loss of the unadulterated and fully-fledged American Dream so many of us grew up clutching—is causing many to lose their way. It’s not totally surprising, as we’re still recovering from one of the worst recessions in recent memory. In a culture that affirms individualism and the freedom to make choices and push into them with unabashed vigor, something isn’t working out quite right. However, despite the recent findings, this is by no means a new wellspring of angst in our culture. For decades our culture has wrestled with the tension of the American Dream with the American reality. In literature, books like Death of a Salesman and The Grapes of Wrath have explored this tension. In more recent memory, movies like American Beauty and Revolutionary Road (originally a book) have done so as well. Continue reading

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“Inside Out” and God’s Gift of Sadness

This post was first published at Fr. Robert Barron’s Word On Fire blog.

(Warning: This piece contains details about the movie Inside Out.)

Pixar’s newest film, Inside Out, serves as another brilliant addition to their oeuvre of computer-animated films. Just as critics were growing suspicious of this famous animation studio due to its recent reliance on less memorable sequels, Pixar released one of their most stunningly original and beautifully touching films yet, complete with a charming cast of characters and compelling narrative as well as a seamless integration of deep, complex themes about growing up and, essentially, learning what it means to be human. They have answered any and all critics with an impressive rebuttal: a confident wagging of their Midas finger.

The film masterfully explores the danger of avoiding sadness and exhausting joy, a theme we can see in our culture without much eye straining—an inordinate drive to secure emotional happiness at all costs, avoiding, ignoring, or destroying all obstacles that could hinder it. Yet, as we witness in the film, there is a necessary “growing up” that reveals not only the benefit of sadness, but also the inescapable need for it to allow a deeper sense of richness in our lives and, paradoxically, a more lasting joy. The merging of these two emotions—joy and sadness—serves as a reminder of the way of discipleship. By following Christ on a path that requires us to carry our cross while at the same time exuding joy, we come to regard this bittersweet bond as a gift—an opportunity to receive and give love more fully.

The film follows the manifestations of five emotions—named Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger—in the mind of a girl named Riley. These emotions dwell in her mind’s “headquarters,” a control room where the characters control Riley’s emotional states (as you can guess, each character is responsible for the emotion of its namesake). The film casts Riley’s mind as a wondrous, orderly landscape, complete with “islands” that reflect different aspects of her personality, colored orbs that signify memories and, most importantly, a hub located in headquarters that stores her “core memories.” Continue reading

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Accepting Our Broken Dreams

A solid realization has begun to take form in my life, one that’s bloomed as I’ve grown older. I just turned 29, and recently I’ve found myself coiled in a web of aching nostalgia and subtle sadness.

It’s this slow realization that my childhood dreams and imaginings won’t quite come to fruition, at least not as I supposed they would. It’s odd to think that at one time, with unreserved vigor and anticipation, I expected a life full of bliss and unadulterated joy.

Boy, was I wrong about all of that.

My twenties, the supposed best decade of my life, is in its twilight. What should be my response? Is it actually true that the best years of my life are over? That now life’s stroll gives way to a trudge?

It’s easy for me to summon only the pleasant, good moments, and in some ways it’s a gift that I have good moments to play over in my head from the last three decades of my life. Even if some of these good things are no longer part of my life, I’ve been gifted with their memory. And for that I’m grateful. Continue reading

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7 Ways to Combat Spiritual Meh-ness

Has no one ever told you about the law of undulation?…As long as [humans] live on earth, periods of emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty.
The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis

For those of you unfamiliar with C.S. Lewis, he had a tremendous understanding of the human experience and a gift for creativity that allowed him to communicate his insight in memorable and original ways. I encourage you to check out his works if you haven’t already.

I especially love The Screwtape Letters because it cleverly depicts the temptations and challenges we all encounter in the spiritual life as we draw closer to God. In one instance, as depicted in the quote above, C.S. Lewis talks about the “peaks” and “troughs” of the spiritual life.

At some moments we find ourselves elated and our desire to know and serve God comes effortlessly. But as we mature in the spiritual life, this exuberance for all things spiritual wanes.

I’ve experienced good moments, as well as periods of steadiness. Sometimes the journey is like a steady hike with moderately clement weather, when I’m not scaling a peak or descending into a valley. However, eventually the valleys come, and I find myself at the bottom looking out and up—recalling the memory of that mountain top, which now seems a distant, implausible dream. Now I’m trudging through mud, host to a multitude of mosquitos and beset with an aching tiredness.

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